Released in 1981 by Cadaco, the tabletop Skee-Ball game promised all the action of the arcade game for players at home.
ABOUT THE INSPIRATION
A number of people had a role in launching Skee-Ball into entertainment venues and beyond.
Skee-Ball was created in 1908 by Joseph Fourestier Simpson. The New Jersey resident licensed the game to John W. Harper and William Nice Jr. with the goal of introducing the concept to more people and selling games. Jonathan Dickinson Este entered the picture after the death of Nice. Este worked with Simpson and Harper to install Skee-Ball games in public spaces, including along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. The game grew in popularity and has been a presence at fairs and in arcades, game halls, bars, and other entertainment venues ever since.
Cadaco’s interpretation of the classic game followed the same play pattern as the original arcade version. Players launched a ball to the top section of the alley in hopes of landing the ball in the highest-scoring section.
The game could be played alone or with multiple players.
With the tabletop Skee-Ball sitting on a flat surface, the game was readied for play by pressing tabs located at the sides of the unit to release nine small metal balls into the launching chamber. One at a time, the balls were slid into a spring-loaded shooter that could be manoeuvred left and right. With the shooter aimed, the player drew back the launcher and fired the balls up the alley into the target area. The game was fully enclosed in plastic so launching a ball into the air — and losing it — wasn’t a concern.
Balls landed in one of six point regions: 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50. The balls dropped through a hole and rolled into the corresponding point chamber. This made it easy for players to keep track of the score. Once all nine balls were played, the cumulative score was recorded.
The goal of the game was to earn the highest score. A perfect score was 450 points (all nine balls landing in the 50-point area).
IN THE BOX
A complete Skee-Ball game included the plastic playing alley and nine metal balls. The game instructions were printed on the exterior of the box. No assembly, batteries, or electricity were required to operate the game.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
Since its introduction in 1908, Skee-Ball has enjoyed popularity over generations and transcended novelty status to become engrained in popular culture.
The arcade game has been referenced in movies such as Chasing Amy (1997) and Deadpool 2 (2018). An iteration of Skee-Ball called Super Ball! was played during segments of the Price is Right game show from 1981 to 1998.
The first national Skee-Ball league in the United States was founded in Brooklyn in 2005.
Today, people can install full-sized Skee-Ball alleys in their homes and play digital versions of the game on mobile devices.