I played a lot of pinball in college, no doubt because I spent a disproportionate amount of time at my frat house, whose furniture included a pinball machine, one of the old electromechanical ones on which 25,000 points entitled you to a free game. But after college I didn’t play much until around the fall of 1992, when I wandered into College Hill Sundries and discovered Williams/Bally’s Addams Family pinball machine.
And fell in love.
For starters, I’d loved the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movie, from which most of the game’s graphics and sounds were taken. (The game incorporated a number of quotes from the movie, all of which made perfect sense in the context of pinball.) But the machine also entranced me purely as a pinball game: It had a wide variety of targets and a large number of skill levels — it rewarded skill and technique.
Alas, Addams Family eventually was replaced by another machine, and not coincidentally, I haven’t spent much time in College Hill Sundries since. But I’ve dreamed ever since about that pinball machine. In fact, I once told Ann that when my midlife crisis rolled around, if I could find an Addams Family machine in good working order, I’d buy it and just forget about the sports car. I found a few on eBay from time to time, but since the kids have come along the price was a bit out of my reach.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I got a new computer and was first exposed to the “Space Cadet” pinball game built into Windows 2000 and XP. (I’ve worked on W2K at work for quite a while, but our systems folks’ installs omit the games. I wonder why.) As a pinball game, it’s not all that, but as a computer simulation of a pinball game I found it excellent, quite realistic. (There are even keys you can type to give the machine a little left, right or forward body English, although not one for a 3-foot air drop, which the machine in my frat house underwent from time to time.)
And that’s when it hit me: If they could make a computer simulation of a generic pinball game, maybe they could make one of Addams Family.
Maybe they already had.
As it happened, I did a feature on pinball for the paper back in 1993 and spoke then with a flack for the parent company of Williams/Bally, himself a pinball freak. So I knew somebody in the bidness. I resolved to call this guy and find out if the company had licensed computer versions of its pinball games (and if not, give them the idea for free).
Unfortunately, the parent company shut down its pinball business in 1999, the better to concentrate on its more profitable casino-gaming business. (When I wrote about pinball in ’93, the industry was enjoying a resurgence, but apparently computer/video games won out, as I had suspected they would.)
But this quest ain’t over. Somebody still has rights to the game. And if I can find that somebody, maybe I can interest them in a computer version of Addams Family (and, for that matter, the entire Williams/Bally catalog, which can’t be doing the rights holder much good at the moment otherwise).
“Don’t torture yourself,” Morticia Addams would say. But who says I can’t take it with me? The last ball hasn’t drained yet, so I’m going to keep flipping.