Athens: On a side street near the Acropolis, a new museum is exhibiting items a little different from the elegant white marble statues of ancient Greek antiquity. Here, there are flashing lights, loud pinging and popping noises.
The AthensPinballMuseum is home to more than 100 fully functional pinball machines dating from the 1950s, where fans can go back in time and, in some cases, relive their youth.
“It’s like art for my generation,” 47-year-old owner Panos Bitarchas, who opened the museum six months ago, said. “The adults come searching for the first pinball (machine) they played ... It’s nostalgia, it’s the sounds, it’s the smell, it’s everything together.”
Once popular with young Greeks, pinball arcades brimming with the games where players use flippers to direct silver balls, stood all over the country before fading out some 20 years ago. In an age of smart phones and video games, they are now foreign to many youngsters.
Bitarchas said he got the idea after receiving a pinball machine as a birthday gift from his wife in 2017 - he hadn’t played for 20 years. He left his renewable energy job to scour the Greek countryside, digging out dusty machines from closed down shops, warehouses or homes and having them restored.
On show and also for play are games he says are a chronicle of pop culture, illustrating films, shows and music across decades, as well as historical events, like the 1958 “Satellite” pinball machine by the Williams Manufacturing Company, marking when the United States first launched a satellite into space.
There is also his wife’s gift, a 1993 Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” game by Williams and a 1994 “Addams Family” Collectors Edition by Bally Manufacturing is also on show.
“There are now electronic versions but it’s not the same thing, you don’t have the same feeling as you do when moving the flipper,” said 39-year-old Vasso Kostopoulou. “It’s nice, it reminds us of our teenage years.”
Kostopoulou brought her 11-year-old son to the museum. “He can learn how games started, how they developed into video games ... many children don’t recognise what flippers are, they don’t know how electronic games were in our time.”