Pinball's history is America's history, from gambling and war-themed machines to the arcade revolution and, ultimately, the decline of the need to leave your house. The strangest thing about pinball is that it persists, and not just as nostalgia. And pinball didn't just stick around—it grew and continues to evolve with the times, reflecting the zeitgeist of every era it passes through. Somehow, in today's iPhone world, a 300-pound monstrosity of wood and cables has survived to enjoy yet another renaissance.
Pinball is more to humor writer Adam Ruben than a fascinating book topic—it's a lifelong obsession. Ruben played competitive pinball for more than a decade, rising as high as the 80th-ranked player in the world. Then he had kids. Now, mired in 9,938th place—darn kids—Ruben tries to stage a comeback, visiting pinball museums, gaming conventions, pinball machine designers, and even pinball factories in his attempt to discover what makes the world's best players, the real wizards, so good.
Pinball competitions are on the rise, thanks in part to modern phenomena, like "nostalgia bars," with several hundred International Flipper Pinball Association–sanctioned events occurring annually—yet they're only a small corner of the pinball world. Pinball Wizards examines the bigger story of pinball's invention, ascent, near-defeat, resurgence, near-defeat again, and struggle to find its niche in modern society.
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