I grew up in the 80’s, so one of the go-to pastimes for my generation was to hit up the local arcade and play games like Galaga, Turtles in Time, and Bad Dudes. That being said, one of my favorite things to do with my dad was to go and play some of the various pinball games that they had at the arcade. My dad wasn’t much of a video gamer and came from a generation where pinball was VERY popular, so because he always played, I naturally became interested.
Pinball soon became our bonding activity, and I really value those days now that my father has passed on. Since these are some of my favorite memories, I use pinball to get closer to my own kids. Sure we play traditional video games, but sometimes, those types of games can be a bit much and the hand-eye coordination-based game of pinball can really be satisfying for the whole family.
In this guide, I am going to tell my fellow moms about ways that they can make playing pinball the go-to family activity that your kids will love.
The Benefits of Playing Pinball with Your Kids
Outside of its hand eye coordination-boosting value, pinball machines have been the source of some truly epic competitions for more than a century. There’s nothing quite like beating a high score or nudging the machine to attain a victory.
Pinball is a much more physical pastime than traditional video games; some would even say that it requires more timing and judgment than video games. Think of it this way: star pinballers develop skills that help them propel the pinball forward at the exact trajectory that they need for maximized points.
Here are some other benefits:
- Playing pinball one-on-one is much more personalized than online video gaming.
- Modern-day and classic pinball machines have some of the best cabinet art available.
- Pinball requires you to get up; this is a great way to add a little exercise to your kid’s day. They get bonus exercise when they bump the machine!
- Pinball is a game of patience, which is a skill that can help your kids later in life.
- Exploring family-friendly arcades around the country that have pinball machines can be very rewarding.
Some Ways to Incorporate Pinball into Your Family Life
I’ve established that pinball has a lot of benefits, so how can you incorporate it into your family life so that your kids can become fans? Well, to play pinball, you don’t always have to go to a local arcade; you can purchase a cabinet, build your own, or even grab a pinball simulator for quick and easy fun. In this next section, I’m going to hit on each method.
Build Your Own Pinball Machine
If you’ve got arts and craftsy kids, then this is a really cool project that they’ll love. One of the coolest and most useful pinball machine making solutions is the Pinbox 3000 Pinball Game System. This pinball fabrication option lets you fully build your own pinball game out of cardboard. It does not require glue or tape and only really takes a lot of folding in order to create your own customizable pinball machine.
Technically, this pinball game isn’t what you’d call a modern machine; it’s marble firing mechanism is actually powered by rubber bands, but it’s amazing how much of a true-to-life experience the Pinbox 3000 provides, and you’ll love the quality time you can spend assembling it with your kids.
Buying a Cabinet for Your Home
Pinball machines are actually becoming very collectible. If you have the room and the budget, you can even make collecting pinball machines with your young ones a bit of a hobby. Finding a pinball machine is fairly easy; you even have basement retailers out there that are looking to sell their machines for good prices on platforms like eBay. While this can be a bit of a crapshoot, you can really find some collectible gems this way.
Prices for a new pinball machine for your game room can vary greatly; some machines can go for as little as $300 and some more collectible models can cost several thousand dollars. This means that if you’re planning on buying a machine, establishing a budget first may be helpful.
You can also build one using computers if you have a tech-savvy kid in your life. You’ll need a fairly decent computer with healthy RAM, a longer monitor to create the playfield, a standard monitor for the backglass, and software like Visual Pinball. You’ll also need a keyboard encoder, but once you’ve got the components together, it’s amazing how realistic digital pinball can be, especially if you go for little bells and whistles like an accelerometer. For a more in-depth guide, check out this Instructables article.
Getting out in the World and Playing Pinball with Your Kids
This can really be rewarding. While the arcade experience has waned a bit since the days of my youth, arcades are also now a little less seedy than I remember them. Many modern arcades are brightly lit and many have more kid-oriented games available. As a result, pinball machines are regaining a bit of ground in the modern arcade circuit because of their kid-friendliness.
It can be fun visiting new arcades with your kids and searching for new pinball games to get good at. In fact, I find this extremely fun and it’s one of my kids’ favorite weekend activities. This also has a lot of value because walking from machine to machine can provide some excellent exercise for you and your children; in fact, I got more than 10,000 steps running around with my children on an arcade trip last week!
While the days of the pinball wizard may be slowly fading away, this classic pastime remains one of my favorite family time activities. If you’re looking to create some lasting memories, then I suggest taking up pinball as a family activity. Who knows, you might even create the next Bally table king (or queen)!
Jessica Kane is a writer for The Pinball Company, the best online source for new, used, and refurbished pinball machines, arcade cabinets, and more!