I was born in 1983. I grew up in what was once a small suburb of a city in Washington State. My first interaction with anything video gaming related was an Atari 2600 unit my dad had picked up. This was way before my thumbs could even cradle a joy stick. I grew up with the Nintendo. My parents despite being in a hard spot financially caved in and got us one for Christmas in 1985 when it was released. It came with Rob the droid that pushed A and B button for you along with a copy of Gyromite and Mario Bros. I remember rummaging through boxes in my basement as a kid and finding the old Atari. I would spend an hour or more trying to set it up, play it for 10 mins, then feel let down by the graphics. I was spoiled at a young age, Atari could never compete with the eye candy of the 8 bit Nintendo.
The year was 1991 and unknowingly to me, one of the most favored arcade games had just been released That game being the famed Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior. I never even played the original and I had only seen this game once before and it was in a Circus Circus in Las Vegas while vacationing with the family. I remember tugging and pleading for my mom to give me a few quarters to play but to no avail. Back at home later that year, my mom would let me ride bikes or walk with my cousins a couple miles to the 7-Eleven where we would buy candy, slurpees and entertain ourselves at the clerks expense. He was a real old curmugdeon of a guy. This 7-Eleven would usually have one pinball machine and one arcade machine side by side and we would sip slurpees, rot our teeth on candy and play as much as we could get our quarters worth. Meanwhile the old clerk would mutter at us- "You just gonna play them damn games all day..?" We would just breifly look back at him, smile and look back toward our game while laughing him off. One fateful day the 7-Eleven owners put in a T2 Pinball Machine and a wait for it..... a Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition machine! We would usually bring in the latest gaming magazine that listed all the special fighting moves and would be playing two player just to practice them on eachother. Oh yes sir! We were going to play.. yes we were. Later the store would host an Addams Family and a Mortal Kombat machine, many more weekends of laughter and an old dude behind the counter yelling at us would be had.
My first real arcade experience that I remember was when I would visit my cousin Mike downtown. Mike is four years older than me so I looked up to him a lot when I was younger and I considered him a video game wizard. I would stay the night and we would play video games all the way up until we were told to go to bed by my aunt. The next day we would ride our bikes out into town. My cousin had a whole downtown tour already laid out. We would hit up the Arnolds mini mart first; I always had to grab a pack of these fake candy cigarrettes they sold. From there we would visit city landmarks, the museum, library and the park, but the grand finally was always- THE COMMAND CENTER. The Command Center was an arcade located in the shopping mall that the Fred Meyer Grocery hosted. At this point the tour would really start to wear on us and so the arcade was a much welcomed oasis. Upon walking in I was overwelmed by all the sights and sounds and completely blown away by the huge selection of games. Just choose wisely which ones to play because mom only gave you so much to spend in this God forsaken place. All I had to do was either wait till somebody was done playing or challenge them. I quickly found out challenging somebody else other than your cousin is well.. rather challenging and a quick way to lose your precious coins. I also found out that it is rather hard trying to make progress against a CPU that is dead set on getting more of your quarters. After spending almost four bucks rather quickly on three games of street fighter I wandered the arcade. At this point I would usually look for the cheapest and most entertaining arcade game from the previous generation, completely looking past all the "retro" pinball machines of the antiquated 1970's (or at least thats how I felt at the time). I even remember asking my cousin what they were and how to play them. After a game of Spy Hunter and Star Wars Cockpit I would have just enough to play one pinball machine a couple times. I would find the machine with the coolest back glass, theme or toys. When I would play it was more of a spastic flipping of the flippers than anything that would be considered skilled pinball playing- wait for the ball to come down, slap the ball as hard as I could, keep doing that and hope I triggered multiball. This would usually last no more than 3 to 5 minutes. On the way back to Mikes I would forget about pinball machines just as about as fast as it took for me to drain its 3 balls, never truely appreciating the artistry and gameplay of a good pinball machine until way later in my 30's.
When I was young a pinball machine was just a good way to get rid of the last few remaining quarters in your pocket. The Arcade games were where the majority of the money went and that itself wouldn't last long. The Super Nintendo came out and it was producing an almost exact replica of the fighting games I played in the Arcade and soon after that the Nintendo64, PC and other console systems would make these Arcades look obsolete. Like many teens of the late 90's and early 2000's we would find ourselves in an arcade either in the mall or at the movies and have the feeling of "Why am I paying to play this?" "I have the same game at home on my console, and it actually in some cases looks and plays better than here at the arcade." It was also at this time when I found a love for PC gaming and first person shooters- no time for the old arcade. Large arcade chains like the GameWorks in Seattle resorted to over the top hydraulic based riding games. Steven Speilberg's custom Revolution X machine was a prime example- a multi level shooting game- As you completed levels you literally moved on up a level in this hydraulic seat. And if I remember correctly somtimes you could even be sent down a level. Any gimmick to save arcade video gaming it seemed like at this time. So for most of my 20's like many gamers my age we spent most of our gaming time in our apartments playing with friends in real life or online. We only went to places like GameWorks for drinks and the occasional friendly gathering.
I actually ended up meeting my wife online through the PC game Project Reality a Battlefield2 military simulator mod. I was 28 living alone and working for my families recycling equipment business doing sales. She lived out in Nevada. We met up a few times flying/driving back and forth, eventually she and her two young boys moved in with me and not much later we were married. While visiting her in Vegas sometimes we would get burned out on the slot machines at the local Stations Casino so I would suggest we take a look at what they had to offer in thier little arcade. Walking through the small ghetto arcade I could feel that old voice creeping up in the back of my mind "Why are you here to pay to play these? These games are so dated." We played a couple of side by side race games and shooters when I noticed the pinball machines just like in the old days. I was facinated that they were still there and that some of them seemed...new! I didn't even know new pinball machines existed, I thought some of the last pins made were TSPP, T3 and Southpark. At the Stations arcade I remember playing some of my last few quarters on an newer Stern X-Men machine and even achieving multiball- It was thrilling and I wondered where had pinball been hiding all my life? Had it been hiding at all? Maybe I just wasn't looking.
A couple years after this I would grow unhappy with my sales job in the recycling equipment industry and all its heartaches. Along with the new financial challenges of taking on a family. So I started looking for a change and to make a very long story little shorter- I was blessed with my new business in the Marijuana retail industry of Washington State. The business took off and was a immediate success. With more income to show for, we picked up our belongings and moved our family to a new home. This new home came with an extra garage laid out with carpet and a bunch of outlets which would soon become my new man cave. While planning out the furnishing arrangments I thought it would be great to replicate the old 7-Eleven setup. So I ordered a 1000 in 1 Jamma multicade hosted in a Mortal Kombat cabinet and to go next to it a new stern TWD Premium Pinball machine. My wife and I were big fans of the show and it was one of sterns latest offerings so it seemed like a good choice. I had no idea what kind of can of worms I was opening. Day by day as I got the chance to play TWD I became more interested in how to play the game, score big and win free games- (all my games are set to take quarters- No freeplay). I loved discovering new modes, seeing them lightup on the playfield and hearing the different sound loops and watching the DMD animations. I still to this day have yet to light up the HORDE feature and I love that. One day Im going to be rocking that machine, hitting lanes, multi-kills and boom light up HORDE and its going to become all new to me again, just like that.
Well it wasn't long later, about a year or so when I picked up my second machine- a GB LE. It was a b-day gift to myself. GB LE just fueled my lust for more pinball. Soon I found myself taking my wife to Hall of Fame in Las Vegas while out on vacation (mainly to play Pinball Circus) and hitting up the local barcades whenever we could. My wife fell in love with TOTAN at a barcade while we were on hiatus in Bremerton, WA. I suprised her on her next birthday with a refurbished TOTAN for her to play. A machine I would also later fall in love with as well.
I simply just love the idea that these machines with such an extensive history are still being built & celebrated at some level to this very day. Now in 2018 my wife and I have come to terms that we are indeed building a pinball collection and I am having a blast watching my garage fill up with arcade cabinets and pinball machines. A hobby turned into a small obsession now leaves me planning on adding more space to my house just so these machines can be played and enjoyed. Last night I turned on my latest Craigslist find- (my first JJ, a Hobbit Smaug Gold machine I snagged for a steal) and played a bunch of games on it when suddenly I got this itch to play Street Fighter 2 and as I am switching on my SF2 cabinet I think to myself- strange, It used to be the other way around... I would play SF2 then Pinball... and I wondered is this a turning point in my life? Am I finally going from Flippers to Fighting Sticks? I kind of think so and I am excited to see what will become of this hobby. I will always have a deep admiration for fighting games, its what I grew up on, but as I grow older I think now I have more of a love for the game of Pinball.