Inside Pulse 12

Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Addams Family Pinball

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Addams Family Pinball
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway (Under their Bally label)
Release Date: March 1992
System Released On: Arcade Pinball Machine
Genre: Pinball

Who Nominated The Game: Well, it really only could be me

Why Was It Nominated: Generally in our industry, a licensed game tends to be a crappy one. Occasionally something stands out, but for the most part, a licensed game is nothing more than a quick cash grab. Sometimes however, a licensed title can not only be excellent, like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or Batman: Arkham Asylum. Even rarer is a licensed game that can be considered the best selling game in its genre or ever the best game of its kind. Addams Family Pinball is the rarest of all games – one that is licensed while being considered the best pinball game of all time by pinball enthusiasts and historians, while also being the most commercially successful pinball game of all time.

It’s the latter point that deserves the most attention. Addams Family Pinball came out at a time when pinball was all but extinct as a genre. It was no longer commercially viable or even popular. Yet AFP managed to shatter not just sales records (20,270 machines made), but also records regarding the amount of money a pinball machine brought in. Note the date the game came out. 1992. This was during the second (and final) golden age of arcades. Sure you could play Wrestlesfest, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II. Those were staggeringly popular (and really fun) games. Yet somehow, out of nowhere, a pinball game managed to stand toe to toe with titles like that in terms of the money it raked in. Since it was never ported to a console (nor could it be) it couldn’t sustain the kind of popularity that fighting games brought to arcades in the early to mid 1990s, but for a while, Addams Family Pinball not only thrived despite being in a dead genre of gaming, it single handedly kept the genre on life support for years. It revived the love on pinball in a generation of gamers that had never played it. The style and feel of the board was such that every pinball game made since, has emulated it immensely. It doesn’t matter if we talk about a real pinball machine, or a console version like Zen Pinball or even the recently released Marvel Pinball – every one of those has copied Addams Family Pinball and when you talk to the developers, they are more than forthcoming about their goal: to make the NEXT Addams Family Pinball.

It’s hard to truly pin down everything that made this game so popular. The dot matrix screen, the electromagnets, Thing, the voice acting, the insanely high scoring, the various modes of play. Everything here is done so well that it puts every other pinball machine before it to shame.

Nearly two decades later, Addams Family Pinball remains the most sought after pinball game of all time, the most popular game of all time, the most successful game of all time, one of the most important moments in pinball history, and is almost universally considered the best pinball table every made by collectors, enthusiasts and historians of the genre alike. It has all the factors needed to be a successful applicant to the Hall of Fame.

All in Favour:

Dave Olvera: Pinball was nearly dead in the 90s, with video game arcades finishing off the job they started in the 1980s. Then Addams Family Pinball appears. With higher scoring machines, animated displays, new noises and more segments to the game than ever before, Addams Family Pinball ushered in a rebirth of the pinball game, taking from its rival video games and adding to what made pinball fun. Some bemoan the higher scores but as JRPG have shown: people like bigger numbers even if they don’t mean much. Addams Family Pinball helped save the pinball game, if only for a while longer.

Alex Lucard: Addams Family Pinball is considered by people who love pinball as much as we love console, PC or arcade cabinet gaming to be the best pinball game ever made. It goes for thousands of dollars, is the most successful pinball game of all time, made more money than any other pinball game ever made and is the most fun I’VE ever had with a pinball game. If we said that about a licensed title in some other genre of gaming, we’d no doubt be tarred and feathered, but with Addams Family Pinball, it’s undoubtedly true and is the gold standard by which any other pinball game is measured.

Addams Family Pinball single handedly saved the pinball industry. It single handedly brought an influx of new paying customers to the industry. It’s one of the deepest and most elaborate pinball games of all time. Even though we don’t traditionally think of pinball and video games at the same time unless the former has been digitized into the latter, Addams Family Pinball really is one of the greatest and most successful games of all time. As such it definitely deserves entry into the hall.

Cory Laflin: Considering this is the best pinball game ever made, naturally I voted Yes for inclusion to the DHGF Hall-of-Fame.

The late 80s and early 90s saw a lot of blockbuster movies and franchises getting their own pinball games. Jurassic Park (another one of my favorites), Terminator, Star Trek, Star Wars, even Doctor Who, but the best of the bunch was … The Addams Family?

Yes. The Addams Family. First of ball … er … all, first of all, it had four flippers instead of two, and the many and varied targets concomitant with them; there was a lot of stuff to hit. Second, it had a very straightforward method to activate the multi-ball, with the added novelty of Thing to help you out. Third, in a nod to pinball conspiracy theorists, it had an overt spinning magnet in the middle of the floor that would jack with the ball’s trajectory when activated (You were given fair warning).

Most importantly, though, it took Raul Julia’s exceptional voice work as Gomez Addams and integrated it so artistically that it took a good pinball game in and of itself and made it almost sublime in the amount of raw FUN it was. I particularly remember the build-up to the multi-ball. First the line, “Now you’ve done it!” The field would go dark, then start flashing in places as if by lightning as the pitch would build,. Then my favorite word in the whole game: “SHOWTIME!!” and all hell would break loose. It was lighthearted, it was fun, it was everything a game should be.

Crap, now I want to find a machine and play it again.

Ted Polak: Addams Family Pinball is the most prolific and best-selling pinball table of all time, but the reason it should be nominated for Hall of Fame is because it introduced the Street Fighter generation of kids, a generation new to arcades, to pinball, and did so with a better design than other pinball games of its era. It had a lot of technical advancements, such as the machine-controlled flipper when “Thing Flips”, but more than anything, everyone remembers the personality of the table. Anyone who’s played it for any length of time knows the way Raul Julia says “Theeee Mamusssshka!” when the event is triggered, or the way Cousin It, indignant, gets smacked around on the video screen by pinballs. I don’t know of any other pinball game with that kind of memorable atmosphere.

The table’s goals are quickly understood compared to other tables of the era. Ramps and switches are angled to be hit in obvious combinations. A first-time player will naturally gravitate towards them. As the targets are hit, the player learns what effect they have on the table, and he or she will quickly discover the table mechanics. Later, the player will notice that a choice of targets are available from many shot locations, and thus he or she unconsciously learns to prioritize targets. Removing barriers of understanding allows players to quickly understand just what it is they are trying to do, and with the feelings of frustration removed, a core pinball experience that stays faithful to its source material remains. It doesn’t have dizzying ramps or breathtaking shots that other pinball machines a few years later contained, but it was successful for the same reason the Wii is accessible today: It provides a low barrier to understanding the spoken and unspoken rules of pinball.

All Opposed:

Chris Bowen: When I first saw Alex nominate this, my response was simple: “Huh?” He told me that it was the greatest pinball game of all time, and that it was also the highest selling. I thought about it, and then realized: “Wait, doesn’t my local rink have this!?” Sure enough, the Rinks at Shelton – who rotate their machines with a contractor – has this machine! Unfortunately, they’re not selling it – on behalf of Lucard, I asked – but I was able to drop a few dollars in to give it a shot and see if it held up.

No doubt about it: Addams Family Pinball is a great game of pinball. It uses the entire board well, has well balanced rewards for proper shot placement, and isn’t really exploitable… at least, any more exploitable than any other pinball game. It truly is a great game of pinball.

The reason I’m voting against Addams Family Pinball is because I can’t really say it’s notable.

“How is it not notable?”I can hear people asking. “It’s the greatest selling pinball game ever!” First off, arcades were dying out in the 90s, but there were still plenty of them. It’s easy to be the best selling just by sheer volume of customers. With that said, Addams Family didn’t really do anything for pinball. In fact, the pinball industry is just about dead at this point – replaced by videogames that don’t cost thousands of dollars like Pinball FX – and there was nothing that notable games of the modern era – this one, or the Star Wars game with the video screen – could do to stop it.

There are pinball games that should be in any Hall of Fame, including ours. Humpty Dumpty (first game to use flippers) is one of them. Spirit of ’76 (first solid-state electronic game, and one I was lucky enough to play a long time ago) is another one. But Addams Family didn’t do anything except play well and sell well. With the standards we’ve established for the Hall of Fame, that’s just not enough, especially for a genre that is decades old.

Result: 4 In Favour, 1 Opposed, 80% Approval = ACCEPTED

Conclusion: It tells you something, when people that haven’t written in months or even years clamor on back for the opportunity to talk about this particular game. Addams Family Pinball truly is one of those rare games that managed to be as memorable as it was commercially successful. It still goes for four to five THOUSAND dollars if you want to buy a table of your own, so most gamers will be stuck with their memories of the game’s greatness or will be lucky enough to have a copy in a restaurant or arcade near their home somewhere. Addams Family Pinball also becomes our first arcade exclusive title to enter the Hall of Fame as well as the first pinball game and the sixth game to actually make the hall. Truly, AFP deserves these accolades and more.

Next Week: Goldenye was unable to get into the Hall of Fame. Can another Nintendo exclusive FPS succeed where it failed?

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  • Jaime

    I’d prefer to see Pinball Dreams / Fantasies in the list.

  • Jaime – That’s a video game for the amiga. Addams Family Pinball is a classic style pinball game. It’s possible Pinball Dreams or Pinball fantasies could be nominated down the line by someone, but it’s not likely.

  • David Olvera

    If you want to talk about older PC games (and by PC I mean personal computers so C-64, AMIGA, MS-DOS) I’m probably the guy who’ll nominate some of them.

    Addams Family Pinball saved the pinball industry. I wish there was a table anywhere near where I lived.

  • chris

    Man I wish there was an arcade somewhere near me in Fargo. I really want to play some real pinball again and Addam’s Family was one of my favorites.

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