Pinball machines have mostly faded from arcades.
They have been replaced by modern gaming systems with the goal of feeding the attention deficit public.
But once upon a time, the mechanical game was the envy of rebellious teens looking for fun.
Pinball was banned in the early 1940s to mid-1970s because officials believed it was a game of chance and therefore considered gambling, according to a 2009 article by Popular Mechanics.
The long-term nature of pinball bans made it appealing to teenagers searching for another way to give their parents gray hairs. That eventually changed and pinball gamers became known for their skills in hitting the ball wherever they wanted to earn a high score and a free game.
Now, pinball machines are mostly gone from local bars and arcades. A few places such as White Sands Bowling Lanes and Robinson’s Cruse Thru still have them, but most pinball fanatics are collectors with a private stash in their living room or garage.
Karl Denninger of Niceville has been collecting pinball games for 20 years. His passion for the game and knowledge of circuit boards has allowed him to fix and restore older models.
He plays daily with his 21-year-old daughter, Sarah Denninger, who has been playing with her dad since she was able to walk. They take turns playing the five pinball machines located right inside the front door of the house.
He said the cost of the machines and maintenance are the main reasons why they are no longer a mainstay in modern arcades and bars.
“They’re god-awful expensive to just to buy. The price has gone up dramatically in terms of what new ones cost from manufacturers over the last 10 to 20 years,” Denninger said.
Collectors price used pinball games at $7,500 compared to $2,500 when they were new. A new pinball machine, present day, costs roughly $10,000, he said.
“The other problem is the quality of the play you get is highly dependent on the maintenance. Pinball machines are not like video games. If they’re not properly maintained on a regular basis, then the game play stinks, and you will put one dollar in and never another one,” Denninger said.
The decline of the presence of the game in public areas has not kept Denninger from his passion. Like many collectors, he is always looking for his next pinball fix, whether in a new machine or by going to a museum that features pinball games.
Pinball museums and shows exist across the world. They offer fans the opportunity to play hundreds of machines in one place as well as classes on restoring old pinball games.
John Cope, a pinball collector in Navarre and member of the Gulf Coast Pinball and Arcade Facebook group, said pinball is starting to make a comeback. Pinball companies Stern, Jersey Jack and Spooky currently manufacture new machines in the United States, according to Cope.
He said there will be a pinball display at Emerald Coast Con Nov. 3-4 at The Island Resort on Okaloosa Island.