The design and fading of pinball games

Last week, the NYT had an intriguing story about pinball machines, or - more specifically - the survivor of the pinball industry. Some excerpts I found interesting below: About how it went downhill ("a painful fading") that may be "turned around":

"“There are a lot of things I look at and scratch my head,” said Tim Arnold, who ran an arcade during a heyday of pinball in the 1970s and recently opened The Pinball Hall of Fame, a nonprofit museum in a Las Vegas strip mall. “Why are people playing games on their cellphones while they write e-mail? I don’t get it.”

“The thing that’s killing pinball,” Mr. Arnold added, “is not that people don’t like it. It’s that there’s nowhere to play it.” (...) Corner shops, pubs, arcades and bowling alleys stopped stocking pinball machines. A younger audience turned to video games. Men of a certain age, said Mr. Arnold, who is 52, became the reliable audience. (...) the pinball buyer is shifting. In the United States, Mr. Stern said, half of his new machines, which cost about $5,000 and are bought through distributors, now go directly into people’s homes and not a corner arcade "

About the design process per se:

"Some workers are required to spend 15 minutes a day in the “game room” playing the latest models or risk the wrath of Mr. Stern. “You work at a pinball company,” he explained, grumpily, “you’re going to play a lot of pinball.” (On a clipboard here, the professionals must jot their critiques, which, on a recent day, included “flipper feels soft” and “stupid display.”)

And in a testing laboratory devoted to the physics of all of this, silver balls bounce around alone in cases for hours to record how well certain kickers and flippers and bumpers hold up."

Why do I blog this? cultural interest in how certain things work and then fade away for diverse reasons that are interesting to observe. Some lessons can be drawn here about innovation, especially about the role of contexts (or the absence of context of play).