Brice's Chicago Pinball Journal - Vol. 1

By balt

April 21, 2018

1 year ago

My family can’t appreciate how great it is to be a pinball fan living near Chicago.  Maybe you can, so here are some highlights.  Some days I feel like the luckiest guy in pinball.

6 Jan 2018
Underground Retrocade - West Dundee
My family is out of town and the local retro arcade is calling me.  Come play the videogames you remember from Aladdin’s Castle at the mall in the 80’s and 90’s.  But that’s not what ended up happening.  I wandered into the arcade’s pinball room and never left.  How did I manage to live 40 years without pinball in my life?

11 Jan 2018
Pinball Magazine
I take a deep dive into pinball, reading about it when I’m not playing it. The Pinball Compendium books are available through my library, but Pinball Magazine is not.  So I loaded up my electronic shopping cart with all the available issues but got cold feet when I saw the cost with shipping from Europe.  The next day I get a helpful email from Jonathan Joosten and we chatted back and forth as I realized “magazine” is a misnomer, it’s more of a scholarly journal.  Now I think of it as pack’n pinball like the magazine of a gun.  Eventually I decided to place the order as an early birthday present to myself.   

28 Jan 2018
ORD – Last Sunday of the Month Tournament
My first pinball event. My first opponent, I kid you not, was Roger Sharpe. We each played five balls on William’s Scuba beneath a black and white poster of Roger in a NYC courtroom overturning the city’s ban on pinball.  He was a gentleman of course and totally schooled me in the fine art of nudging a pin to victory.  “Did you have fun?” he asked after I was quickly eliminated.  Heck yeah, and I’ll be back.

30 Jan 2018
Level 257 - Schaumburg
I drop by this barcade after work and get to play both Houdini and JJP’s Pirates of the Caribbean.  How few of these new titles are there in the wild?  An American Pinball tech was there doing some Houdini maintenance.  We chatted a bit, he showed me the explosion of wires beneath the playfield, and left me a few free credits – much appreciated!  I worked my way over to Pirates and someone I recognized from the ORD tournament is looking over my shoulder.  It’s Joe Katz from JJP who’s come to troubleshoot a software issue.  He takes off the playfield glass, dives into the software menu, and leaves me with more free credits when he’s through.  Thanks Joe!

Feb 2018
My car - Chicagoland
I start listening to pinball podcasts during my morning commute to work. I’ve been listening to NPR, Nerdist, and WTF for years but now they’re joined by Coast2Coast, Kaneda, Pinball Profile, and my favorite Head2Head.  Roo sacks!

6 Feb 2018
Level 257 – Monthly Pinball Super League
My second tournament.  I say hello again to Roger Sharpe and meet both Zach and Josh.  Just to round out this family affair, who is my first opponent? Ellen Sharpe.  Of course I lost, but I had fun (and I’ll be back).  At one point during the evening I was sitting at the bar.  To my left was Lyman Sheats and to my right was someone who looked familiar. I figured it out the next day, he was Keith Elwin.  Lesson learned!  Always introduce yourself. Also that night, Stern donates goodies as prizes and I won a Guardians of the Galaxy translite.  I hung it in a basement window for a few weeks, then sold it on ebay for more pin money.

15 Feb 2018
Pinball Life - Huntley
I pass through Huntley, Illinois on my way to visit clients.  That also happens be to the home of Pinball Life.  I stopped by to pick up the newest Pinball Magazine and was told to go pay Scott in his office.  Um, might that be Scott Danesi of TNA?  Yes it was!  We had a quick chat and then I got to play the original Indiana Jones.  Pinball Life has a great collection of games, I wish Terry would host a tournament there.  Next time I have to try Popeye.

25 Feb 2018
ORD – Last Sunday of the Month Tournament
ORD is this quirky little garage that is the exact opposite of Level 257 in terms of glamour.  But it has great pins in great condition and that’s what really matters.  It’s co-owned by Tanio Klyce who hails from New Orleans and now works at Stern.  It makes my head spin to think he has more pins sitting unplayed in storage than I will ever own (probably).  StarTrek TNG was gone, sold to another player before I had a chance to give it a go.  Bummer! But they do have a Star Trek LE and it is wonderful.  I dig having to find and travel to games instead of just downloading them off the web.  Today I begin my quest to play TRON – I’ve heard such good things about it.  Speaking of the web, I’ve been playing Farsight’s Pinball Arcade for a month now.  It’s fun, but I’ll take the real thing any day.  

6 Mar 2018
Level 257 – Monthly Pinball Super League
Houdini is cruel to me, starting with a snide comment for missing the skill shot and then showing me all the zeros I earned for draining quickly.  Pirates, on the other hand, gives me suggestions on how to play better. Thanks JJP!  Tonight I managed to play three tournament rounds before being eliminated.  I love that my IFPA rank increases just for showing up to my first 20 matches.

28 March 2018
AYCE Gogi – Los Angeles
Field trip!  My family visited LA for spring break so I snuck away to AYCE Gogi for a couple of hours in the middle of a Wednesday.  They had to turn the lights on for me in the back room and I had myself a private party of one.  The games were in great condition and pimped out with color DMD’s.  I finally got to play TRON (underwhelmed) and a Tales of the Arabian Nights.  For me, the real gem in the collection was a thumpin’ Total Nuclear Annihilation.  When I got back to Chicago I ordered a TNA decal set from Flashinstinct, for I shall own one someday.

3 April 2018
Level 257 – Monthly Pinball Super League
It was only a matter of time before I bumped into Jack Danger.  Tonight he was Dead Flipping the Guardians V0.90 code update.  It was cool to see all his tech and to finally see Zach Sharpe play some pinball.  Normally he ONLY runs the tournament and hands out Stern goodies. I’ve also run into Krystal Gemnich so many times that I’m beginning to realize she’s a real pinball diehard.  I’ll have to check out her PB Toots blog.

6 April 2018
Chicago Street Pinball Arcade – Joliet
I scheduled a business meeting on a Friday afternoon near Joliet so I could hit this arcade as soon as it opened.  I ended up helping turn on the machines and got a tour of the future barcade next door. As they say, pinball + beer = profit.  I totally dug the collection of 80’s/90’s machines here and had my first play on a Rob Zombie (fun callouts + fried chicken = good time).  Random fact about this arcade: The Chicago Fun Club has met here.  Pinball - clothes = fun?

14 April 2018
Midwest Gaming Classic – Milwaukee
I don’t even know where to begin.  Met Bowen, Charlie, Gary Stern, Dirty Donnie, Zombie Yeti, Antoinette, and Mrs.TNA. Spotted too many other notables to mention.  I was there for 11 hours and left at 8PM in an ice storm.  Games I played for the first time: Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, the original Star Wars, Medieval Madness, the Shadow, Demolition Man, and Congo.  My quest to play an X-Files continues!  I wonder how MGC compares to the Chicago Expo?  For the record, MGC was awesome and I could have spent all three days there.  I’ll be back!

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11 months ago
Love hearing excitement for pinball. I would also recommend going back and listening to the pinball podcast.
10 months ago
Great story. I really enjoyed reading your journal of great experiences along the way!

I too have gotten into pinball in the last few months, and I have spent so many dozens of hours reading about pinball in that time. I have also done what you have done with respect to finding lots of different places to play. Keep up the great stories.

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