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Please help me figure out the meaning of the following sentence from the description of the game Infinity Pinball:

While the game has familiar flippers and bumpers – and the haptic feedback on your device gives the game a satisfying analogue feel – each section of the never-ending table is a gateway to the next level.

Here is a description of the game from Google Play:

Infinity Pinball delivers a revolutionary twist on the pinball genre - so the fun never ends! Served up in a nostalgic retro-style, these infinitely long procedurally-generated pinball tables live inside a virtual Pocket Game. You can continually play your ball up the table levels for endless fun as you win coins, collect unique balls and unlock new tables.

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    Have you tried searching for the meaning of 'haptic feedback'? – Michael Harvey May 17 at 21:45
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    Modern tech is digital. Old mechanical tech is analogue or 'analog' (US). Clocks, pinball machines etc. It feels like an old mechanical pinball machine where the flippers and bumpers are actually worked mechanically. – Michael Harvey May 17 at 21:51
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    @curious - It's an analogy, so if it's a pinball, then maybe the device vibrates like old pinball games did, like when the ball bounces around off bumpers and when you used the flippers. – Benjamin Harman May 17 at 21:54
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    "Modern tech is digital. Old mechanical tech is analogue or 'analog' (US)." – That's not quite true. Digital telecommunications date back at least as far as Morse code in the year 1844, and conversely, even the most modern airliners and fighter jets communicate using analog radio technology. (Nowadays, aircraft also use digital radio signals, but these are a supplement, not a replacement, for the traditional analog transmissions.) – Tanner Swett May 18 at 17:18
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    @TannerSwett also pinball flippers weren't ever an analogue of anything, they just were direct mechanical devices not representing or encoding anything else. – Pete Kirkham May 18 at 20:42
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"Analogue" is often used in the sense of "not digital". Here the writer is saying that the haptic feedback - the way the phone vibrates when you use the flippers or the ball hits the bumpers - makes it feel like a real pinball machine.

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    Written by someone who then clearly is under-representing the "feeling" of the clicks of reles, switches and bumpers through the sides of the pinball machine. Very satisfying, and clearly not something a phone is capable of replicating. Ah. those were the days. – Stian Yttervik May 19 at 8:51
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The terms 'Analogue' and 'Digital' have very specific meanings in the fields of science and computing which you can look up in a dictionary or research yourself. Speaking very generally, data that can be stored, recorded, transmitted etc in the binary language of zeroes and ones, is digital - anything else is analogue.

In computer gaming, controls are often referred to as analogue or digital. For example, the classic 'D-Pad' on game controllers (the one that looks like a + symbol) can detect only up, down, left, right, and a null value. Each of these are 'binary' in the sense that they are on, or off. Many modern game controllers include analogue controllers, which can sense many gradations of each direction, as well as gradients in between directions.

Real pinball games are very much analogue - they feature real, moving parts that rely on gravity and other natural forces. Your quotation is a review of a digital simulation of a pinball game.

I believe the statement in your quote is saying that the haptic feedback on the game (vibration from the device which responds to the control input) helps to make the game feel analogue, perhaps by simulating the feel of a physical pinball game.

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  • It's not 'anything else is analogue' it is only certain representations of data which are. Most of what science studies are continuous or discrete phenomena; things such as real pinball machines are not things where the technical descriptions 'analogue' or 'digital' apply other than as metaphor. A pinball machine is a thing in an of itself, unlike say the signal on a cassette tape which is usually analogue, unless it's connected to a 1980s home computer, in which case it becomes digital. – Pete Kirkham May 18 at 22:30
  • @PeteKirkham If the pinball machine was designed to use analogue circuitry for its lights, paddles, and scoring, then it'd be an analogue device. – nick012000 May 19 at 3:57
  • @nick012000 well, I'd tend to call it a system not a device, but most don't - they use discrete logic or relays, which is another class of system to analogue/digital (apart from the scoring, of which I don't think I've seen one which isn't digital). but the phrase we're discussing is 'analogue feel' not 'analogue device' so, while the technical usage matters, once you start talking about 'feels' you're in metaphorical use. – Pete Kirkham May 19 at 7:22
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People often use the word "analog" to mean "mechanical," and "digital" to mean "electronic."

For example, cars used to be made with mechanical odometers instead of electronic odometers. Those odometers are sometimes called "analog odometers," even though, properly speaking, all odometers are digital, not analog. A flip clock might be mistakenly described as a type of analog clock, even though it is actually a mechanical type of digital clock, not an analog clock.

Presumably, this author is saying "analogue feel" to mean that the game feels similar to a traditional, mechanical pinball game.

(I admit that there is no official definition of what "digital" and "analog" mean, so others may disagree with what I'm saying. To me, "digital" means "representing quantities using digits," and "analog" means "representing quantities using other quantities.")

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    Pinball machines implement logic functions using relays. – Michael Harvey May 18 at 20:08
  • @MichaelHarvey Some pinball tables probably have score boards which are mechanical but, strictly speaking, digital. I think the point of this answer is that that's irrelevant to understanding the advert, which is using a colloquial meaning of "analogue". – IMSoP May 19 at 17:21
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There's quite a lot here:

the haptic feedback

Haptic is an adjective relating to touch, and feedback in this context is the confirmation of one's own actions. So this part is the physical sensation given by the game.

on your device

This is obviously the pinball machine itself the computer (e.g. mobile phone) running the pinball game.

gives the game a … feel

A feel here means an overall impression - how one perceives the game

a satisfying analogue feel

satisfying - fulfils the expectations

analogue - here, means the opposite of "digital"; i.e. feeling like a continuous, mechanical device rather than one of discrete numbers.

So an overall equivalent would be:

The sensation of touch given back by the game makes it feel pleasingly like a traditional mechanical machine.

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  • Most of this is spot on, but you've missed the rather crucial detail that "your device" is referring to mobile phone or tablet, not to a pinball machine. I'm also not sure "of discrete numbers" is a relevant definition; the colloquial use to mean "mechanical" is the relevant one. – IMSoP May 19 at 17:17
  • Thanks @IMSoP - the limited context in the question made it sound like a real pinball machine. I've still no idea which part of the sentence the asker was struggling with! – Toby Speight May 20 at 6:52
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Many modern "digital" devices have simple 2-state buttons -- either you are pressing the button, or you are not. There is no in-between.

People who play pinball games ("players") push buttons to make the flippers move.

Some modern "digital" pinball games, the player only controls the timing of a simple 2-state button. Whenever the button is pressed, the flipper swings full-speed until it hits the stop.

Some traditional "analog" pinball games had a mechanical linkage from the button to the flipper. That lets the player (a) push in only a little bit, holding the flipper at one of a large number of intermediate locations, and also (b) push faster or slower, so the flipper hits the ball harder or software; and sometimes (c) feel exactly when the ball hits the flipper, pushing back on the mechanical linkage which pushes back on the player's finger.

Perhaps "the haptic feedback on your device" somehow gives that same sensation, even though there is no actual physical ball or physical flippers in this game.

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  • I think you're probably over-thinking it. This is advertising copy for a game to play on your mobile phone or tablet, which is claiming to feel like a pinball machine - I doubt there's any reference implied to the history of different types of pinball machine. – IMSoP May 19 at 17:20
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    I am unaware of any coin-operated pinball machines having controlled the flippers with anything other than on-off pushbuttons, though on many machines with multiple sets of flippers, pushing the buttons partially in will energize just the flippers in the lower set, but pushing it fully will activate upper flippers as well. – supercat May 19 at 23:36

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