Pinball "Addams Family"

Let's play!

Pinball „Addams Family“
Slot machine, 1992

Anyone who delves into the cultural history of games and play will quickly discover that death is omnipresent there too. This may seem surprising at first glance, but at second glance it is no longer; because, purely in terms of definition, play is "an appearance that deviates from our fixed ideas of reality, in that it simulates reality without reaching it completely.1 Since the game is thus fundamentally related to reality and death is a fixed, inevitable part of reality, it must also be found in the reality of the game – in this case as simulated death. Simulated death can take place in the game on various levels of representation and meaning, for example in role-playing in the form of the death of the character or in the sense of "victory" and "defeat". Game over and Win are the two possible outcomes of almost every form of game – for example, many board games. The affinity of game and death is most obvious in vending machines or computer games, because many games involve "war" or "armed conflicts" and virtually demonstrate "life" and "death" by means of "winning" and "losing". If the note Game over appears or even flashes at the end, the defeat and thus the simulated death is sealed for at least one player in linguistic-metaphorical terms.

Pinball machine
Pinball machine "Addams Family"
Photo: Frank Hellwig
© Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, Bildarchiv

For many decades pinball was one of the most popular slot machine games. Their fascination consisted in the fact that they offered entertaining contents and one had to prove one's own skill when fighting against the pinball machine or other players. Such machines were often set up in the gastronomic area, so that there was a further incentive to play, not least because of the "sociability factor". And because there was always the possibility to win a free game round as a bonus. The Museum for Sepulchral Culture also has a pinball machine in its collection. The reason for its acquisition was the special exhibition "Game over – Games, Death and Beyond" shown in 2002. In addition to numerous historical gaming machines from various lenders, the exhibition also featured the pinball machine "The Addams Family", which was acquired at the time. In contrast to many other machine or computer games, however, this is not a virtual fight or war game, but rather a cheerful, almost likeable morbidity. Behind "The Addams Family" is an eccentric family that takes great pleasure in grotesque and macabre things, but is not aware of their bizarre doings and morbid humor – compared to other "normal people". The "Addams Family" was originally created as a cartoon and enjoyed great popularity in American magazines in the 1930s. In the 1960s it became a television series, which was further enhanced by three feature films made in the 1990s. The movies also provided the graphic design for the pinball machines. Overall, however, the pinball game has clearly lost popularity since the mid-1990s. The main reason for this is the computer game, which has long had excellent screen graphics and thus offers extremely attractive game worlds – which, despite all the fiction, seem almost real and authentic. Against this background, the Museum for Sepulchral Culture can consider itself fortunate to be able to call a relic from the "era of the slot machine game" its own, especially since the Addams Family Pinball machine is still one of the most sought-after slot machines in collector circles.

1 Jürgen Fritz: Theorie und Pädagogik des Spiels. Eine praxisorientierte Einführung. Weinheim/München 1992, p. 13


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Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.

Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur

Museum für Sepulkralkultur

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D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0

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