AC/DC pinball has been so wildly popular since its release in 2012 that recently Stern re-launched it with new artwork and better gameplay. While many fans of the game were pleased to have an improved, fresh playfield, the added artwork might not be so popular amongst the ladies. The backglass translite features Luci, a character created specifically for this game, in a bikini posed by an electric guitar with devil horns and an AC/DC tattoo on her hip. But wait, there’s more! On the lower playfield, two scantily clad girls with bosoms prevalent flank the shots in Hell; to the far left, there’s a new insert featuring cleavage. Worst of all is the side art: Luci on her hands and knees looking back at you with a clear view of her barely covered nether regions. Thus I now dub thee T’n’AC/DC pinball.
This recent release is a stark representation of tasteless pin art featuring women, but this is in no way a new trend. Sometime in the 70’s there began a definitive shift in the portrayal of females on pins. I suspect it syncs up fairly well with Roger Sharpe’s demonstration of pinball as a skill-based game and not solely for gambling, which has its own negative connotations. At the time, pinball was thought to be seedy and tough. You’d find many tables in corners of sketchy dive bars with the promise of sexy women nearby; at the time, art was quite literally imitating life.
From my experience in the 7 years I’ve actively played pinball, I have run across very few tables that portray women in positive or powerful roles. Those on the short list that come to mind are The Flintstones, Tron, Monster Bash, Theater of Magic, Xenon, and Red and Ted’s Roadshow. Although Theater may be big in the cleavage department, like Xenon it puts a woman in charge of the entire game. Xenon was Bally’s first game to feature a voice, and the first pinball game ever with a female voice. Suzanne Ciani is responsible for composing and synthesizing every sound on the pin.
This got me thinking about women’s involvement in playfield development, concepts, music, art and design of pins. Unfortunately I have yet to find a game where anything other than the art or music is lady-made, making conceptual design of pins monopolized by men. Margaret Hudson created artwork for nearly 20 pins including popular titles like Spider-Man, The Simpsons, Eight Ball Deluxe, Wheel of Fortune, Spectrum and Time Machine (in which she drew herself into the backglass). She worked with a mix of licensed art and original work, all of which cast women in a positive or at least neutral light.
On the other side of the coin, there are alternative “Adult” or “Rated R” translites, one of
which briefly showed up on The Sopranos at Add-A-Ball. While the original translite showcases the Soprano family, this alternate translite prominently displays a stripper on a pole at the Bing. While stripper toys are included in the playfield of the game (kudos to Gameworks, who installed Troll dolls on the poles to make theirs kid-friendly), this translite is considerably racier. An eBay seller makes these and others, including some like World Poker Tour with straight-up naked girls pasted on a background of cards and chips. Stern’s new Mustang, which has yet to arrive on location, already has three alternative translites available. So if you get bored of looking at Ford’s logo, there’s always the ‘Mustang Sally’ version with girls in daisy dukes bending over the hood of the car. I can’t imagine pinball would be so male-dominated if the majority of games featured sweaty, hairy chests and bulging crotches.
When pin art is sexualized in a cartoonish way, it can distract and disconnect the player from the purpose of the game and its theme. But context is everything. Both Elvira pins are completely over the top with innuendos and cleavage, like the star herself. This seems acceptable since the Mistress of the Dark deliberately exists in an over-sexed world of double entendres — the Stiff in the Coffin is a rare close brush with risqué male pin art. Time Warp from 1979 is the only game I know of to show a naked guy’s bits and get away with it, simply because it’s da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Around the same time in Japan, Sega – while slightly lost in translation – made a pin called Woman Lib which features a backglass covered with women in protest waving flags and banners. I’m not saying we need more politically motivated game art, just less of the erotic female form, please! Or at least try to strike a gender balance. And I don’t mean games like Gorgar or Paragon with bare-chested men with female slaves at their feet.
This type of imagery against women does two things: it leaves very few female role models in this hobby, and continues to encourage questionable behavior from men.
Bowen Kerins, a well-known and longtime player / teacher of pinball, recently re-shared a photo of half-naked women originally posted on the Always Pinball group on Facebook with the caption “Interactive Pinball Toppers”. Bowen brought this up for discussion as he and many others believe it’s deplorable. In a one-on-one conversation, he expressed “This sort of garbage just segments everyone. The only thing I can do is tell people they’re being a-holes.”
When you see that kind of thing, know that some guy out there will think that it’s no
t only funny but that it’s also okay. This is not the way to encourage women to be a part of the culture. It’s perpetuated by things like a Pinball Pin-Up Calendar and The Girls of Pinball pageant shows, which a man from Spokane tried to gain momentum for in Seattle last month. These things simply have no purpose in pinball culture and promote women as accessories to the hobby rather than active participants.
In the Seattle area we have many women-centric events that foster a friendly, educational environment for pinball. FLiP (Fabulous Ladies in Pinball) and Babes in Pinland both meet monthly, for camaraderie and casual tournaments. The Northwest Pinball and Arcade show is featuring a women’s tournament for the first time ever this year and Shorty’s has now made their Powder Puff tournament an annual event. We have the opportunity to positively shape the direction of the pinball community. Let’s make sure we respect 50% of the potential pinball player population.
Originally published in Skill Shot 34 (May 2014)
Shorty’s Annual Powder Puff Tournament is Sunday May 25th. Details here.
21 replies on “T’n’AC/DC”
Leave pinball alone! This over-reaching feminism is killin’ my pinball jam! Especially from a site that features black on black violence as it’s header!
Hear, hear! Sexualized pinball art is unnecessary. The gameplay is enough without appealing to sex. I thought the original AC/DC was fine; the new version off-putting.
I’m a man. I like attractive women. But when I see art like this it feels cheap, and it seems obvious it alienates half the population. Now we know–kudos for saying it!
I think the pinball community may contain a large fraction of men that would like to keep it a “men-only” club. The above commenter seems to be one of them.
As a woman already pushed out of some spaces by folks like #1, hear hear!
Women were more than half of ECCC this year and was where I got my first high score.
We have plenty of money to spend. All we need is basic respect.
Feminists that claim to respect women, and be all about women’s rights, are the most entertaining when they belittle women who chose to do what they will with their bodies; such as being pinup models.
There isn’t a thing wrong with a beautiful pinup girl next to a fun pinball machine. Two birds, I say! It doesn’t have to be overtly sexual or taboo.
Instead of perpetuating your shallow, negative view on fun-loving retro dolls, congratulate them for having the audacity to show off their bodies with confidence. It doesn’t look like these ladies are being forced against their will. Dare I say, they might even be having a good time doing it?!
OH, NO! THE HORROR! TABOO! TABOO! SHE’S AN OBJECT! WAH, WAH, WAH! If that’s how you see classy pinup girls, then you’re the one with the problem, not everybody else. It IS possible to see a scantily clad woman and appreciate her beauty as the female form is art. Not everyone rushes to the conclusion that she’s an object or needing to be disrespected.
On top of that, these ladies are supporting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Meanwhile, you’re clearly passing the image that violence is okay with the header on your website.
It sounds to me like you’re the one doing the objectifying. Take a step back, appreciate what these women are putting their hearts into, and congratulate them for taking a step in the right direction: bringing awareness and raising funds for a very important cause. And if it’s sex they’re using to sell it? MORE POWER TO THEM. Nothing sells better than that in this world. We are, after all, mammals and the sooner you come to appreciate that, the better off (and probably more relaxed) you and your life will be.
For someone who so proudly claims to be a feminist, Kayla, you sure do a lot of women-bashing. At least the people who are supposedly objectifying these ladies are appreciating their form. You’re just dragging them through the mud.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Anon, thank goodness we have you to defend women and feminism, you are obviously the most passionate supporter of womens’ rights. It’s great that we can have pictures of pretty girls next to machines, it definitely shows their participation in the sport, and it’s wonderful that we have such a grassroots movement from the pinball league of female players demanding that we take sexy pictures of their glorious, glorious souls.
And the word you’re looking for is hypocrite, not ironic, honey.
Let me get this straight. You post this article about supposed “erotic female form” and how awful you think it is and then your two separate flyers for your tournament feature exactly what you’re against?! Hypocrite, indeed!
That is awesome.
I have resisted but feel I need to comment on this topic / article. After being involved in many, many charitable programs, I find the backlash over this pinup pinball business to be somewhat hypocritical and certainly not based in the roots of the feminist movement, which was about Equality for all. Yet there is a strong bit of dictatorial suppression here by a few. The ones irritated by the pinup genre are not offended by violence and beheadings i.e. Game of Thrones or by the continual bombardment of sex and drug references in Primetime T.V. I checked some FB pages and saw that these shows were liked by the very people complaining about pinups! The game Bride of Pinbot seems to be acceptable because the pinup is a robot. Somehow that makes things different? On the East coast, Game Room Collectables is selling posters of girls in shorts on roller skates next to a pinball game. (Sexist? Objectifying women?) Do these same people write to Stern or even the artists that create pinball pinup art to complain? Do they write to CBS and complain when Victoria’s Secret airs every year. Are they irritated with football cheerleaders? Do these people picket or complain at car shows where pinups abound? Why is there a separate women’s league? If you have issues with pinup, objectifying women, etc. it must be across the board. Not pick and choose.
I am the founder of The Girls of Pinball and thought it a wonderful idea to celebrate the rich heritage of pinball pinup art and artists as well as help those women and photographers further their respective careers with a project that gave back to society. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE BOOBIES!!! Yet it is all about the boobies as the beneficiary is The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is about doing something good for women. Would the complainers, if they were to get breast cancer, God forbid, not accept the research or drugs that The GOP may have help raised money for? That little bit extra that might bring a cure? The GOP now has 3,400 fans from all over the world in less than 2 months. Nearly a third is women. Women are emailing us as to how they can join and participate. One establishment in the Seattle area can’t wait for our Miss Pinball Tourneys to start this fall. If we called it Powder Puff Pinball then that is ok? There really is a double standard here for some reason. Much hoopla has been made over the last 2 months about our upcoming Pinball Pinup Calendar, yet not one person that has complained or been irritated has msg’d me for any kind of facts or reasons why or anything!
Through all of this I have stayed the course and we at the GOP have partnered with Project Pinball to supply pinball games at cancer wards for children. Just to be clear, we are not donating a Playboy pinball followed by an entourage of scantily clad women to the hospital, we do have some common sense. I reached out to the Seattle Pinball League for a partnership in the children’s game project but received no reply. It was a pinball collector in Portland, Oregon that stepped up and donated a game to this more than worthy cause.
At 61 years of age and a 25 year career in radio management behind me. I had the skills and my own money to do something to help others, to help society, to make a difference, to pay homage to the great artists of the pinball world. I was quite taken back when my own hometown seems to be the only place in the world to make such a negative out of something that can do so much good and pales in comparison to much, much bigger issues in this world. Pinball is only a game!
Anonymous, your comments might hold more weight if you were willing to put a face to them. I’m sure you know that people think very little of people sharing such heated views from behind the screen. If you are going to point people out and make such sharp comments, share you’re identity. You have clearly put thought into what you say and, whilst I do not agree with you for the most part, you clearly few very strongly and want people to consider your side as well.
Now, as for the black on black violence. That’s totes two related men about to kiss the fuck out of each other’s faces. Look closer, the one dude’s all like “yeah boy, I love you” and then the other one’s all like “Yeah man, that explosion was intense” and then they’re also all like “I love you and want to have sexual man sex with your body”. It’s all true, I was there. Love is something to celebrate and I applaud Skill Shot for doing just that!
I am displeased with something so trivial causing such a commotion in the Seattle pinball community. Lucy is an optional cabinet and backglass that the buyer chose. Stern offers other versions without Lucy. As far as I know, pinball players are not trying to objectify women. Yes, pinball is mostly played by men. Those men have no problem playing with women and encourage any possible person to play as we would all like to see pinball become bigger than it is. If you have a problem with the pinball machine, speak with the operator or the business owner. Hell, email Gary Stern. This seems like a personal issue and not a major problem people have with pinball, also a waste of an article that could have been enjoyable.
As much as I appreciate the support for sex workers when it comes to back glass modeling, it’d be nice if the same respect was shown to sex workers in real life.
I’ve had great experiences in the community. I’ve also had terrible and physically violent experiences.
This is only trivial to the people who aren’t affected by this when they’re just trying to play.
Really, when someone tries to physically assault you because of your *t shirt*, then you can talk about how great and equal things are for female players. “As far as I know” means you don’t know
Again a personal issue. I don’t think its fair to classify this person as a pinball player, assuming this is pinball related. Is this person that assaulted you a fair representation of men in the Seattle pinball community? I don’t think so. This person just sounds like an asshole and assholes will be anywhere, when you do anything, even if it be a squirt gun fight, standing in line for a movie, or just minding your own business walking down the street.
Luci has no affiliation with the abyss of torture and despair I call home. Hell is a place where all are treated equally and I believe Stern to be wrong. They should see how this alienates and makes to feel uncomfortable a group of people that are a major part of a game that leads many souls into my clutches. Maya Angelou — ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Take note Stern, there is a growing community of potential customers that may just buy a neat homebrew machine. Anon see you soon. –Satan out
Lucifer, I’m not sure what your general point is. This is all about interpersonal issues (aka personal issues). Are you implying the pinball community isn’t social? Your response seems to be jumping to a lot of odd conclusions.
My methods may be odd, but god dammit they get results! You ever think that maybe your conclusions are too normal? I’m sorry to bring that up but everyone was thinking it. I apologize for the clear argument I made against your comment on an assault. I tried, but I was unable to see where you thought I was implying pinball wasn’t social. Of course it is. My dad always taught me that if a stranger disagrees with you or calls you out online you fight your hardest until the bigger person gives up.The worst part about this Ashley, is that Firefly was cancelled after just one season. I loved that show. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. They made a movie years after, which was pretty good, except Wash died. Oops, late spoiler alert! Anyway, check it out if a sci fi western sounds like your cup of tea. The movie is called Serenity. Thats the name of the ship. Firefly is the ship’s class, in case you were wondering. It stars Nathan Fillion, who then got a show on abc called Castle where he plays a famous murder mystery writer who is a correspondent for the police department investigating homicides. I’m not that into it but my girlfriend gets a kick out of it. Ashley, get a life and watch tv and movies by yourself in a dark room eating frozen pizza, like I do, or you’re going to live with a lot of regrets.
What is the difference between personal and interpersonal? I would like to hear your definition.
Great article Kayla. The solution seems to be in the awareness of the issue, nice job getting it out there to the peeps… especially us bull-headed men.
Anon and James seem uncool with people having opinions that differ from theirs. So your calendar has some female fans. Fantastic. That doesn’t invalidate the opinions of someone who doesn’t like it. So a pin-up model is not literally forced to pose – so, if you don’t like them plastered all over machines you just need to “lighten up” and enjoy all forms of beauty? And furthermore, you can’t be cool with two guys getting into a fight? If you don’t like one thing, YOU MUST HATE EVERYTHING, too? Meh, step out of your box for a bit and actually engage with people. You might learn a bit more about what the pinball culture at large is into.
As Kayla noted, pinball is sorely lacking in strong female role models. It’s not lacking in flabby old white men with their “Pin Con ’92” shirts tucked into their jeans, ready to drop a load on anything that squeaks “feminism.” If you’re a dude trying to relive the glory of pinball’s pin-up past, then fine. Just don’t expect everyone to embrace your regressive views.
As a woman who plays pinball basically every week; this depiction of ‘the pinball community’ feels forced. I have never had a bad experience at an arcade because a man was chauvinistic towards me or another woman. The men I have met have been welcoming. I don’t know what has happened to every single female pinball player in history and I don’t pretend to, however I do find fault in stating that there is something very wrong with the community as a whole. Also illustrated women on back-glass don’t offend me, but if they did I wouldn’t play those tables. Anyone can be offended by anything, but stating something offends you does not produce change. Change is only made if people take an active stand, like refusing to play games with illustrations of scantly clad women. I know it seems unfair to those that do have a problem with the back-glasses, but no one ever changed anything significant without making a sacrifice. Or at the very least writing to stern and publishing that as an article would have made a lot more sense.
Sex sells. If you are passionate about pinball and want it to survive than put this aside. Save your feminism and terribly written articles for when pinball is thriving.
Aaron, you as well as myself and everyone else are completely entitled to your opinion. But I have to ask, what makes this piece terribly written? Share some constructive criticism if you don’t mind.