In the northwest corner of the Halifax Central Library, the nostalgic sounds of flapping flippers, bouncing bumpers and plungers sending steel balls onto the playfields of about twelve pinball machines fill a room.
Lining the walls are free-play machines supplied by the Halifax Pinball League. The group wanted to give non-members a chance to have a little fun with the machines they love so passionately — right down to the springs.
League member Matt Whalen got the ball rolling for the pop-up pinball arcade, which runs until Sunday at 3 p.m.
“It’s just an opportunity for the public, families, anybody that’s been interested but doesn’t want to come out to a competitive environment because that can deter some people,” Whalen told CBC’s Information Morning Halifax.
The Simpsons, Lethal Weapon, and Ghostbusters were a just a few of the assorted pinball machine themes featured this weekend.
Dusting off the ‘cobwebs’
Whalen said league members are collectors who’ve lived through the “two golden ages” of pinball, which peaked in 70s and 80s until the 90s when more and more arcade stores began to close.
“The only place to play now is if you buy your own and put them up in your house,” he said.
League member Ian Matheson said the thrill isn’t just playing. It’s the act of collecting, dusting off machines “covered in cobwebs” and bringing them back to life.
“Ninety per cent of the time when you talk to somebody [who wants to get rid of a machine], you’re trying to figure out what game it is and they’re trying to explain to you the artwork of what it is and your imagination is running wild,” he said.
“You just want to dive in there and start fixing it and have fun with it.”
More than nostalgia
Nostalgia is large part of it, Whalen and Matheson said. But the machines have an appeal to newer players, like 11-year-old Silis Eastwood.
“A lot of the older games I suck at. I’m just better at pinball, so I guess that’s why,” Eastwood said on Saturday.
Using his thumbs on a smartphone game is still his favourite, he said, but the mechanics of pinball hold a special place.
“It’s not a code. You can hold it in your hand. It feels better when you successfully do it, rather than a computer program where it can be written where you 100 per cent of the time win or 100 per cent of the time…