As someone who grew up in New York City, summertime in my youth was punctuated with short trips to the Jersey Shore’s Atlantic City. For me, summer time is a time to let go of routine and let the Id take over. I am not much of a gambler but the experience of the boardwalk was enough to make the drive worthwhile. Three years ago, my husband discovered The Silverball Pinball museum on Asbury Park’s boardwalk and I knew that I had found my compulsion- my “low risk” Atlantic City.
The Silverball Museum on Asbury Park’s board walk offers hourly, daily, weekly and yearly admission. The museum’s vintage pinball machines are displayed by decade. All of the machines are refurbished and in working order. The price of admission allows unlimited playtime on these very special machines. Last Saturday night, my husband, son and I stopped in- hoping to get an hour of pinball- only to realize that we hit the jack pot when the staff told us that since we came in after 6PM, we qualified for the museum’s unlimited playtime until 1 am. This is when I realized that pinball might qualify for an addiction.
There is a new research outlined in MIT’s Dr. Natasha Dow Schull’s new book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press), which basically says that compulsive gamblers who use these fast paced machines are not gambling to win but to win enough so that they can keep playing and remain in the “zone”. When asked to describe the “machine zone” a compulsive gambler named Mollie describes the experience like this:
It’s like being in the eye of the storm, is how I’d describe it. Your vision is clear on the machine in front of you, and you can’t really hear anything. You aren’t really there-you’re with the machine and that is all you’re with”
The “Zone” is what I experience when I am allowed to play unlimited pinball. I’m not that picky-any 70s era machine will do for me; my husband, however, likes to try out a few machines until he finds a “friend”. Once that connection to the machine is found, I think the experience of being “one with the machine” is the same. The Who’s song, “Pinball Wizard” describes the wizard (Tommy) “He stands like a statue and becomes part of the machine”.
This zone is the cornerstone and driver for many people- whether it is sex, shopping, athletics, or work- being in the zone, is the feeling that keeps us doing the behavior and in many cases makes us expert. And yes (if you are wondering), I have very high scores in pinball and am very solvent.
Published June 7, 2013 on Westfield Patch