Jets? Bumpers? Slings? Orbits? Believe it or not, these are all things found in a pinball machine. In this post, we’ll breakdown common pinball terminology and dissect the fundamental elements of a pinball machine.
Flippers: These are your primary weapons in all their plastic glory. Flippers are what make pinball a game a skill, in that it’s your best defense of not only keeping the ball in play, but in controlling the game and hitting the shots that you desire.
Inserts: Inserts are embedded in the playfield and will light up at particular times in a game to indicate shots that need to be completed and/or current progress made during the game. In this picture, you can see at least 10 inserts: the cross, the snake, the switch, the red arrow with the spider, and the guitar picks. The snake, switch, and one guitar pick is lit to indicate progress being made in this particular game. The cross and red arrow are not currently lit.
Outlane/Inlane: In this picture you’ll find both an outlane and an inlane. The red arrow points to the outlane. Should the ball fall into the outlane, you will lose your ball. The white arrow points to the inlane. When the ball falls into the inlane, it is returned safely to the flipper.
Ramp: Ramps are featured on all modern pinball games. Before ramps were present in pinball machines, nearly every shot would send the ball out of control, making pinball a game that was roughly 50% skill and 50% luck. Ramps changed all that, as they usually return the ball safely back to the flippers once a ramp shot has been made. This made pinball more of a game of skill, rather than luck, because it gave the player more control over the game.
Rollover Switch: Rollover switches are typically found in the inlane/outlanes and often at the top of the playfield, usually located by the pop bumpers. When the ball goes over a rollover, the switch communicates to the game the position of the ball, and scores a certain value.
Scoop: A scoop is an actual hole in the playfield in which players can aim for. Often times the scoop will transport the ball via a “subway” under the playfield, and the ball will then reemerge from another scoop on the playfield. Other times, the ball will be shot back at the player from the same scoop it was shot into.
Slingshots (aka “kickers”): These are located close to the flippers and are considered a hazard to be avoided. Like pop bumpers, once the ball hits a slingshot, it will propel the ball in the opposite direction.
Translite/Backglass: This refers to the art that’s in the head of the machine. This particular example is a translite from Metallica Pinball. Translites are a thin sheet of plastic with printed artwork. Backglass on the other hand is actual glass with the artwork printed on it. Nearly all games made after 1990 have translites, rather than backglasses.