Friday, December 12, 2008


From 1991 to 1999 I worked for Williams/Bally/Midway, in the pinball, and then later, in the slot machine design departments (and then back again into pinball). I started off as a lowly dot matrix animator, but bounced around across different departments fairly regularly, depending on the needs at the time.

Anyway, much like any geek-y crowd, there's a big internet following for pinball (or what remains of it). One of the more generally interesting website is a collection of audio interviews of various "pin-heads" and pinball programmers which can be found by clicking on this this link. While most of these names are probably foreign to the board game crowd, to the pinball crowd, many of these names are held in the same light as Knizia, Moon, Faidutti, and Wallace. And often in the same regards to design styles and themes. "I love the fast action flow of Steve Ritchie games" equates to "I love complex buisness engines of Wallace train games" kind of thing. The names of the people may be unknown to those outside the hobby, however, the names of a lot of the games they designed aren't.

With the recent acquisition of a shiny new mobile phone that can play MP3, I've been listening to a collection of interviews with the various people who I've worked with in the past. So, I can't really vouch for the interviews of people who are spending hours talking about, say, how to rebuild electrical coils or whatever, but the interviews of people who actually worked and designed these games are interesting to listen to as a whole. It creates this interesting picture of all these people who followed various threads in their life, who all came together to work on one specific type of product, and then went their own ways again.

I had been asked at one point to be interviewed, and sort of declined. I had always been bothered by the "how can I make a buck out of my hobby" that pinball enthusiasts have seemed to have, and didn't want to feed into that. But now seeing this as a project that brings together a bunch of threads and makes a layered tapestry puts a different light on the subject.

One podcast that I've recently finished that if worth listening to is the interview of George Gomez (TOPcast show 40). Aside from being one of the guys who I've had probably the best pleasure to work with, he really knows his stuff (both creatively and industrially), he touched a wide variety of arcade games across different companies, and he worked for Marvin Glass (one of the top game and toy development houses before they broke apart). Plus he's a very interesting and honest speaker to listen to. It's worth the time to listen.

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