Legendary pinball player and designer Lyman F. Sheats Jr. passes away

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1966 – 2022

On January 21, 2022, the pinball community was rocked by the sudden and tragic news that Lyman F. Sheats Jr., prolific game designer and one of the single greatest pinball players of all time, had passed away at the age of 55.

Lyman Sheats has been something of a major celebrity within the community for decades, known to pinball players the world over as one of the greatest ever to take up the challenge of the silver ball. Sheats began his professional pinball career in 1993, working at Data East, where he was responsible for the design and coding of arguably the studio’s best pinball releases, including Guns n’ Roses, The Who’s Tommy, and WWF Royal Rumble.

Here’s a famous clip of Sheats on The Today Show, holding his cool against a dismissive Bryant Gumbel.

Having quickly established himself as a developer who understood the mechanics of making a truly standout pinball machine, Sheats would move on to industry giant Williams in 1995, coding iconic releases including Attack from Mars, Revenge from Mars, Monster Bash and — one of the most popular games of all time — Medieval Madness. Sheats would remain with Williams until the closure of its pinball division in the fall of 1999.

In the mid-’00s, Sheats took a role with what was then the last bastion of pinball manufacture in the U.S.: Stern Electronics. Sheats coded lucratively licensed games such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, James Cameron’s Avatar, Metallica, AC/DC, and Elvira’s House of Horror, working alongside fellow industry legends George Gomez and Steve Ritchie. More recently, Sheats was asked to update the rulesets of games Batman ’66 and The Walking Dead — boosting the gameplay and longevity of both titles after collectors found themselves a little wanting.

Away from the office, Sheats is renowned as one of the greatest pinball players of all time, having been a three-time champion of the Professional & Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA), a former European Pinball Champion, and frequently placing highly, or outright winning, numerous independent tournaments and challenges on both the national and international stage.

Lyman F. Sheats Jr’s contribution to the pinball world, whether stood at the flippers or sat behind a design desk, cannot be overstated. The pinball community has lost a true legend — icon — of the game.

Chris Moyse
Senior Editor - Chris has been playing video games since the 1980s. Former Saturday Night Slam Master. Graduated from Galaxy High with honors. Twitter: @ChrisxMoyse