TILT!! Pinball Festival 2022

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Whatever your hobby/collection/gaming world/theory, others in the same sphere of interest meet for a convention. A runner? Your industry leaders met in Orlando last February. Barbie Dolls? This year in Chicago, as is Star Trek.  Board games? Here’s a site for the entire year, including the famous one in Essen, Germany, that I wrote about, and here for our local BGG group with a convention in May. Flat Earth theorist? No problem. This conference was in Frisco, and Jimmy Kimmel introduces the video.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the latest Pinball Festival happened March, also in Frisco. And while it’s easy to mock the Flat Earthers, it seems a shame that the typical response to hearing you’re attending a pinball convention is, in fact, laughter. Same venue, saner folks. The art of arcade is not gone, though. Cidercade in Dallas offers unlimited free play for $10. Talk about a cheap date.

I’m assuming everyone has played pinball. This is a good summary if not. I was surprised to learn that pinball was banned in New York City and Los Angeles for decades beginning in 1939. Flashback!

The thing about conferences, conventions, or festivals is that, regardless of what they’re called, they have much in common: a community, presenters, merch or vendors or both, keynotes, and drama. Pinball Festival 2022 was no different but if rankings are to be given, it would get Exceeds Expectations.

COVID seems like a bad memory. It still finds victims, and there is no saying “It’s Over,” but life seems to be getting back to normal. That’s another big topic, of course, but airline masking ends April 18, supposedly, so far, maybe, according to the “latest science.” The Pinball Festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021, so getting a few thousand people together in one large space for the first time include a hint of anxiety on some level, for some people. Still, the community was there, and it was joyous.

The importance of community applies to PB as well. This newsletter has great summaries and pictures of the event. You will get to know the personalities and the winners of competitions, the vendors, and the displays. You can also tell there is a community because the passing of members is news, found at the bottom of the newsletter. Demographically speaking, it is a heavily male community. One observer said 90%, with 8% being women tagging along, and 2% playing. That’s a sociological discussion for other places.

Communities have their celebs, of course. Two here were Steven Ritchie, a premier pinball designer, and Sylvester McCoy, an actor (Doctor Who 1987-1989 and the wizard Radagast in The Hobbit movies 2012-2014). Ritchie was approachable and privately answered questions about the possibility of a Harry Potter-themed game. No, Rowling hasn’t forbidden it but images are an issue. Yes, one might be possible in the future. McCoy signed merch.

The drama involved Mirco, a German vendor of playfields. This site warns potential buyers about poor quality, shoddy or non-existent refunds, and customer service. The Mirco website itself doesn’t offer much information about the company For example, the Mission statement is a single sentence (“We love great design”) and then that placeholder language that begins with Lorem ipsum. Technically, it isn’t real Latin just words that look Latinesque although dolorem ipsum does mean “pain itself.” Poor reputation aside, a representative was present, but attendees aired their significant and specific grievances, with no apologies forthcoming. In fact, the company rep denied the problems. He was summarily called a liar, to his face.

Pinball machines can be purchased at widely different prices, in good shape or for rebuilding. The good ones sell for thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands. A recreation, a hobby, an investment, a community—what more could anyone ask for? Maybe talent and patience. Oh, and there might be some good ones at the bottom of the Hudson River. Probably rusty and might need work…

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