A two-by-four foot table with a green, metal overlay buzzed in Jason Leiker’s suburban garage.
The Northern Utah Electric Football League had its first game of its sixth season last month. Leiker, the commissioner of the league, believes the game is on its way to regaining popularity.
“It was an incredibly popular toy among boys in the 60s and 70s,” Leiker said. “It was the number-one selling boys’ toy for 20 years; it’s slowly making a comeback.”
Originating in the 1940s, vibrations from a switch-operated rotary motor move players across the board.
According to Leiker, the game is more about socializing, and less about playing.
“It’s fun watching other people have fun,” Leiker said. “It’s largely a social event than a game of skill. There are many people that are just terrible at it that just keep showing up, and I think they just like getting out and talking to people.”
Shane Thomas, the league’s 2017 champion, said the game is an outlet.
“Getting together, playing a stupid game we played when we were kids, and just relieving stress of life,” Thomas said. “We’re too old to play football in real life, the body hurts too much, so we let the little plastic men take the beating for us.”
Max Roberts, a graduate student at Utah State University, has been coming to the games for four years.
“It’s pretty gnarly,” Roberts said. “This is ridiculously intense. You gotta come here with your game face on. It’s always a hoot.”
Although the league is competitive, Thomas admitted the game is mostly up to chance.
“We like to think that it’s not random. We like to think we have skill,” Thomas said. “We don’t. It’s just however the board jiggles.”