I Thought I Was The Bally Table King

Cassie’s company had a team get-together at the Pacific Pinball Museum at Lucky JuJu in Alameda, and I was able to go along a bit later, after all the speeches, eat some pizza, drink a beer, and play some pinball.

After leaving work I walked to the aptly-named Ferry Building, which is a 15-minute walk. The main part of the building is now a very nice bustling market, with local producers and deli counters lining up to sell you 100 varieties of mushroom and “tasty salted pig parts“, and behind it are the ferry gangways. I joined a pleasantly large number of commuters on the San Francisco-Alameda Ferry, and took the 20-minute trip to the island. The trip itself (on the same kind of catamaran boat that took us to Catalina this time last year) is not that exciting, apart from going under the western span of the Bay Bridge, but Alameda is an interesting place. I have a couple of friends there, and they rave about how nice it is, with its lower rents, high concentration of Victorians, and sense of being just a step away from the condensed city life of San Francisco. Other people I’ve met have said that moving to the East Bay is “quitting”, but if that means quitting caring so desperately what people think of you, and not being one of the self-elected cool kids, then sign me up. Anyway.

After Cassie talked in from the bus, she introduced me to a few of her colleagues, who’d been there since 3 and were thoroughly enjoying the beer and pizza, and were betting money on the more unique games.
I played on the following machines.

  • Captain Fantastic, based on the scene from Tommy where he plays against the Pinball Champ, Elton John*.
  • Orbitor 1, the uniquely strange, and incredibly rare machine with a sculpted transparent field which gives the sense of gravity pulling the ball towards and around the bumpers. Cool synthesized voice as well.
  • The Wizard, another one based on Tommy. Gawd knows why that movie has all these machines based on it. Good rendition of Anne Marget on the back glass.
  • Hang-Glider, which features the usual bikini beauties, this time lusting after a guy on a kite.
  • Xenon, with the sexy electronic voice giving it some.
  • A mechanical submarine torpedo game, with periscope sights.
  • A classic rifle shooting game with targets that flipped back and forth as you shot them.

I was a little disappointed they didn’t have the mechanical Killer Shark game I used to play as a kid, which you can see in the film Jaws. Only a bit though, because they had so many cool machines, and not a videogame in sight! Also really nice to meet Cassie’s colleagues, who all seem a fine bunch.

* If you watch the video, you can see “the digit counters fall” as Tommy scores 1000, 2000, 3000 points! A few people observed that the old machines gave you much lower scores. I suppose it was because the mechanical counters were more expensive and complex, so only using 4 or 5 was desirable. These were replaced with 7-segment displays, which guess were a lot cheaper, so you could reward players with 6 or 7 digit scores. The modern dot-matrix displays can show as many digits as you can cram onto them, and that and the invention of score multipliers, super bonusses, and other crazy scoring stuff, gives you the modern multi-million scores. It can be a bit frustrating to play a pinball machine and get a score of 17 million, only to find that the current high score stands at 193,535,777 by someone called “DIK”.