Alternatively, this piece could have been titled The Pinball Arcade and Two Pinball Movies, in reference to FarSight Studios' equally impressive flipper-flicker that recreates classics such as the Theater of Magic and The Machine: Bride of PinBot tables. With Zen Studios creating original tables and FarSight Studios bringing the oldies back to life, it's a good time to be a pinball fan.
But that hasn't always been the case. Pinball, the mechanical godfather to the video game industry, once reigned as the king of quarter-dropping entertainment. Pinball pulled in more money than the US film industry did from the 1950s - 1960s. In 1983, one of EA's early hits was the classic Pinball Construction Set from Bill Budge. Creating these boxes of glass, wires, lights, and plastic where you send a silver ball careening around ramps, toward targets, and through tunnels is and was an art form that nearly died. Though the modern spin on the classic game probably won't bring it near its former glory, it has returned in some capacity thanks to select developers.
There are two movies that can help bridge the gap and fill you in about pinball: Special When Lit and Tilt: The Battle To Save Pinball. Both films are well-produced, extremely informative and surprisingly emotional. If you're looking to be a true pinball wizard, both of these films are required viewing.
There are moments when you're watching this film that you think, "That's pure genius! Of course it will save pinball!" and you see the enthusiasm and excitement for the product. But when it falters, the stories these developers tell tug at your heartstrings, and it's impossible not to empathize with them. Pinball tables are a legitimate art form, and seeing these artists being forced to say goodbye to what they love to do is heartbreaking.
Where You Can Watch Special When Lit and Tilt: The Battle To Save Pinball
Special When Lit is available practically everywhere right now. You can find it on iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, the PlayStation Store and the Xbox 360 video marketplace. You can also pick it up on DVD or Blu-ray directly through retailers such as Amazon, but it's cheaper to purchase them directly from the filmmakers.
Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball is a bit harder to come by. It isn't available to stream anywhere right now, but you can purchase the DVD from Amazon or directly from the filmmakers. It's also available on iTunes. I would definitely recommend the DVD option, as you'll get a two-disc set that includes over three hours of extra interview footage, a video tour of the Williams pinball factory, commentary tracks and the Pinball 2000 launch video.
Now matter how you choose to watch these, give them a spin and see what went into creating some great feats of mechanical gaming. And if you're ever in Las Vegas, stop by and check out the Pinball Hall of Fame. There's a drool-worthy collection of pinball games laying inside, just waiting for your quarters.
Kevin Kelly is a writer and pop culture junkie with a fixation on video games, movies, and board games. His writing has been seen at Moviefone, io9, Film School Rejects, TechRadar, Wizard World, G4, and The Austin Chronicle. He lives in Los Angeles and does not know how to surf. Follow him on Twitter @kevinkelly.