Why Do Pinball Machines Tilt? Is it Allowed?

Pinball machines come with a tilt sensor which is typically composed of a metal pendulum called a plumb bob which hangs within a ring. When the pinball machine is nudged and causes the plumb bob to touch the metal ring, the machine tilts., and you lose the ball and any bonuses.

Pinball machines tilt to prevent players from cheating and to protect the machine from damage. Tilting a pinball machine is not forbidden. In fact, it is a vital part of the game. But most machines will issue up to two warnings before deducting points from a player.

The tilt can be used to a player’s advantage, but there are a couple of things to learn beforehand. If done incorrectly, it’s a loss of points or even game over. There is a fine line when it comes to gaining or losing points by using the machine’s tilt. Below we’ll cover some of the basics.

What Does Tilt Mean In Pinball?

“Tilt” in pinball is when the tilt sensor is triggered by the physical act of moving, nudging or bumping the machine in order to try to better control the ball’s trajectory. When the machine tilts, all earned bonuses are lost, the flippers are deactivated, and the current ball in play is ended.

If this happens on the last ball, the game automatically ends. If you play on one machine for a long time, you’ll familiarise yourself with areas which are more troublesome than others, and you’ll see the ball ending up in the drain after a particular route or series of obstacles.

This is generally where you may want some additional assistance by moving or bumping the machine in order to make the ball avoid these zones. If the machine is nudged, bumped, or shaken too hard, the tilt sensor will trigger, and a warning or danger alert will appear on the screen.

Most machines allow up to two warning signs to be declared before tilting, although this entirely depends on how the machine has been configured. The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible before the machine tilts.

Based on the sensitivity of the tilt mechanism, it is possible to move the machine without triggering the tilt sensor. The trick is to apply just the right amount of pressure when nudging that will assist you in moving the ball but not enough to trigger the sensor and one of the warnings.

Why Do Pinball Machines Tilt?

Pinball machines tilt in order to protect the machine from being abused. The tilt sensor is regulated in such a manner that it will only be triggered when too much pressure is applied to the machine. For in-game purposes, tilting has come for different reasons.

When pinball was first invented in the 1930s, the original machines did not have flippers. Balls were only manoeuvred through the mechanism of tilting and moving the machine. Once flippers were introduced, tilting was then only used as an extra effort to move the ball away from overlanes or to help release the ball when stuck. Pinball machines also tilt in order to prevent players from cheating.

Although there are no rules against nudging or bumping, it is generally accepted that only minor movements are to be used in order to control the ball. Some players may be inclined to slam the machine up and down or kick it to help them win the game. Any instance of major force applied will trigger the machine to tilt and lose all bonuses.

It is possible to completely lift a pinball machine to avoid the ball from draining down an overlane, and while the machine will avoid tilting with this technique, it is without a doubt considered a form of cheating. Some tilting techniques such as the bang-back or death save are illegal in tournament play. If you’re playing with friends, however, they’re usually accepted.

Are You Supposed To Tilt Pinball Machines?

Pinball machines are built to be tilted, but it’s not an acceptable part of the game unless you apply the right amount of pressure to not lose any points. Early pinball machines were originally created to be moved, nudged, and tilted. Today, however, flippers exist to move the ball without tilting.

There are, however, some examples of pinball machines that award extra points or balls through the use of tilting the board. One such machine is the Avatar-themed Link Shakedown, where if you shake the machine aggressively enough, it will register a special shot without actually taking it and scoring additional progress.

This is even allowed in tournaments. But while some of these exploits are not considered cheating, there are some that have been disallowed, so before you look up a list of all the existing pinball hacks, be sure that they have been allowed. Another thing to consider is how tight the tilt is. In many tournaments, the tilt sensor will be wound up tightly and warnings will be limited.

Don’t Do It Too Much

Under these circumstances, it is safe to say that tilting the machine should be limited in order to not risk losing any points. Expert players will still be able to pull off difficult moves like a bang-back even with the tightest settings but often, these skills are developed after plenty of practice.

Tilting in pinball has and always will be part and parcel of the game. It’s a double-edged sword that can be both useful if used correctly or detrimental if abused. As with most things, the best way to take advantage of tilting is with enough practice in order to develop a “feel” for the tilt.

Every pinball machine is different, and every tilt sensor is adjusted slightly tighter or looser depending on the owner. So, the more time dedicated to the game, the easier and more apparent it will become. If the tilt is loose and the usual two-warning system is in place, then it is a good idea to give tilting a go and develop a feel for how much leeway there is before the tilt is triggered.

How Do Pinball Tilt Sensors Work?

Pinball tilt sensors have a metal ring with a pendulum swinging through the middle of it. This pendulum, known as the plumb bob, is not touching any part of the ring. If the machine is moved, the pendulum moves with it. If the bob touches the ring, a current is sent out to register a tilt.

The sensitivity of the tilt can be adjusted through a screwing mechanism at the head of the plumb bob. A tighter fit will increase sensitivity while a looser one will decrease it. Expert players will generally play using tighter tilts in order to perfect their gameplay.

There are also two additional types of tilt sensors other than the pendulum switch. The first is known as aslam tilt. These are built to be triggered only when excessive force is applied to the board or if a player is attempting to fool the machine with fake money.

When this tilt sensor is triggered, the game is automatically. The second tilt sensor is known as the rolling ball switch. These are installed in order to prevent machines from being lifted up in order to roll the ball away from the drain. Once the ball reaches the sensor located at the back of the board, this will be triggered, and the game will stop.

Final Thoughts

Tilting can result in lost points and a terminated game, but if you nudge a pinball machine just right, it can help your game. Pinball machines are built to be tilted, and if you know that you have more than one warning, it is worth the risk to increase your position on the scoreboard.