Lonely Planet Writer

Pinball your way across the USA with this user-generated map of locations

A user-generated map that allows people to keep up to date with all the best pinball locations across the United States will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary this November, and the project has secured new sponsorship in time for the occasion.

A boy plays a pinball machine
The map can be updated by users and currently features over 13,000 machines across the US. Image by Inti St Clair

Created in 2007 by Scott Wainstock and Ryan Taylor-Gratzer, the idea behind the map was to create a simple, searchable database that would allow pinball fans in Portland, Oregon to find their favourite machines across the city. “The Portland Pinball League had a list of locations with machines in a Google map, but you couldn’t search it. So we made a website with a searchable map and allowed anyone to update it. Due to the strong pinball scene in Portland, it was immediately popular and well-maintained, and we kept adding more features as people requested them,” Ryan and Scott told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Two years later, they introduced an Android and iOS app, and people in cities further afield soon began requesting that they expand their coverage area. “So we did, and now there are 90 regional maps covering a lot of North America. We try to only add areas that have expressed an active interest in using the map and keeping it up to date,” Ryan and Scott said. In order to maintain a reliable database, each regional map has one or two local administrators that approve each new location.

Portland Oregon
The project began in Portland before expanding to other cities in North America. Image by Jeff Gunn / CC BY 2.0

The Pinball Map now has over 13,000 machines listed in approximately 5000 locations. Scott and Ryan have also implemented a system that allows vendors and operators to manage their inventory on the map and get notified when machines break down, as well as advertising their services. The maps get updated from multiple users every day, and while the project relies on seasoned pinball players, it also aims to target new players. “People who wonder if pinball is still a thing will most likely find our site. We try to keep the goals and functionality straight forward”. The project is ad-free and has a non-profit motive, allowing donations to help cover maintenance costs.

Approaching their ten-year anniversary this November, the Pinball Map has partnered with Stern Pinball, the oldest and largest manufacturer of arcade-quality pinball games in the world and the project hopes to reward top pinball contributors with prizes and gear in the coming months.

The Pinball Map is available at the official website.