The value of making pinball machines

Here are two ways of describing pinball:

1. It’s an arcade game where you use flippers to bounce a ball around a wooden box. The goal of is to get as many points as possible. Sometime you win a free game and you get to bounce the ball around a wooden box all over again.

2. What’s fascinating about playing pinball is that it shows how well humans and machines can work together to achieve something. The machine provides bumpers and ramps and tunnels for the ball to interact with. The player activates the machine and provides subtle movements only a human could express, forcing the ball to interact with the machine in completely new ways. When there is perfect harmony between the machine and player the reward system kicks in. The pinball machine is not fighting the player. And the player is not fighting the machine. The relationship is mutualistic.

If you were a pinball manufacturer, what type of person would you engage with? People who identify with #1 or #2. One views pinball as a set of components and attributes, just another of the millions of games available for play. The other as a way of life.

When we make new products we can either make pinball machines, something that has an opinion and divides people. Or we can try and please everyone and make something that doesn’t offend or stand for anything.