The problem with games in the home is the knocks and spills they can suffer and - amazing as it may seem - some non-pinball fan partners don't care for the look of the game's bright artwork as part of their interior design scheme.
So what can the conscientious pinball owner do to alleviate these issues? Sheets draped over games are unsightly and provide little real protections but there is a custom product which looks attractive and can save your game from damage and even colour fade.
David Eisner's PinWest company has been selling a range of pinball covers for a while now, so here at Pinball News we decided to put one of them to the test to see how they were made and how easy they are to fit.
PinWest covers come in two varieties - a standard cover made with a vinyl material called Daytona Vinyl and an Ultimate version made from a fabric called Suntanium. While both provide protection from dust, liquids and direct light, only the Ultimate model protects fully against ultra-violet light, so if you intend to store a game in direct sunlight - next to a window or in a conservatory for instance - the Ultimate model is your best bet.
The standard model's material is the thicker of the the two materials, having a light coloured backing but it is also the heavier of the two.
It has the benefit of including a quilted to surface covering the playfield glass. That means if you accidentally drop something on it, there is more protection afforded to both the object and the playfield glass and siderails.
The seams are stitched together internally making a neat finish on the outside.
The Ultimate model uses a much lighter fabric and doesn't feature the quilted top surface but as its name implies, Suntanium is the UV-resistant material, so you gain the benefit of protecting the artwork - especially the reds - against becoming washed-out.
We used the standard cover in our tests and installed it on the Addams Family game in the Pinball News office.
The game is hard up against a mirrored wardrobe with little room in front or behind, so it would be a good test of how easy the cover is to fit in a tight space.
The cover comes in two parts - one for the body of the game and one for the backbox. We began with the body since that was the easier part to get to.
The body cover simply slides on from the front or side and fits perfectly on this standard-width game. The seams run down the outer edge of the side rails and as The Addams Family uses a standard style shooter rod, no special holes were needed to fit over the plunger. There was a slight bulge but if you wanted, a hole could be cut to accommodate this. For more elaborate shooters such as a gun handle this would definitely be necessary as it would for a game with one of those spiked plungers but for games like The Addams Family, it's probably not worth losing the protection and lack of snag potential provided by the cover.
The cover secures round the back of the body with two Velcro flaps. If you have a series of games in a row, it might be difficult to gain access to the rear of the game to join these two flaps together but that's a problem inherent to any cover and the Velcro fixings are the easiest to attach.
So here's the game with the body covered. If your game happens to be a wide-body then you can get a wider version of the cover to fit that style of machine.
Now it's time to cover the backbox.
You may have spotted the problem here straight away. The Addams Family, like several games, has a backbox topper - a clear plastic cloud in this case.
There are three options here - either cut the top of the cover to accommodate the topper, leave it uncut but not covering the whole backbox or don't fit a backbox cover (you can buy just the body cover if you prefer).
If you intend going the cutting route, check with David first since he supports a number of game toppers and can precut the cover in the right shape and provide a flap that folds back and secures with velcro so you can also use it on games without toppers.
Fitting the backbox cover is definitely the hardest part of the process since it slides over the top of the backbox and so requires some extra height (or at least good access to the game) to install.
After a bit of a struggle we got the backbox cover over the top and sliding down to cover the head. But the good news is that the backbox cover has since been redesigned with a velcro strip at the rear to make this process easier.
For simplicity, we decided not to cut the backbox cover but leave it sitting on the cloud, even if it didn't quite cover the backbox fully. We may revise that decision later but here's how it looked sitting on the cloud.
And below is how it would look when on a game without a topper.
When both parts are fitted the resulting look is impressively neat and it would blend into many interiors without problem.
But pinball games are built for playing, so the next test was to see how quickly the cover could be removed. If the doorbell rang, could the cover be taken off in time without unduly delaying the pinball-playing guests standing on the doorstep?
With the clock running, it took 10 seconds to undo the velcro and slide off the body cover. As with the fitting, removal of the backbox cover took longer but in all the process was completed in 30 seconds.
By their nature, professionally made pinball covers aren't cheap. The standard model is $85 with the Ultimate version another $10. Those with larger collections probably won't want to cover every game and you'd need to find somewhere to store all those covers when playing if the space below your games is already used.
But there's no denying PinWest's pinball cover is a well made product which both fits the game snugly and affords the protection you need against dust, liquids and sunlight. We will definitely be leaving ours on our Addams Family in the knowledge it is easy enough to remove when we want a game or two.
Unless you specifically need the UV protection of the ultimate version we'd suggest the quilted top is enough of a benefit to recommend sticking with the standard model. It looks good, is reassuringly weighty and the vinyl finish wipes clean of dust in seconds.
Since this article was written there have been several changes made to the design of the pinball covers.
First of all, Pinball 2000 games are now catered for by a new design specifically for Revenge From Mars and Star Wars Episode 1 machines.
Secondly, a new range of covers have been developed using a closure system called Tight Fit to make it easier to install the covers when games are close together and don't have good access to the rear of the backbox or cabinet.
PinWest's David Eisner told Pinball News how they work. "With this new system, the two flap closure design at the rear of the cabinet has been removed . There now are two strips of Velcro that extend along the back side edges of the cabinet, applied to an extended backbox panel. As a result, when the backbox cover is applied and the long panel hangs down behind the cabinet, it secures to the two previously mentioned strips on the cabinet's rear sides."
"The customer is able to secure the Vecro by reaching along the side of the cabinet to the back edge on both sides. The end result is a two-piece cover system that becomes a single complete cover secured together. It is actually quite easy to secure the backbox hood to the cabinet with no access required to the rear of the cabinet. The backbox hood cover still has the 3/4 Velcro strip, in seam, for easy removal and application."
The fabric used for the standard cover has been improved, both by making it heavier with a shorter crease memory, and also by including a felt liner which should help protect the cabinet and fittings. There is also some amount of UV blocking provided by the new fabric, although it is not total.
Best of all, these improvements come at no cost since the prices of the covers have remained unchanged.