Pinball Wizard

There really are museums for everything. On my adventures, I’ve been to museums about death, about marzipan and even a museum that largely concerns itself with neon lights. And that’s just in Budapest!

The Hungarian capital is also home to a museum dedicated to pinball machines, possibly one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Known as the Flipper Muzeum, this museum of Pinball history proudly boasts that it has official government permission to exist and that everything in the museum is part of the ‘official museum inventory.’

It is things like this that make me happy to be part of the ever- bonkers museum world.

The Flipper Muzeum has 130 machines to play on, all rigged so that they play for free. The website claims that they have machines dating from the end of the 19th Century, but the oldest I could find was this game from 1925.

Junior Deputy Sheriff from 1925

Junior Deputy Sheriff from 1925

Being rigged for free play must cause these machines untold amounts of stress  – a conservators nightmare!- but not tacking on an extra fee to play on top of the entrance price is a classy move, well done!

Now, as I made my way around the machines – stopping briefly to play Mortal Kombat, still the superior beat-em-up game – I was struck my something.

Let’s see if you can spot it…

A detail from a pinball machine showing Elvira

A detail from a pinball machine showing Elvira

Detail from a pinball machine showing a demon and scantily clad charaters

Detail from a pinball machine showing a demon and scantily clad charaters

The machines seem to have a penchant for amply, ridiculously bosomed characters. This isn’t something that’s unique to pinball machines – look at comic books or even some of the statues in the more august institutions for something comparable. But still… seeing machine after machine, after machine displaying these well-chested characters wasn’t a comfortable experience.

Maybe they were designed to stand out in the arcades?

There was one machine, a sci-fi themed one, which would play a very suggestive noise every time points were scored.

At least I think it was when points were scored.  Even after hours of playing, the points system was a mystery to me. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

The museum takes its name and its raision d’etre from the pinball machines in its collection, but it has other games too. I’ve already mentioned the arcade classic Mortal Kombat, but there were also odder things, like this bowling game…

https://vine.co/v/eEPWOHpHdxp/embed/simplehttps://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

It was not entirely unlike air-hockey.

But back to the pinballs. The comic-book geek in me was excited to see everyone’s favourite wall-crawler represented in these games. It gets bonus points for having classic 60s designs for the characters despite being made in the 1980s.

Detail from a pinball machine showing Spider-man

Detail from a pinball machine showing Spider-man

A detail from a Spider-man pinball machine with Aunt May, Mary Jane and J. Jonah Jameson

A detail from a Spider-man pinball machine with Aunt May, Mary Jane and J. Jonah Jameson

I wonder if things like this (for there was an Incredible Hulk game, a Batman game and even Star Wars themed machines) were meant  to work in a similar way to the large-breasted designs on the other machines – to attract attention, maybe to make the pinball games more exciting than the rising video game machines?

Just a thought.

It’s interesting to compare this museum, with Berlin’s Computer Game Museum. They both tell the story of games, but at very different points in time, as leisure moved more towards home-based activities than a social experience.

At 2500HUF this is one of the more expense museums that I’ve visited in Budapest. At first, the price-tag caused a sharp in-take of breath (how much?!) but I spent a lot longer in the space than I did in much larger museums, so when I think about HUF per hour… it wasn’t really that bad.

 

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