Date: 22nd February, 2022

Pinball designer Barry Oursler has died.

Barry Oursler
Barry Oursler

Barry had recently started working for American Pinball as a game designer, having previously been employed at Deeproot Pinball.

He is understood to have been undergoing treatment for cancer and died yesterday as a result of complications. He was aged 70.

Barry had a long and illustrious career designing pinballs for Williams, starting in 1978 with his first game, Phoenix and ending in 1996 with Junkyard. In-between he designed many landmark titles including Gorgar, the first speaking game, Space Shuttle – widely credited with saving the pinball business in the mid-’80s – as well as the CometCycloneHurricane trilogy based on rides at the Riverview amusement park in Chicago, and Pinbot which also went on to spawn two sequels.

Barry quickly developed a reputation for speed and flexibility in his work. He could rapidly create game designs, always had numerous design ideas in his head, and often collaborated with other designers and artists to help complete their projects, most notably working with Python Anghelo on titles such as Jokerz!, Bad Cats and Popeye Saves The Earth.

After leaving Williams, Barry moved to Betson as a Purchasing Manager before spending time working remotely on game designs at Heighway Pinball. He came to the UK to visit the factory in 2014 and be the special guest at the UK Pinball Party where he was inducted into the UK Pinball Group Hall of Fame.

Barry with Heighway Pinball's Andrew Heighway
Barry with Heighway Pinball’s Andrew Heighway

It was also in 2014 that Barry made an appeal to the pinball community for help paying medical bills. He had been diagnosed with bone cancer in February 2013, while his wife, Donna, was suffering from kidney failure. His initial target of $20,000 was quickly achieved, with the total of the donations reaching $33,718 by the end of the fundraiser.

When Deeproot Pinball began their operation in San Antonio, Barry was one of the four game designers at the company alongside John Popadiuk, Dennis Nordman and Jon Norris.

The Deeproot Pinball team
Barry with the rest of the Deeproot Pinball team

He remained there until the company ceased operations at the end of 2021, before taking up his recent position working on game designs at American Pinball.

American Pinball have made an official announcement about Barry’s passing, including many tributes from those with whom he worked.

American Pinball and Aimtron Corporation are saddened to announce the passing of legendary game designer, Barry Oursler at the age of 70.

Barry designed more than 40 pinball games over his long and illustrious 40-plus year pinball career. Among them, his Space Shuttle game released in 1984 is said by many to have saved and revitalized the pinball industry.

I was looking forward to designing new games and new mechs with you. I had a wonderful time working on all your games.” – Zofia Ryan

I will always remember Barry’s brilliant, dry sense of humor, and always having me in stitches.” – Jack Haeger

I was looking forward to him coming to American Pinball to work with him and enjoying all of the good cooking that Barry made.” – Dennis Nordman

What can one say about one of the true pinball design masters of the past forty years. Barry established himself as not just a creative talent but a genuinely humble individual who never sought the outside accolades but rather the internal contentment of what he was achieving. From the first time we worked together with Phoenix and Barracora to many subsequent projects, Barry remained a very special coworker and friend. I will miss him dearly but know his legacy will endure forever.” – Roger Sharpe

Those who have had the honor of working with Barry know of his dedication, his efficiency, his kindness and great enthusiasm for pinball and its players. His games are easy to understand, fun to play, and difficult to master, the perfect combination that earned him admirers from all over the pinball world.

Barry’s game, Space Shuttle, was my introduction to the pinball world. It was a privilege and an honor to work with him as a new member of the pinball industry and then again here at American Pinball.” – Steven Bowden

Barry has always come across as a gentle giant. He was a guy I was happy to bring on to American Pinball. I am greatly saddened for his family.” – David Fix

I will always miss Barry for his soft spoken nature and his support of Pinball Expo since day one.” – Rob Berk, Pinball Expo

Barry was a great friend and an early mentor for me in the Pinball biz. We spent 15 years working together at Williams. Barry was always willing to help me out with anything I needed while cutting my teeth in Pinball design. He was also a really fun guy. We made friends almost immediately. He had a sharp mind for humor and would jab me with practical jokery from time to time. I have nothing but fond memories of our time together.

Barry had a heart of gold and was a good man. I had the pleasure of working on a game with Barry — that game was Police Force. We would jokingly lament together regarding Python’s crazy ways during development. It was a great experience and I am thankful to have had that opportunity. There were so many good times over the years. Suffice it to say – Great Friend, great person, and I shall miss him a great deal. Rest In Peace, my friend.” – Mark Ritchie

It saddens me that we lost one of the good guys. He was known as a prankster on some occasions and possibly playing with fireworks in the offices. A great designer and a good friend. He will be sadly missed.” – Ken Fedesna

It was a great privilege to host him at the UK Pinball Show and to have him speak at the banquet about his amazing career in gaming.” – Gary Flower – UK

Our deepest condolences go out to his family, many friends and the pinball community.

He will be truly missed.
The American Pinball announcement of Barry Oursler’s passing
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7 Comments

  1. Lee Richmond

    22nd February, 2022 at 5:49pm

    I only got to know Barry a short time at deeproot, but he was an amazing person to be around and learn from. No doubt he will be missed by thousands.

    Reply

  2. Kevin Ryan

    22nd February, 2022 at 11:25pm

    He was good, kind and if he had a negative thing to say about someone it was because they had earned it. He wouldn’t tell you who it was unless they had hurt someone else he cared about. He worked hard and helped out whoever he could whether it was work related or not. His designs were challenging and made an impact on millions of players for decades. His games were also a lot of fun. Understated, unassuming and generous, unless it was an outlane.

    Phoenix
    Time Warp
    Gorgar
    Laser Ball
    Scorpion
    Jungle Lord
    Solar Fire
    Baracorra
    Cosmic Gunfight
    Defender
    RatRace
    Time Fantasy
    Joust
    Starlight
    Space Shuttle
    Comet
    Grand Lizard
    Pinbot
    Fire!
    Space Station
    Cyclone
    Jokerz
    Police Force
    Bad Cats
    Harley-Davidson
    Hurricane
    Dr. Who
    Bram Stoker’s Dracula
    Popeye
    Dirty Harry
    Who Dunnit
    Jack-Bot
    Junkyard

    Thank you Barry.

    Reply

    • Dave Sanders

      23rd February, 2022 at 3:13am

      I used to jokingly call him ‘Barry Outlane’ at one point.

      It was customary at Heighway whenever we were playing Jack*Bot, Hurricane or Dirty Harry, every outlane drain off those angled rubbers he loved to put in, we’d shake a fist and go “Barryyyyyyyyyy.” 🙂

      Reply

  3. Russell

    24th February, 2022 at 1:11pm

    Sometimes life beats the crap out of you for no reason. He had a tough few years but never lost his wonderful sense of humor. A better human being than I will ever be. Glad to have known him.

    Reply

  4. James T. Hawes

    4th March, 2022 at 11:06am

    I started as a tech writer at Williams Electronics in the fall of 1981. I’d composed literature for Barry’s Solar Fire and Barracora. But I don’t think that I met him until 1982. (In those days, the designers and engineers operated at the Kedzie plant. Kedzie was maybe a mile from my office at the main Chicago plant on California Avenue. We writers would only see the designers at lunch, or if we visited their location.)

    In fall, 1982, Barry was tinkering with Spellbinder. This unusual machine was a novelty game, and sort of a sequel to Hyperball. Due to Hyperball’s underwhelming sales, the company never released Spellbinder.

    Thereafter, I wrote books for several of Barry’s projects. He was wonderful to work with, most helpful and kind. Yet sometimes he’d startle me with his monkeyshines.

    Over the years, we kept up. On Saturday, February 19, I discovered that Barry was joining American Pinball. I sent him my congratulations over LinkedIn. His response to my message included these words…

    “I’m going to keep making pinball until I die. It’s what I love!”

    Barry, you fulfilled your wish.

    Reply

  5. skilltology

    10th March, 2022 at 11:32am

    Occasionally life beats the crap out of you for no reason. He’d tough many times but noway lost his awful sense of humor. A better human being than I will ever be.

    Reply

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