This weekend I suckered a couple of my co-workers into going with me to a pinball and arcade game expo in California. In doing so I found myself being the sucker in that I am officially addicted to tournament pinball.
I've been playing pinball since I was little. My parents would hand my sister and I $20 and we'd head to the arcade while they did their league bowling. I found that my money would last longer if I played well at pinball, so I stuck with it. I remember playing on Pin-Bot and Cyclone tables.
I also remember when my wife and I were still early in our relationship and went to Las Vegas. We went into the FAO Schwartz (now closed) toy store they had in one of the big casinos and found a Batman Forever machine with a credit already in it. Like a giddy little child that I am I excitedly hit the start button. Little did my wife know that I would win free game after free game on that credit. I ended up putting my initials in enough times to clear out the entire high score board, including the Grand Champion.
After that I would play on and off whenever I found a machine at a random pizza place or whatever, but never really competed against anyone other than the high scores on the machine. My wife would always roll her eyes when I'd go to play too as most of the time she knew she was in for a long wait! 😉
Almost a year ago now my place of employment surprised everyone by purchasing a Jurassic Park pin. I had never seen the underside of a pinball table before we got this thing. We had a few things to fix up which I assisted on (I can't solder to save my life...) and we got it up and running.
I would play it every break I got. I finally started figuring out the rules to the game and started putting up larger scores. Then I discovered Pinside and other online forums dedicated to pin. I found that my scores ranked pretty high on the ones listed on Pinside too as an added bonus!
In order to try to increase my scores even more, I went out and actively searched for tutorials on how to play Jurassic Park. I finally came across the PAPA game play video and was pretty amazed with how well the player did. One thing led to another and I ended up watching the majority of the videos put out by Bowen Kerins.
In an attempt to learn more game rules, I downloaded the Pinball Arcade to my phone and played through as many tables as I could get my hands on. When I would get stuck with something, I would turn to Bowen's tutorials to figure how to score higher.
After reading a lot and following all of the pinball related things I could find (looking at you @Dead_Flip!), I came across California Extreme. I asked a co-worker if he would go and then we pestered another until he decided to come along as well.
I had no idea what caliber of players we were going to see in the tournament. I did know that Bowen was also registered to play and was excited to get the opportunity to thank him for his tutorial work, which I did at check-in.
We first went in and checked out the show to put in some warm up games. We played probably six or so games then headed up to the tournament area. We all got registered and jumped right into playing.
As my results will attest, I played pretty horribly. I had recently played Medieval Madness at a local arcade and put up 94 million. Observation #1: Tournament machines are setup to play a lot more difficult than your local arcade.
I didn't really get comfortable on any of the machines until I decided to try out one of the older ones in the tournament; Expressway.
When I got on that game I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. When the ball was coming to the flippers I just knew what to do to get it to where I wanted it to go. The points kept piling up and I ended up over ninety thousand, which was over twenty thousand more than the current first place player. When I walked back to my coworkers I ran into Bowen who had a look of shock on his face. I wasn't really aware of how good the score was and actually figured it would be beat pretty quickly. To my surprise, it hung on to get the #1 score for that table.
Now, with the golfer in me, comes the frustration. I know I could have played a ton better on the other machines. I simply didn't. That night just wasn't my night to play to my potential. It happens. It just makes me want to get right back in there and play in another one.
The tournament seemed to be well run and I loved the fact they had officials to enter scores via tablets which updated the standings in near real time. I also loved the way you "got in line" for a machine. They may seem like minor things, but I'm certain it speeds things up a whole bunch for the tournament.
Overall though I'm overjoyed in a new found love of tournament pinball and can't wait to dive in and play in more.
Unfortunately for me, therein lies the problem. California Extreme and Pin A Go Go (which is in May) are really the only two tournaments that are somewhat close to my area. I would love to give back to the pinball community in some fashion by putting on a tournament and/or a league in my area, but finding a location with enough machines proves to be difficult here, let alone one that will allow us to take over their machines for a few hours.
I'll be researching this topic a bit and see what I can come up with. Who knows, maybe I can get my boss to buy a few more machines for the office and he'll allows us to host it there! 😛
When tilt comes to nudge (I'm so clever...), I'm hoping to be a part of the pinball tournament scene for some time to come.