A few thoughts from a first timer:
Everything that I was told about this event was spot on. Absolutely incredible games, met a ton of interesting people, techs and TD's crushed it, and the event ran unbelievably smoothly for a tournament of 1000 people. Every game played better than any other copy of the same game I have ever played without question. The orgasmic pleasure I got from ripping ANY spinner in the room was next to none.
It was MUCH more exhausting than I expected. I knew it would be rough, but by the end of the day each day I was absolutely beat. I never considered pinball a sport until this weekend.
I'm almost exclusively a NYC area local player. I only recently started playing competitively and have had very limited exposure to any games other than modern Sterns because no one here really routes them. This proved to be a major disadvantage, but it was really fantastic to be exposed to such a variety of other eras of machines in such impeccable condition. Local players told me that playing in Sunshine league would help me at Pinburgh which I found not to be the case. After the Pinburgh banks opened up for freeplay after the tournament I realized that I was being wayyy too cautious with the tilts because of my experience there. The games in Pinburgh played incredibly fair across the board in my experience. Best comparison in tilts, settings, and condition in NYC would be Jackbar.
VIP area seemed kind of sad and not worth the upcharge. A couple of couches and outlets in a little coral. For the plebes there were couches on the stage and plenty of seating all around, so I never found that to be an issue. I would definitely appreciate more places to plug in for the rest of us next year so that we can have some extra juice to share the experience with our friends back home! I would also encourage organizers to place the VIP area behind curtains to give the people who paid the extra $70 a bit more privacy if nothing else.
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was watching the finals with everyone. This turned out to be the biggest letdown of the weekend. I was in a good place in the seating section and couldn't make out ANYTHING being said by the commentary team. It was too bright in the room to really make out what was going on in the projection, glare on the glass made it impossible to tell what was going on in several games, and the video kept cutting out at really inopportune times. I brought a friend of mine who is a local and not a competitive pinball player out to check out the finals with me thinking this would be a great way to expose someone new to the sport and demonstrate why I found this hobby so fun and he just left scratching his head.
I would also appreciate more opportunities to spectate during the event itself. Half of the fun of playing around such incredible players is seeing HOW they play and the opportunities for that were extremely limited. I don't need weekend long commentary, but I would love more playfield cameras projected during rounds so that we can share in more of the experience together.
The contrast between the arcade half of the hall and Pinburgh was really perplexing. Going from the cool, dark arcade half that you entered from into the bright, clinical Pinburgh side really helped to contrast in my mind why younger people are drawn to the arcade instead of pinball. I am not an arcade kid at all and I found myself having so much fun every time I wandered into their section because of the engaging atmosphere they created over there. I would really love to see the organizers take some cues from the production and execution of the other half of the event. I only wish they had a Killer Queen and maybe a few more indie games to play!
All in all, it really was an incredible experience and I can't wait for next year!