When you ask this question you'll get a variety of answers from different people. Some might think of the sights and sounds that they like, others might answer in a more abstract way saying that they enjoy the challenge or the physical nature of the game. No matter what, I think we would all agree when I say that playing makes us feel good. There is no doubt that playing pinball, and games in general, has some psychological benefit.
In an effort to try to understand those benefits Dr. Jennifer Hazel is currently conducting a research project that aims to tease apart this complex interaction between humans and games. Hazel is the co-founder of Checkpoint, a charity that is investigating links between gaming and mental health. While their work is mainly oriented towards video games, I have no doubt that much of their research could be applied in pinball settings.
Their current research project is looking to identify the types of games that induce a flow state. A flow state is described in psychology as a total cognitive congruence with an activity. All pinball players have experienced it. Most commonly refereed to in pinball as being "in the zone", its those times when you just can't miss, or the ball just stays up with little effort. You can't be distracted by what is going on around you, and your actions just seem to flow without any thought. Research has shown that being in this state of ultimate concentration is psychologically beneficial and Dr. Hazel wants to learn more about how it happens in gaming.
Checkpoint has put the call out for gamers to contribute to their data to help them learn more about the psychological benefits of games. If you'd like to contribute to the research you can find their survey here.
Author: John Pansini