The goal of any competitive pinball player, to some extent, is to better their game. While pinball may have roots in games of chance, the addition of flippers turned the game into one of skill.
There are many elements that contribute to the success of top pinball players, ranging from flipper skills to rules knowledge and mental composure. These skills, as with most other skills, can be developed through practice, whether it be deliberate or coincidental. Unlike most other hobbies, however, it is not always easy to maintain a practice regimen for pinball. Aside from players who are in close proximity to machines, whether in their homes or at a nearby location, pinheads must deal with issues of access and travel in order to better their skills.
I am one of those who must travel in order to satiate my pinball cravings. I am quite a competitive person, however, and I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to have a machine of my own to practice on.
Given my situation, I have found that there are plenty of other ways to improve my skills that don’t involve a pinball machine (well, at least not directly).
Perhaps the best way to keep your skills sharp without playing on a real machine is to play one of the many virtual pinball games out there such as Pinball Arcade or Pinball FX.
While these options do not completely match the experience that real, physical pinball gives you, virtual pinball and other video games will help you with other valuable skills such as reaction time and on-the-fly decision making. Additionally, if you play a game such as Pinball Arcade that has recreations of real pinball machines, you can learn the rules of these games from the comfort of your home.
Thanks to the power of the internet, you can find a wide selection of videos about pinball. From competition videos to tutorials, there are videos for players of any skill level.
One of my favorite resources is PinballVideos.com, a site that compiles and organizes videos by machine, competition, and player. It even organizes highlights for each video, making it easy to jump right to something exciting.
Taking a Break
As anyone who has tried to cram for an exam will tell you, you cannot learn a new skill overnight. While it can be hard for a pinball addict to let go, you need to give your body and mind a rest after playing for a while.
Firstly, taking breaks can go along with other methods of skill-building such as chunking, or breaking down a skill into its component parts. For example, I’ve had a mental block with a particular flipper skill known as a loop pass. When executed incorrectly, this can lead to a drained ball very quickly. However, it was during a break that I was able to build up the courage to attempt to learn this skill, and i was able to pull off this maneuver on one of my first tries during my next league night. I spent the rest of the night honing this skill, and now I feel much more confident.
It is important to remember that the ultimate objective is to have fun. All of these pieces of advice have worked for me, but in no way are these a prescription for everybody. If you want to play more, by all means play more! Getting burnt out? Perhaps you should take a break. Pinball isn’t going anywhere as long as there are other pinheads out there, and they will certainly welcome you back once you’re ready to start again.