I Played That! #18: Pinball Construction Set (C64)

In 1983 or ’84 some old friends of the family from when I was a wee tot came to visit. Their youngest son, Tim, was about my age, so it would fall on me to keep him entertained. Tim and I didn’t have a lot in common, and he never wanted to do anything. I couldn’t find anything that he was interested in. My Commodore 64 was the closest, so I thought maybe we could play a new game together.

This spurred me to do something drastic. I boxed up my comics (I had only been reading for a short time, and didn’t have too many, but I had older issues of The New Teen Titans, which were in demand) and sold them to a shop. I then used the money to buy Pinball Construction Set, a game I’d been wanting and now had the impetus to purchase.

Tim still wasn’t too interested, so screw him, I let him dangle while I played PCS.

Pinball Construction Set was exactly what it said. It provided the tools, in a drag-and-drop interface, for creating your own computer pinball games. Everything (at the time) you could think of was included in some fashion, and the editor was surprisingly robust.

I was fascinated by it, and dove into the history of pinball. I checked books out of the library and designed all kinds of tables, but like most thing, my interest was fairly shallow, and I wasn’t very good at actually playing pinball, much to my dismay. Practice with real machines was prohibitive and also frustrating; I didn’t want to get good at it, I wanted to be good at it.

A couple of years later, when I was steeped in New Orleans BBS culture, I came up with a way to bring fresh blood to my favorite bulletin board systems. PCS not only made pinball games to play within the program, you could also save your creations as stand-alone games that ran by themselves. I created tables themed around some of the BBSes, included the phone number in the artwork, and uploaded them to whatever sites I could find. I’m fairly certain this plan did not work.

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