It's a tricky question, one that's likely been debated for decades, with no satisfactory answer: Is it better to be the person playing pinball or the people leaning against the machine, along the sides, instructing and cajoling and rooting the pinballer on?
Most people would probably opt to play, though "backseat driving" is an age-old attribute of pinball, a venerable game that saw its pop culture-y glory days in the 1970s.
It's due for a major resurgence. Perhaps Pinball Forever in Santa Ana can lead the way. The machine-laden hangout -- there are over 50 games, so, yeah, we'll call that "laden" -- is hosting Obscura Society LA during a pinball-informative field trip on Saturday, Aug. 17.
You can hop on this trip for twenty bucks. Yep, that's a bit more than the roll of quarters you used to show at the local arcade with, but you'll get lots and lots of pinball play, not to mention a bit of schooling on the history of pinball.
Collector Dave Miner -- let's just call him a Professor of Pinball -- will lead a talk on how pinball began, the game's ups and downs (it was illegal in several places back in the day), and some funtastic factoids. Mr. Miner will also be Q&A-ing, too, so be sure to arrive with questions. Like this one: Why does the flipper always seem to stick on the most important play? And is there anything more satisfying on this planet than that first pull of the knob that sends the silver ball into the game?
Pinball Forever has newer machines, yep, but you'll see pieces dating back to the 1930s. See and play. That's a seriously out-of-sight Saturday, right? Hours of pinball play with a little history mixed in.
If you can't make the Obscura Society LA field trip, which is expected to sell out, Pinball Forever does keep hours during the later part of the week. This is beyond date-night cool; this is just flat-out cool. But if you want some deep history about kickout holes and poppers and pinball wizards, you'll want to join the Aug. 17 outing.
Yep, we've decided: It's way more fun to play pinball than to comment from the sides, elbows leaning heavily on the glasstop. Which always got you in trouble with the arcade owner, anyway.
But who hasn't leaned on a pinball glasstop and told his pal to aim for the 1000-point hole?