On the surface, it's hard to see any similarities between the iconic game pinball and the new craze in video gaming, the online multiplayer first-person shooter Fortnite. There are similarities, however, and they are startling.
That's the argument made in a new article on the Smithsonian website.
When playing Fortnite, you are one of 100 players dropped onto an island to scavenge for weapons before trying to kill each other. The last person standing wins.
It's not the gameplay that makes Fortnite similar to pinball. Instead, it's the addictive nature of the game.
This addictiveness is gaining increasing attention. It applies to adults, but the biggest concern is with children.
Schools have banned it. Some schools have even banned their children from doing Fortnite dances. Parents are concerned too, plus the World Health Organization now recognizes gaming disorder.
So, the fear with Fortnite isn't so much the violence. In fact, the violence is really toned down, despite the fact the gameplay involves killing other players.
Instead of violence, people are concerned about its addictiveness and the impact that has on players' lives.
Similar Concerns Expressed About Pinball
In the 20th century, politicians and other social commentators were expressing similar concerns about pinball. They believed pinball encouraged laziness and lead to people neglecting their responsibilities, particularly to their families.
In the late 1930s, the mayor of New York repeatedly expressed concerns about children spending money their parents had given them playing pinball, and he was scathing about pinball operators.
He also regarded pinball as being a form of gambling. In the end, the mayor told the police to take away pinball machines from the operators, smash them and then dump them in the river. He even took part in this himself, so he could pose for the newspapers.
The gambling argument went out the window when flippers were introduced to pinball machines, turning them into a game of skill rather than a game of chance. This led to their re-introduction to bars and bowling alleys as well as to the opening of pinball arcades.
Still, many people feared and disliked pinball, not least because of its association with rock n' roll. Plus, the cabinets were designed to appeal to teenagers and young people.
Today, those fears are old-fashioned. Will the same happen in the future to the fears being expressed now about Fortnite? Time will tell.
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