Silverball Retro Arcade, a low-rise building along the waterfront in the New Jersey beach town of Asbury Park, is not your typical museum.
Featuring more than 150 fully functional pinball machines, some dating back to the 1950s, fans can step back in time and in some cases relive their childhood.
“When I was a kid, me and my old man, he loved all kinds of old stuff, and this is just something that reminds me of him,” said 24-year-old William Mena.
“He’s not around anymore, so I come here and play and it brings back memories from the past. We used to play arcade games at Seaside (Jersey shore). It’s just the way I like it.”
On a chilly afternoon in Asbury Park, made famous by rocker Bruce Springsteen, you could hear a clang and a crash coming from the arcade.
“It’s like a treat for the senses,” said Rafi Abelson, 48, playing one of the oldest pinball machines from the 1950s.
“It’s physical. You can touch it, the feeling is completely different than a video game. You can really feel it.”
The pinball museum opened in 2009.
By then, co-founder Robert Illventa’s daughter, who has autism, loved playing pinball, so Illventa, 57, began collecting pinball machines and assembled a collection.
His longtime friend and business partner, restaurant owner Steve Zuckerman, also had a pinball collection. They combined their collections and Silverball Retro Arcade was born.
“Even for all of us and for young people, it’s a very sensitive game now,” said Patty Barber, the museum’s senior vice president. “All these different arcade games … you really have to use all your senses.”
Barber said pinball forces you to focus and stay in the moment, which she said is a welcome breath of fresh air in an age of smartphones and tablets, “where you just sit there and watch it.” “It’s almost like recording, like real vinyl is making a comeback, and then you realize you love that distinct sound,” Barber said.
“It’s the same way we supported it with games and it’s something different, or it’s something from the past that you remember doing when you were younger.”