I, like many, was a lonely awkward kid. I did not have many friends, and was one of 3 children belonging to a single mother who did her best. One thing my mom always did for me though, was make sure I had some change to use at the arcade. Not a lot, but enough. I got good at arcade games by necessity. I figured out which games I could play the longest on a single credit. 2 games kept me playing all day on what I had: House of the Dead (Sega 1997) and Pinball. I think my mom eventually noticed that my money would last longer than the other kids whenever we went to an arcade, and I seemed far more excited to go. Later on she would always drive me to the local mall, boardwalk, or bowling alley (to hang out at the arcades).
Then one year I got my first job. I worked a concession stand for the local little league games. I got out of school before my mom got out of work, so I had to wait for her so she could bring me to work. I discovered that there was a path through the woods from my school to my local bowling alley that cut the walk down from "I think ill just sit here" to "I'm doing this every day." Most of my pinball practice came from this local bowling alley. They had exactly 1 pinball machine: Rollercoaster Tycoon (Stern 2002) with the replay set so low, I could achieve it fairly easily (3 million I think?) On a good day, this could rival my playtime on even HotD which was roughly $.50 for 15 minutes (after I got good enough to single credit win.) While most kids were hanging out after school with their friends, I could be found glued to that pinball machine every day.
Fast forward a bit to high school, I went to a private-ish school. I had always previously gone to my normal public school so this meant I was with a whole new group of people. I opened up a bit and began to quickly make friends. While I never stopped going to arcades, or playing pinball, I definitely cut back.
Last summer a friend of mine tagged me on a Facebook event. It was a local pinball league (I now know they are known as selfy leagues) I thought it was a neat idea, so I decided to play. A week or two of playing later my competitive nature got hold of me, and I suddenly was in it to win. I played each of my local boardwalks 13 pinball machines every chance I got that summer. I went from just a guy with good reflexes and some flipper practice to a real player who nudges to save balls, plans his shots, and values ball control over all else. I ended up winning the tournament at the end of the league, I played like a wizard that day (Far better than I had played in the summer leading up to it. I had at least 3 personal bests I blew out of the water.) It felt amazing. The prize was inconsequential. It was a $20 Starbucks card that my fiancee quickly confiscated. I was far more proud of the little plaque in a cheap $1 store frame that proclaimed me a champion. Since this past summer, I am more into pinball than ever before. I bought my first machine a few months later. Grand Prix (Williams 1976) and I wasn't even 2 months done with the restore when a second game crossed paths with me: Rollergames (Williams 1990) which I'm currently restoring. I'm now running a local selfy league of my own and will shortly be joining the larger leagues in my general area.