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Creator / Jon Norris

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The Fallen Wizard

Jon Norris is a pinball player, collector, designer and artist.

Already a longtime pinball player at a young age, Jon's professional involvement started at the end of The '70s, when he worked as an assistant for a street operator while in college, refurbishing and selling pinball machines. Norris graduated in 1981 from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Art, but eventually wanted to become a game designer. Attending the first Pinball Expo in 1984, Norris distributed flyers for his homemade game, Tour de France. Six months later, he was contacted by Premier (Gottlieb) and hired as a junior designer.

Norris remained at Premier for ten years, working alongside John Trudeau, Joe Kaminkow, and Ray Tanzer. His first commercial game was Diamond Lady, which was followed by several dozen tables, including Bad Girls, Lights... Camera... Action!, Car Hop, Vegas, Surf N' Safari, Super Mario Bros., Cue Ball Wizard, Tee'd Off, Shaq Attaq, Stargate, and Mario Andretti. In addition to creating his own games, he also helped develop the rulesets for other people's pinball tables, and also worked as a company photographer and playtester.

In 1993, Jon Norris appeared on a local television show, Chicago Slices, where he led a tour of on Gottlieb's pinball facilities; 40 minutes of footage can be seen here. After Gottlieb closed its doors in 1996, Norris joined Sega Pinball as a designer. His one Sega game, Golden Cue, was never released due to the sale of Sega's pinball assets.

Unfortunately, things got worse for Jon when Sega Pinball was reformed as Stern Pinball. Although Norris developed High Roller Casino at Stern, he left the company in 2000 under very bitter circumstances. Officially, the reason for Norris' departure was Stern's refusal to accomodate him with a smoke-free work environment for his asthma; unofficially, the consensus is that Norris was forced out due to personality clashes with company president Gary Stern and other members of Stern's engineering team. To add insult to injury, Norris' Golden Cue was later modified and released by Stern as Sharkey's Shootout.

After a stint teaching Art at Cal State Long Beach, Jon Norris now works for Aristocrat Technologies with Joe Kaminkow, designing slot machines and redemption games. His portfolio is online at Dreamlandscapes, and he discusses pinball philosophy at Jon remains a collector of wood-rail and electro-mechanical pinballs.

Pinball tables designed by Jon Norris include:

Jon Norris' life and works demonstrate the following tropes:

  • Comeback Mechanic: Norris tries to infuse new rules to his games that equalize scores between players of different abilities, such as giving more game time, a bigger "Catch-Up" bonus (Lights... Camera... Action!), or a chance for "Double or Nothing" (Vegas) to the player who was behind.
  • No Budget: Many of Norris' pinball designs were driven by Gottlieb's budget constraints. He prides himself on finding economical gameplay elements, such as the playfield cue ball for Cue Ball Wizard.
  • Promoted Fanboy
  • Signature Style: Jon Norris' games tend to include:
    • Choices between two awards (dowplayed in Tee'd Off, played up in Street Fighter II and played straight in High Roller Casino)
    • Gambling motifs.
    • Multiple wizard modes, usually with at least one that can only be played once per game.
    • Strongly emphasized center shots (the cue ball in Cue Ball Wizard, the gopher hole in Tee'd Off, the pyramid in Stargate, and the ramp in High Roller Casino).
  • Spell My Name With An S: Jon Norris is sometimes misidentified in print as "John Norris".
  • Spiritual Successor: