In the beginning of pinball machine history, the machines would be controlled solely through the nudging motion. As machines had no flippers, in order to score the highest ball drop you would be forced to nudge. But pinball machines have changed, and so has the use of nudging.
Nudging is allowed in pinball, and it involves moving the machine left or right. As long as you don’t nudge a machine too hard, you can use the technique to save a ball or score more points. Shaking is also allowed, and this is a backwards and forwards movement rather than side to side.
While nudging is allowed on modern pinball machines, having the right technique is key. Below, we go into more detail about the history of nudging in pinball, and how to nudge and shake a pinball machine properly.
Nudging Early Pinball Machines
Early pinball machines relied on nudging. But later, flippers were added to prevent abuse of the machines and prevent tilting. When a machine was tilted too much it would warn the player in a few different ways. It could be through a noise, weakened flippers for a certain time period, or locking the flippers altogether, making you lose the ball.
Electronic displays would sometimes show “TILT” on the backglass display to warn the player they have nudged too hard. This resulted in the loss of a ball or even the whole game if it was too violent. Machines were then equipped with a plump bob, or pendulum, that would alert the player if it hit the lower bracket. Allowing this to hit meant you had nudged the machine too far.
Is Nudging Allowed In Pinball?
Nudging is allowed in pinball. Machines often have a feature warning the gamer when they push with too much force. Some games award players when they nudge with precision or even have specific areas that can be hardly reached unless you nudge the machine.
There is a difference between nudging the machine to save a ball or attempt to push it down a specific lane, and nudging the machine because you lost. This is something that you should definitely avoid. Taking your anger out on a machine could get you kicked out of your arcade.
Don’t Take Your Anger Out On A Machine
This is the only time when moving the machine is not accepted. Playing and nudging, especially in a competitive environment, is a completely legitimate move to make. You don’t need to worry about the machine, whether it’s your own or another person’s. You have a very slim chance of actually damaging the machine if you’re nudging it properly.
Some players choose not to attempt any nudging for fear of damaging the machine, but a lot of moving parts in the machine cause more friction than a few nudges here and there. Even in a heavily played environment, the nudging will not increase or decrease the amount of time for a repair.
How To Nudge A Pinball Machine
Nudging can be a little harder than it seems, as the ball is almost on a frictionless surface. When a ball is heading for the gutter, you have to attempt to move the machine left if you are aiming for the right flipper. This is because, when you are moving the machine, you are moving the field and not the actual ball itself.
Controlling The Ball
The only time this is not the case and when you can move the ball in the direction you are moving the machine is when it makes contact with something on the field, such as a bumper, the side of a lane, or going along a ramp. Only then do you really have control over the ball. But if you wait too long and the ball moves past its contact point, you’ll end up sending it the other way.
Some players will smack the corner of the machine as this can be enough to change the direction of the ball. Sometimes you have to use a little more force by using your body weight. Nudging takes practice, and some situations call for different types of nudge. But if you nudge too hard, the machine will cause you to lose a ball or indeed the full game. So don’t nudge it too hard!
How To Shake A Pinball Machine
With nudging, it’s not just about moving things left and right. There are also forward and backward movements you can use to help rack up extra points, and this is called shaking. Shaking allows the player to add points when a ball is in between two bumpers and you push and pull the machine to get extra hits on the bumpers.
As with nudging, you can lose a ball or even the full game if you use too much force. Most of the time it’s not worth it for a few extra points. Staying in the game is more important than the scoreboard if it means your violent shake will end the game.
Some machines have shake buttons which, when pressed, will shake the machine for you. These machines may have a lower tolerance to shaking/nudging. If you try and shake it manually and are too violent, it will usually sound a tilt alarm quicker than machines without this feature.
Nudging and shaking can greatly help your score during a game, as well as give you the chance to save a ball here and there. The best way to learn to nudge and shake properly is to practice a lot. You’ll eventually understand when to swing the machine in which direction to get the ball to go where you want it.
Practice Is Key
It’s also good to practice on machines to know how much force is too much and where the limit is. This doesn’t mean go crazy shaking the machine trying to rattle the ball for a minute straight. But try different machines and see if you get a tilt warning to better understand the force.
There are many different techniques used in pinball to score more points. Nudging and shaking usually strikes fear in some players because they know that machines are not cheap, and they don’t want to abuse them in any way or get the boot from their local arcade or bar. But nudging and shaking are perfectly legitimate ways of playing the game, and machines are built to withstand the force.
If you are interested in more skills to better your pinball playing check out my top 10.