Cyclops: A Memoir of Mental Health Crisis

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This is a short exert of my upcoming memoir exploring my time in a psychiatric center. Can’t wait to share more. My hope is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health facilities and start a bold new conversation about mental illness and wellness.

Sanctum by the Sea

 

There is a jarring snap when the staff sit you down in front of that blank white wall and snap the picture. Before this moment, the reflection has lived. The eyes move in panic and sweat beads just below the wrinkles of the forehead. The image itself couldn’t be described as “pretty,” but it is alive. The perpetual state of panic nursed over weeks in some ways creates a nightmarish “hyper life” and leads the oppressed to react to all manner of stimuli the way a dog does after multiple surgeries at the same vet. It’s easy to grow accustomed to the image of oneself as broken, afraid and failing at the laborious task of masking all of those things.

But the picture depicts something shocking in it’s unfamiliarity. The figure looks dead. Eyes locked forward, the mouth hanging open with chapped lips cracked and slightly swollen. The hair parts down the middle, but the line revealing the scalp shivers it’s way up from the widow’s peak. The man doesn’t look into the camera, but rather stares straight past it. It’s not quite a mugshot as there is no sense of guilt or defiance. The face is empty, frozen in a moment where all the emotions simply failed.

I am in triage at a psychiatric institution. I will never again be a person who has not been in this place. The photo is the bottom, a memorialized testament to the -single worst moment of my life. I realize the doors have shut and there is no leaving the now collapsing beige walls. The hospital itself is in the process of remodeling. Exposed silver, red, and copper wires dangle from missing ceiling tiles and piss yellow insulation lies piled on the floor of intake. The lady helps me fill out the last bits of paper work. She isn’t as nice as the younger girl who broke the news earlier.

“There is someone coming to pick up your wife right?” She chews gum as she types in furious bursts. “She was pretty upset.”

“I don’t know.” The sound of my voice is faint. I feel like an actor in a terrible made for TV movie. “I shouldn’t have…”

“It’s not like it matters now. You should have known better than to pack razors.” She rifles through my things as she speaks. She separates out my toothbrush, looks through the pockets of my pants and opens a long box that once held trading cards. Now it contains deodorant and a pen. She flicks the pen into a wastebasket.

“Take off your shoes.” She spits out her gum and begins to unwrap another piece.

My arms extend and my fingers work the laces. I am not processing these things. It is as if I can see my own sluggish limbs from within the collapsing ceiling. They call this dissociation and it can drive you crazy. I don’t need any extra help with that.

“Take out the laces.”

I imagine how awful it must be to hang oneself with shoelaces. They are thin. The skin of my neck burns as I imagine them cutting not only through my skin, but straight into the muscle. I could honestly see this decapitating a person, especially one as fat and tall as me. My mind has been a gruesome place for a long time.

She takes the shoes and returns to the computer. I am left to bask in this thick and monstrous moment once again. My shoes feel wrong without the laces. The chair is wooden, and my ass has begun to go numb. I begin to register the sounds of my new home for the first time. We aren’t alone. Triage is apparently within the structure of the facility. Patients in bathrobes walk up and down the halls aimlessly. An occasional shout floats from somewhere deeper within. Laughs haunt the air, but the sound of an older woman weeping also rises and falls amongst the mirth. Fox News blares its typical cacophony and an old man screams for his mother. He just wants to know where his mother is.      

I had hoped Sanctum by the Sea would offer refuge or at least a quiet place to think. I lie to myself so often that my brain actually believes all it needs is silence to put the pieces back into their lost positions. Now as the the mix of cream tiles and broken hardwood floors shine the harsh brightness of flickering fluorescent bulbs into my already bloodshot eyes, I see that silence will be an even rarer commodity here. I have no energy left to feel despair. I simply am. The commotion includes me regardless of how little of myself remains.

A man about my age walks up. His beard scraggles like unkempt pubes and his brown eyes dart back and forth with speed. He chews the inside of his cheek and asks when the next smoke break is.

“If you ask again, there won’t be a smoke break at all.”

He winces, pulls up the hood on his baggy, grey sweater and turns his eyes to me. His hands drift to his pockets. The hair around his lips curves around a wide smile as he speaks.

“You seen them titties?” His teeth crawl out from behind his lips. He sways back and forth in anticipation of my answer.

“Um…no…I haven’t seen the titties.” Somewhere even further down the hall a lady screams for her medication. He looks a bit dejected, as if I had told him his cigarette break was cancelled.

“You know how to kill that Cyclops?” Conversations like this are still new to me. I have no answer. “You poke them motherfuckers in the eye.” His smile returns. He is pleased with himself for sharing this information.

The woman handling my paperwork gets up. She moves toward the voice yelling for pills. I am alone with the bearer of monster combat tactics. He suddenly becomes still.

“They gave you a real pen?”

I completely forgot about the pen sitting between my gnarled, callused fingers. There is still a flake of moist flesh slipping in and out of my teeth. I am likely bleeding out the tip of my thumb. Moving my hand is difficult, like reaching through water. I place the pen on the counter, careful to not let it roll off. These actions are slow like cane syrup dripping from a fork.

The man takes the pen with enthusiasm and giggles. He drifts back down the hallway to the center of the noise. I realize what I have done and begin to panic. My breathing tears at my chest and I begin to cry for what feels like the ninth time today. I can’t stop thinking of him taking the pen to someone’s throat. Maybe his own. I can see red ink blots spilling down his throat. They are real to me, dancing and blooming as vile flowers. There is blood on my shirt. I forgot about my thumb. I bite into it more and can feel the red patch of dermis rip as I chew flesh.

The lady returns with a huff. She sees my distress. This is obviously normal for her.

“It seems bad at first, but you will get used to it. Everyone is shocked when they first come in, completely normal.”

It’s not. I have already made another gigantic mistake in a long series of life crippling turns of idiocy. I am a sniffling mess.

“That guy. With the beard.” I stutter as I speak.

“William? Yeah he won’t hurt you.” She smiles. This is the nicest she has been to me. She is going to hate me in approximately three seconds.

I gather my courage. “He…he took my pen. The one…”

I didn’t finish. She acts without thinking, calls to two men not in the cliche white, but blue scrubs. They walk, not run. Their steps are strong and quick with purpose. There is no panic. Only purpose. I envy the distinction between panic and purpose. I have forgotten it.

There is no fight. There are no screams. She returns with the pen. She sits down in her chair and returns to my paperwork. “That boy. I swear to God.”

I am crying. I cannot breathe.

“Oh, oh God you didn’t do anything wrong David. It’s okay. I shouldn’t have left. It’s okay. William is fine. He wouldn’t be walking around if he wasn’t. Oh I’m sorry. That was the last thing you needed right now wasn’t it?” She laughs. A tech nearby laughs. He is a black male: tall, athletic, a smile almost bigger than my father’s. His face is the friendliest I have seen in months. His voice is deep but soft and quiet.

“Did William tell you about the Harpies? Or the Centaurs?”

I have stopped weeping. A sense of normalcy settles on my psyche. “The cyclops,” I say with a small tremor in my hands.

He laughs again. “Oh yeah, that cyclops is a real mother fucker.  

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Anxiety and the Demands of Fandom

 

I had the most severe migraine the day Disney announced the creation of a new canon in Star Wars. Star Wars is not simply a series of films for me, and it never has been. The Galaxy Far Far Away forms a kind of vocabulary, a set of archetypes and images I have very much used in an effort to greater understand the world around me. As some theorists claim, I almost consider Star Wars a religion, and I used to pride myself on the insane trivia and detail that I could speak in the pursuit of that religion’s understanding. Then it’s like Joseph Smith showed up with a whole new testament to Skywalker and all of my sage-like ponderance was rendered fanfiction-level trash.

 

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This character doesn’t even exist anymore…

 

It’s hard to communicate the physical sensations I feel when tremors erupt within the many fictional worlds I have attempted to internalize. I have come to the realization that I have been giving myself mental distress based solely on the content I try to consume, which is honestly the weirdest mental problem I can even imagine. Let’s take Wrestling for another example. WWE is without a doubt the most dense fandom one can adopt in the form of video. Signing up for the WWE Network brought with it another type of shock, but this time the sensation began as an almost drug-like high. Getting access to a literally inexhaustible load of wrestling content through decades and decades of storyline left me feeling gorged, swollen with moves to memorize, story-lines to catch up on, and doomed franchises to experience in entirety (RIP WCW).

 

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My action figure roster will probably never be complete…

 

Meanwhile, hours and hours of new content appear on Hulu every week (which I also have a subscription for). Monthly pay per view programs are the hallmarks for story advancement, but maintaining a current awareness of stats, superstar highlights, and feud progress means missing one SmackDown can leave the viewer adjusting to a new, nauseating Champion (Jinder Mahal) and feud’s fizzled to nothingness due to untimely injury or even the firing of a superstar leaving a title vacated (Enzo sucks).

 

Last (and most certainly the paramount stressor) is video games. Gaming is a fandom designed to fragment and erect barriers to its members. The revolving door of consoles, genres, sequels and mediums makes any entrypoint perilous. I get dizzy just considering Far Cry 5 when I think of how much I preferred 2 to 3 and the amount of shit I have received for voicing that preference. The price tag of the modern console all but guarantees I will be Forting no Nites, and raising children cuts so deep into my anemic “gaming time” that I am starting to worry Borderlands 2 will never end, and my GOD why did I pick Salvador to dump hours and hours into when his skill tree is as dynamic as the first iterations of Pong?!

 

Books pile up. Miniatures stay unpainted. Dice never roll, and stories I have outlined stay foggy in my head, locked away from the world. When I bring myself to act I freeze, locked in a cyclone of self doubt and obsession over the tasks, media, and texts I must neglect.

 

Choice is supposed to be a good thing. And it is. The problem is in my own damn head, just like most of my problems.

 

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My coping mechanisms need their own coping mechanisms…

 

I am a man whose natural, default state is anxious. I fret, I worry, I cringe, and I despair at the broken pieces of my own entertainment ambition. Somehow the goals and obligations of my life get mixed into this tornado and the simple decision of what to watch on Netflix collapses into an hour of surfing titles on Netflix, chewing on the guilt over the story I failed to write that week. It’s not Netflix’ fault either, though for a long time I convinced myself it was. The drowning in content was killing me, ruining my enjoyment of material with overabundance of options. That’s not particularly rational.

 

I am learning that sometimes, it’s important to make a NOT to do list. I tend to watch political videos on youtube, and after a careful review of my time online, I was not happy with the sheer load of time I dumped reviewing eight pundits opinions on the same Trump flub. I once struggled with a near addiction to a wrestling based gem swap game and it took a personal time audit to see the gargantuan investment I was making into that one app. The only symptoms I had at the time, was a general dissatisfaction with everything else I tried to devote time to. I got depressed, struggling with a heavy unhappiness I didn’t quite understand.

 

Once I identified the time sucks, I made a conscious effort to cut down on those things. It was refreshing to feel a sense of discovery again. To have time to explore old topics, and create new goals. It was like my mind had become a weed infested garden, but I spent my time raging at the flowers that wouldn’t bloom while ignoring the thorns choking them to death.

 

Take some time out today to tend your mental garden. Don’t worry so much about going in the gate and cleaning up rubbish. Walk in and take a seat. Consider your thoughts, measure the time you spend with mental tasks. Understand yourself or at least ask questions of your behavior. We make no effort to cleanse our minds or even check them for sickness or weariness. A little weeding can do a lot to bring your innerlife out again.

New Collection of Poetry: Bury What Never Was

This book is the product of two years struggling with grief and depression. The photography is a backdrop from my hometown. I experienced a nervous breakdown after the death of my father and a nightmarish round of Active Shooter Drills at my work.

Anxiety disorders and the ever persistent haunt of false memories dot the landscape of my mental health. It is now on the other side of the worst two years of my life that I offer up this artifact of my journey. Every day I struggle to Bury What Never Was.

Pinball Palace Reviews: Part 2

Ball Park

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Man, this game was a sheer joy to play even if it took me a good five minutes of play to figure the damn thing out. This machine really should be hailed as a crown jewel of the Pinball Palace collection. It’s hard to get all of the facts straight about this game as there seem to be many versions of it. This looks like a very early concept for Pinball and was manufactured around 1966. There is only one flipper that simulates the batter’s swing and the player chooses which type of pitch they wish to hit.There are many targets at the top of the play field and with a little practice, a player can rack up an impressive score.

The gameplay is simple, but the real draw is the Marquee. Inside the large box displaying the title also sits a diorama of a baseball field.  As the player hits the ball into the targets, small figurines appear and run the bases according to the value assigned to each target. Score a single and the runner will take first. Hit a double and a new runner will appear while the original darts to third. Score racks up as runners hit home base. It’s rudimentary fun, and I would love to get a look into the mechanics of this machine to see how designers from the 60’s made this contraption work.

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Find a friend and have a quick competition. Great game to play with an audience and delicious slice of history.

 

Space Invaders

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Another first which patrons should put at the top of their list, Space Invaders was the first pinball machine to be based on a video game, which is an odd concept when you stop and think about it. This game was manufactured in 1979 which looks to have been an innovative period for the pinball industry. Ramps still haven’t materialized, but the playfield is ridiculously wide. I felt disoriented the first time I launched the ball. The game features four flippers at the bottom in staggered arrangement. It’s odd because the angles offered with this setup don’t seem diverse.

This machine is unforgiving and an excellent challenge for someone who considers themselves a wizard. I can’t emphasize enough how strange the play area is on this thing. The traditional bumpers bounce the ball in and out of various lanes and the sound effects are taken directly from the classic arcade game. The artwork on the marquee and play area is simply fantastic. It is reminiscent of H.R. Geiger and reeks of Ridley Scott’s film Alien. The traditional Space Invader sprite does appear, but it’s hidden behind more detailed bio nightmares. It’s another great piece of history and the sheer size of this beast must be experienced.

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Captain Fantastic

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It’s amazing that Elton John had his own Pinball machine so long before the damn things could even speak. I was shocked to find out this thing was manufactured in 1976. Because it feels far older. The play area is quite basic with only a few bumpers and targets to hit. The flipper placement is also quite strange. There are two staggered on the immediate left with one lone flipper on the right side. High up the field another is placed vertically which seems to give the player a better angle on the targets to the left. This machine’s right flipper has what seems to be a hangup on the right flippers, but a player will get used to the delay quick.

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I hated this machine as it’s simple and a pain to work. But I will admit the experience of hearing the scoreboard reset at the beginning of play was quite cool. There are no digital aspects to the game at all. Sounds are relegated to actual bells and metallic snaps, which is funny because this predates the game’s ability to capitalize on the music of Elton John. It just feels so out of place and weird amongst the other machines. I felt like it was going to break as I played it.

 

Part 3 coming soon!

Forsyth: Poem from an upcoming collection

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I decided to write a quick poem about the memories of the confederate memorial in Savannah. We recently had a discussion about these memorial at the Church and the emotions are complicated. It’s so hard to look back without disgust and anger.

Forsyth

 

Azaleas are of course obligatory as well as grey knots of moss.

One can’t wax in verse without including a loving description

Of Savannah’s most iconic symbols. Kitsch wallpaper giggles

At another idiot’s attempt at profundity.

 

And why not? The sleepy, southern hell built a culture upon

Motel art and picturesque Kincadian levels of sap.

Here at the park where all childhood converged upon a fat,

Sloppily decorated tree when the air struggled to feel cold

 

Stood a fortress defended by our desperate need to bury

What never was. Grey stone walls, stairs and obelisks

Lift the soldier into the same mucous stranded oak

Branches so that we may revere him better.

 

My father, reeking of Ozone and rocking a boilermaker cap

That made him resemble a child waiting to play “ball,”

Drove us in and out of quiet, ancient streets. Stairs

Ascend to neverwhere, pavement cracks as ghosts

 

Play mad games of pretend. We honor heroes that never

Earned the honor of birth. “Remember” he says as Dolly

Sings Hard Candy Christmas for the sixth time.

I am still trying.

 

Legacy’s Bane: Fanfiction for Warhammer 40k

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Hi Guys

I wrote up a submission for the Warhammer 40k universe for the new edition of their magazine. It was not accepted, but I thought it would be fun to share the submission. The original idea was to explore what may happen if a marooned Space Marine gave up on rescue and began to sire children among a local population.

The reveal was going to be horrifying as a seemingly victorian era culture confronts an Ultramarine in full Power Armor threatens to single-handedly eradicate an entire civilization for the murder of his children. That and I was looking forward to making the point that eight of his twelve wives died on the wedding night.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Legacy’s Bane

Attn: Heller Kinsen

Priority: 3

Subject: Stalwart

 

Kinsen

 

I will do my best to keep this short. Spoke with your man Daffsin. Not sure I agree with that tactic. We must take care not to appear as possessed by greed as we actually are. If you are ready to deploy, I will not block the endeavor. But wait on my associate to fully brief you. He may seem eccentric, but all men of his trade are.

 

For Ricen. May it’s light show us the way.

 

Burn this message after reading.

 

  1. Embarkation

 

The north suffered from a blight of slash pines. They grey like some obscene carpet upon a heath of blasted, piss poor quality soil. The hills and mountains could support an occasional Sable oak or even a Gern Spruce, but for miles and miles in every direction stood the pines.

Amsterdam had little reaction to the expansive corridor of evergreen. He had spent the last fifteen years of his life in this wasteland setting up scouting stations and documenting the culture of the tundra dwellers. As he surveyed the humble, ancient settlement of Dagmire, the true horror of his mission weighed upon him. Most of the inhabitants of the mud crusted village were descendants of the Tundra’s natives. Some stood taller than the 6’3 that marked true pure blood of the north men, but most stock was thin enough to make distinguishing more mainland population difficult. They would be safe at least.

Oken Saffr hobbled his way from the town square as Amsterdam’s men began to pile out of the train. Their packs were heavy with gear, and the grizzled men remained silent as the cold bit into their faces for the first time.

The old man’s face curled as the sheer number of men accompanying his old friend became clear. “This is a lot of new blood you have brought us.”

Amsterdam tried to avoid looking into Oken’s eyes. “These aren’t settlers. We are striking out for the Crags in three days.” The weary and irritable Amsterdam stared straight ahead as he spoke. Bear mountain loomed off the horizon, sharp and cold as an icicle to the eye.

Oken kept a neutral face. He hid shock quite well until his lips tightened. “Well…here’s hoping at least a few of you make it back.” The Old man tried to laugh, but a sad weight fell across his voice. His brown eyes fell to his feet as he shifted his shoulders under a heavy pack of pine limbs.

Amsterdam took offense. “I have been to the Crags before. Probably more than you.”

Oken had turned to his own hovel just East outside the village. His pack was large, but Pine burned poorly. The wood would likely not last the night unless he already had a sizable supply in his yard. “You never go to the Crag with more than five men behind you Am. I don’t know what you are looking for out there, but I pray you don’t find it.” The aged man had said his peace and left without ceremony. His step was the usual awkward hobble, but the speed of it was sharp, almost tinged with fear.

Amsterdam turned and took in the sight of his men. The twenty six Green Blades were more than soldiers, but less than the Commandant Elites of Ricen’s legendary reserve. Not since the deposition of the last crowned king of Reuh had a fighting force like the Commandant’s been assembled, and while Heller Kinsen acknowledged the likely need of their sheer force on this mad journey, he had withheld actually supplying them.  That would tip his hand just a bit too much as the entire corporate board would be alerted to their deployment.

But Green Blades? They were a dime a dozen and quite effective at quelling native insurrection. At least that was Heller’s assessment.

Amsterdam had no faith in these thugs. They seemed faceless, crass, and most importantly resentful of their present assignment. The squad captains seemed at the very least capable. Both Miles Quill and Vail Roberts had conversed with him and paid careful attention to what little insight he could offer. If caught in a life or death struggle, he would have no problem relying on the esteemed leaders of these wolf packs. The wolves themselves eyed their surroundings with disdain and rage.

Miles Quil approached Amsterdam from amongst his squad. The thick green scarf around his neck blew in the wind, but was the only mark distinguishing the squad leader from the rest of his grunts. “That’s Bear Mountain to the north right?” His voice was a friendly gravel scrape.

“Yeah. Just beyond that is the crags. The worst of the canyons wind through the valleys just past it. No one has ever traversed the whole thing and many believe it runs straight to the pole.” Amsterdam was aware that Miles likely knew the tactical bits, but it felt good to discuss topography.”

“How many of these big men tribes have been documented?”

Maybe Miles wasn’t as well briefed as Amsterdam had thought. “Three. Legends say that at least two more exist, but I have never seen any evidence of them. I am pretty sure none of the locals will claim to have seen them either.” Amsterdam huffed as he spoke. The cold was beginning to scratch at his throat. Also he sighed at the knowledge that the locals would likely shun the Green Blades anyway.

“These Pine Barrens extend past the mountain as well?” Miles retrieved a small telescope from his pack and held it up to his eye. It was ancient thing, probably an heirloom he carried rather than standard Ricen issue.

“I have been to the crags maybe five, six times. Believe it or not the pines get worse past bear mountain. The locals avoid the place not only because of the legends, but because so many people have gotten lost out there. And Yahwis forbid one of the Big Men find you out there.

Pinball History on the Coast

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The single most powerful area of nostalgia for me is the arcade. Gaming is not the bastion for true nostalgia as most people understand it as in our current era, pretty much every game that has ever been can be played in multiple legitimate or pirated forms. The arcade itself is an experience that is uniquely difficult to access in this climate of software ubiquity. The dim cave like atmosphere, the flashing lights, the smell of body odor and ozone from a cavalcade of power sucking electronics has gone the way of the Dodo.

 

As the arcade shrivels into a husk, the most tragic loss is the experience of the Pinball machine. As a child, I had an intense love for pinball that stood out even amongst the Ninja Turtle and Pacman cabinets. There was a complexity and chaos to Pinball that no other game could match. To this day, playing digital pinball games on an Ipad or Xbox doesn’t quite emulate the feeling of navigating an actual ball through a labyrinth of bumpers, ramps, and hazards.

 

To this day, when I walk into a pizza joint of any kind, I scope it out for a pinball machine. When I see one, no matter what it’s state, I must donate pocket change to it. Over the last ten years, I have not had the opportunity to do that much.

 

I heard about Pinball Museum from our local newspaper and at first didn’t believe such a thing could exist in Brunswick Ga. I don’t want to go to negative on this town, but there is just not much to do in regard to entertainment. The museum itself stands in the shadow of a chemical plant I like to call “The Big Bastard.” Formerly a castle themed bounce house emporium for kids, Pinball Palace reminds me of a hokey pizza place from some distant childhood memory. The chains around the drawbridge add a nice touch, but overall the outside could also be a bad mattress store with a medieval theme.

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Then you enter. I wrote my graduate thesis on literary nostalgia as a young man, but only at the moment of my first sight into the interior of Pinball Palace did I understand the druglike high nostalgia can produce. This sight was a mix of shivers and euphoria.

I felt like a kid entering The Goldmine arcade at the Oglethorpe Mall in the 80’s. The dim lights, the crowded room filled to the brim with buzzing machines, the cacophony of music and clicks, I felt like I had walked into another dimension. This is a place of pure, WONDERFUL gaming of an archaic type.

I paid my entry fee and stayed my allotted hour sampling the wares. The machines are all set to “Free Play” which means there are no quarters needed. At first I wondered if the experience of the games would be lessened with the pressure of money invested for three balls thrown to the wayside. But as I drifted from machine to machine, experiencing ramps, targets, ball locks, and even the occasional multi-ball chaos, I realized that having free play in the museum allowed a new way to experience the machines almost the way one absorbs a text.

Each game of pinball starts with the basic understanding of the core “keep the ball in play” concept. But each game offers a great deal of secrets and devices that can be worked in a variety of ways. The chain reactions that various paths unleash map strange routes to the high scores. To see the complexity of a pinball game slowly unveil itself is a thrill, and players have enough time to relax and access these games in leisure. Each game reveals so much about the video game industry in its own native time, and some of them tell amazing stories about the cultural zeitgeist that created them. Pinball palace gives gamers a chance to interact with games in the way a historian would. There is so much to see and experience.

 

The best way to go forward from here is to just discuss a few highlights. Be sure to check these gems out when you go to Pinball Palace.

 

Funhouse

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Sorry for the Instagram Frame

 

The best part of any pinball machine lies in the toys and gadgets that can be activated in pursuit of highscores. Older games have sparse mechanisms and rely on simple bumpers and Pachinko style slots. Most of the machines from the 60’s and early seventies lack even rudimentary ramps, which I found surprising.

Funhouse has a fantastic set-up with a lovely tangle of ramps, an alternate launch spring, and a labyrinth of doors and targets to hit. This table manages to mix challenge with an ease of play that gives every turn a hint of achievement. The theme itself is a bit generic, and reminds me of older games where plot was thin and flashing colors were all that motivated a player forward.

Enter Rudy: the ventriloquist dummy-esque carnival barker that mocks the player as the ball bounces around the table. We all know these guys, the irritating miscreants shouting at passersby to throw balls at bottles or climb a rope ladder to win an oversized knock off Winnie the Pooh. Rudy’s head sits in the upper corner of the machine with an arrow pointing directly to his mouth. One of the main jackpots in this game is to time the ball so that it Rudy must eat it.

This would be all well and good, but the icing on this cake is the fact that Rudy’s mouth opens and closes as he speaks, giving the illusion that the jackpot is just out of reach. The desire to achieve this incredibly difficult shot will keep you at Funhouse for a major portion of your time at Pinball Palace. And it is extra soothing that a failed shot at Rudy registers a loud grunt of pain as the dummy register the impact.

One day Rudy. One day you will eat that damn ball.    

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A view of the play area for Funhouse

Gorgar

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Sexy Cave People

Classic gaming enthusiasts can’t miss Gorgar. Tucked in the dimly lit back alley of what I believe to be Pinball Palace’s most amazing pieces sits an oddball relic of gaming history. Gorgar is a table designed by Williams and released in 1979. It has the awesome distinction as the world’s first talking pinball machine. It’s amazing in a world of such fast paced advancement that simple sound effects could have ever been considered a groundbreaking feature.

Gorgar sports a very limited amount of phrases to taunt the player. Good luck deciphering them during play, he has the diction and enunciation of a broken Speak and Spell. The table is fun with a demonic theme and weirdly sexual imagery of the demon in a hellscape. There are no ramps with this machine, but there is a magnetized target for the player to contend with, which though primitive still manages to be fun as hell.

This machine is a real beast when it comes to difficulty. One of the employees and I chatted about highscores as I struggled to keep the ball up for more than 15 seconds (don’t laugh, this machine is cruel.) I’m used to being able to dominate a machine fairly quickly, but this monster punished me the whole 25 minutes I was in combat with it.

While the speech is an impressive advancement, the one thing that tickled my nostalgia bits was the other sounds associated with bumpers and target hits. At first I thought Williams sampled their video game archives with this machine, as any gaming enthusiast will recognize effects from their classic arcade games like Defender, Joust and even Robotron 2084. A little research revealed that these sounds predate the golden age of arcade gaming with Gorgar. All of these sounds may have started with this machine.

 

Silver Ball Mania

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What in the actual hell???

I’m not gonna lie, I don’t remember much about playing this machine as I was so totally captivated by its bat-sh*t insane artwork. I remember liking it immensely. My six year old son also spent most of this time with this game, so there must be something great there.

It’s an older machine similar with play mechanics akin to Gorgar. But really, let’s talk about this art. I am not sure what kind of imagery this is, it makes me think of Silver Surfer with a hint of vaporware 80’s inspired insanity. I seem to remember it having a sticker bragging about “quality mirrorballs” which is just hilarious. But what sticks out to me is the image of the Silver Surfer mascot playing the game and REALLY GETTING HIS HIPS INVOLVED!

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Slow down there tiger.

I mean…that hot metal lady thinks this whole setup is just fantastic. I don’t know what dimension these two exist in, but the hyper sexualization of a pinball machine would make it a prime vacation destination. I should supervise my kids pinball choices a little closer on the next visit.

I need to ask my wife if pinball skills are sexy.   

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Coming soon: Part 2.