As the arcade industry began to blossom in the early 70s, game manufacturers scrambled to develop any machine that would stand out in a sea of competition and suck in those coveted quarters. And when it came to unique ideas, there was nothing remotely close to Airball.

Developed by MCI way back in 1972, Airball used its many unique elements to create an unforgettably surreal arcade experience. The purpose of the game was to successfully move a ping pong ball levitating on a jet of air through a series of targets that were suspended in the air.

The playing field, much like every teenager’s bedroom at the time, contained a groovy black light which illuminated fluorescent obstacles of various shapes. As players tried to maneuver the ball through them, it would trigger a number of unsettling sound effects such as chimes, whistles and vocal noises, both to hinder one’s concentration and to draw others towards the psychedelic game.

Truth be told, Airball was never one of the most endearing (or enduring) video games ever to hit the market, despite its one-of-a-kind experience. Mechanical games were soon to become obsolete, thanks to a little company called Atari. They introduced the first video game called Pong the very same year that Airball was released. Needless to say, once the public got a glimpse of the future, they never looked back. Airball became obsolete.

Today, it is hard enough to find a respectable arcade; let alone a working Airball game. But they do exist, both on the occasional eBay listing and even in a few of the last remaining arcades. Somewhere right now, a ping-pong ball is floating in mid-air, ready to dance through a psychedelic maze under the skilled hands of an old-school arcade junky, as if by magic – and, if you should ever get the same opportunity, that’s got to be well-worth a quarter.

If you happen to remember playing this quirky arcade game, we hope you’ll take a moment to share any memories you have of Airball in our comments section below.

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