My day at California Extreme 2008

By gunstarhero

July 20, 2008

15 years ago

Saturday 7/19 my wife Jamie and I hit California Extreme 2008... here we go!

California Extreme, for those unfamiliar with it, is the premier west coast classic pinball and arcade show.

We walked out the door and hit the road at 10AM sharp, hoping to get
to San Jose by noon. We made good time, and even stopping for lunch we hit San Jose by 12:15 and were parked, at the Parkside Hall, and
registered by 12:45. In registration I ran into John from the Sacramento group (the tall one!) and talked with him for a bit, but after that I ran right over to get a seat for the first panel I wanted to see, but before it started I caught the last few minutes of the Arcade Tips and Tricks panel, which seemed like it would have been cool, and had a couple guys from King of Kong there!

BUT... I was there for Pinball Design 102 by Ted Estes (a former programmer at Williams, among many games he worked on Twilight Zone) and Steve Ritchie (THE pinball designer, he designed Firepower, Black Knight, High Speed, T2, World Poker Tour and many more!) where they mostly showed prototype games and art that changed before production and then took questions. Steve Ritchie and Ted Estes were very entertaining and of course stories from back in the day are always funny... Steve told us while Patrick Stewart was reading the script for the Star Trek TNG pin he noticed a mistake and said (here Steve did a dead on impression of him!) "This is a grave error." but was a real good sport. Also from the pix and "Where did you get THAT??" reactions from Steve Ritchie, if something turned up missing at Williams, it probably ended up in Ted Estes basement! Steve also growled out some Skull dialog from No Fear ("Play better!") and that was pretty funny. I ran into James, Ron and Brad during the panel, it was cool to see some Sacramento Pinball Group faces.

After the panel I took a couple laps around the main "arcade" hall. It was pretty crowded at first impression but people were moving around well and it wasn't too hard to get on any game or pin you wanted.
There was plenty of older pins, plus some newer games (sadly no Batman yet.) There was a Shrek but it was folded up and pulled out within the hour (boo!) and there were a couple Stern Indiana Jones games and a nice Black Spider-Man. Of course there were the usual rarities that
make this show, like Capcom's Big Bang Bar and King Pin, Atari
prototypes like Marble Madness 2 and Beavis & Butthead, and the always popular modded games, like the Addams family you need to pedal and the Whirlwind that replaced the fan with a blower! Right away I ran into more familiar faces, like Martin and Pam from Pinbits, Craig, Al and Joshua from Roseville, Kerry Richard (another Northern California collector) and the other John from the SPG.

I was right back over to the panel room after that for the Arcade
Trivia contest, which my team placed second in... it was a complex
sort of elimination tournament and you had to qualify for it by taking
a written test... it was kinda brutal too! I met up with a couple
fellas and we smote all who opposed us... and it was down to the last
man on the last team and they just outlasted us... I guess they WERE
last years champions, so no shame losing to the best!

After that I was right back over to the arcade, which at this point
was hopping. I threw down some 2 player games with some folks (the
best way to get some games in during peak hours) and won a few and
lost a few. Ran into Greg and his son, they were throwing down some
Track & Field. Met up with Jamie, who had met up with fer friends Mel,
Melodie and Wendell as well as some other folks she knew by then, and we decided to take our dinner break, which we decided was at this
place down the way called Original Joe's, not too bad at all.

After that we boogied back to the panel room to catch the panel on
Major Pinball and Arcade Customizations by Jack Gordean, where he
described and showed how he made custom Pinball cabinets and art for
his gun games, and Donkey Kong II by Jeff Kulczycki, a fellow who
designed a sequel to the arcade Donkey Kong using the graphics and
whatnot from the original! By then it was getting towards 9pm and
that's when it's time to go play some serious arcade games! While
Jamie and hew crew headed in to catch a screening of Tilt: The Battle
to Save Pinball and I hit almost every Atari vector game I'd never
played, throw down some Warlords, Life Force, Track & Field and
Journey among many other games, and as for pinball, I finally played a Pinball Magic and Junk Yard, which was better than I thought it would be. I talked to Marc, of Marco Specialties, about PinScore displays, they look great and he seemed like a cool fella.

At the stroke of 10pm I was playing Black Spider-Man (and working it!) and listening to this fellow (I wish I'd cought his name, he was
awesome!) playing video game tunes on what I think was a dulcimer
(looks like a big, complex guitar) when they dropped the lights and
hit the 80's tunes. That to me is when California Extreme really comes
to life, as it resembles the dark, loud arcades I loved as a kid, and
since it's pretty late you can play what you want for as long as you
want. I played a pretty decent game of Dig Dug (got to level 24) and
made a lap of the laserdisc games, (which were not well represented
this year, although they did have some good ones) and finally played
some Donkey Kong II, which is damn hard.

I settled down in the cocktail machine area to watch some old school
videos on the laserdisc based Select-disc video system and finally met
back up with Jamie, who wanted to throw down some Star Wars Episode 1 pinball after watching Tilt. We played a 2 player game (I won... yay!) and then a 3 player game with Melodie (She won and I think I was last... boo!) and by then it was 11:30 or so and we were ready to go. The trip home went smooth and even with a stop for gas and food we were home before 2am, and then we died. The end.

ANYways, great show, compared to last year there were certainly less
pins and not much "new" that I hadn't seen before. The panels were
good, this was the first year I hit many of them. The layout of the
hall felt pretty smart to me, grouping like games in a horseshoe
shape. I wish they started the "dark" arcade time earlier, maybe 9pm,
as that's by far my favorite part of the show. Anyways, that's another
one in the books, now time to look forward to Pacific Pinball Expo! =)

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15 years ago

Nice read! Wish I didn't live way out here in Michigan - of course, I could never, in a million years, afford a house in the Bay area. Would love to go to CAX sometime!

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