The nineties were the golden age of DMD (dot-matrix display) pinball. But as that decade came to a close, pinball sales were in decline. Williams Bally/Midway stopped producing pinball machines October 0f 1999. Just a month earlier, Gary Stern had purchased Sega Pinball to form Stern Pinball. Suddenly Stern was the last pinball company on the map.
This was the situation for many years. Pinball dwindled from the public eye, but was still supported by a dedicated collector/hobbyist base. A few indie projects popped up here and there, but no bona fide manufacturers. Stern seemed to be struggling, and had to make staff reductions.
Then something changed. Maybe nostalgia, the internet’s power of information distribution, a yearning for something NOT video-based in a world of monitors and screens. Maybe a combination of all those factors, but the pool of enthusiasts seemed to be growing.
“That’s because the geeks have inherited the earth. People who grew up on this stuff have now grown up, but they’re not really grown-ups, you know what I mean?”
- Chris Laporte, founder of Las Vegas arcade Insert Coin(s)
Barcades, bars with retro gaming of various kinds including pinball, started to pop up to warm receptions. More arcades were opening than were closing. And in the midst of this, a new pinball manufacturing company, Jersey Jack Pinball, was announced (early 2011). Ironically, where video games in arcades once muscled pinball out, video game replicas of classic pinball machines available on console gaming and mobile platforms seems to have helped ignite enthusiasm for real, kinetic, physical pinball again.
Whatever the reason, pinball seems to be making a comeback. As fellow enthusiasts who have fallen in love with the hobby, we wanted to delve into what makes collecting 300+ pound machines that take up large amounts of space and require more frequent tinkering than a classic car so compelling, and why it’s on the rise. We wanted to share the joys of a basement arcade, of modding, collecting, and playing. We wanted to share pinball.
Who’s making Shoot Again: the Resurgence of Pinball?
Director and Producer: Blake Faucette
Blake Faucette is an award winning independent filmmaker and pinball enthusiast. Blake started as a Youtube content creator with projects including Often Awesome, a documentary web series by Blake and Andy Coon that chronicled their friend’s battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Often Awesome won many awards including the award for best series on Vimeo in 2012. Blake is also one of the creators behind the Youtube channels Beat Down Boogie and Distractotron which focus on geek entertainment. Pinball Love was a video created for the Distractotron channel that focused on the beauty and craftsmanship of pinball machines. From there, Blake caught the pinball bug and began work on the feature documentary Shoot Again with producing partner, Lorien Green.
Associate Producer: Lorien Green
Lorien Green has been a long-time fan of indie documentaries, starting with The King of Kong and TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball. She went from blogging about “geekumentaries” in 2008 to making one; Going Cardboard, a film about modern tabletop board gaming, released in March 2012. But pinball had always been on her mind, and shortly after that, she watched another pinball documentary called Special When Lit. This turned out to be the last straw. By June 2012, she and her husband had purchased their first pinball machine, The Shadow, and were learning all about pinball maintenance. This led to the discovery of the vibrant pinball scene active all over the world, and a desire to document that scene.
What makes you think there is a pinball resurgence?
There are a number of signs that pinball is on the upswing right now. Stern has said that sales of their new pinball titles are up about 30%. Demand is also increasing for older titles in the collector market, driving those prices up. New user registrations on sites like pinside.com have been on the rise for the past couple years. PAPA, the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, is more active than ever, and the smashing success of their recent Kickstarter campaign is another indicator of growing public interest. There’s no telling what the future holds, but right now, pinball is hot!
There are already several existing pinball documentaries. Why another?
There are several excellent pinball documentaries available. Some, like Pinball 101, discuss the actual techniques and strategies of playing the game. Others, like This Old Pinball, dive deeply into maintenance and service of machines. Others focus on the history of the hobby, or significant points during that history, as in TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball.
One of the most recent feature documentaries about pinball, Special When Lit, shows the state of pinball in the 2009 timeframe. That may not seem like a long time ago, but at the time even veterans like legendary designer Steve Ritchie were somewhat dubious about pinball’s future. Things seem to have changed since then, and that’s the story we wanted to tell.
We believe that Shoot Again will be a unique and valuable addition to the existing body of pinball documentaries.
What elements of pinball will you focus on?
Shoot Again will focus on pinball collectors and existing arcades, as well as insights from other members of the industry about the current state of pinball.
One thing that has not been covered much previously is the collector community, and how sophisticated it has become. Modding, for example, is a big element of pinball ownership. Individuals create and sell mods for everything from playfield protectors to enhanced playfield toys, colorized DMD displays, and even adjustments to the original rule sets (Cactus Canyon Continued) or completely re-themed machines.
What’s the timeline?
Filming of Shoot Again began May 2013, and will continue through 2013, with most production work expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Who will be interviewed?
Shoot Again will feature interviews from arcade owners, collectors, hobbyists, and manufacturers.