And I didn't even play! Instead, I set up a tournament for tweens at my daughter's 12th bday party. And it was a resounding success!
I was actually surprised because even though she's not a huge pinhead, and most of her friends don't even know what pinballs are, she really wanted to set something up. So even though I generally suck at pinball in tourney formats, and have only tried one informal tournament, I decided to come up with something. So here's what I did:
For prizes I went to Costco and bought some full-size candy bars, and then found a Minecraft gift set of 10 figurines and a case. Kids love Minecraft, so I decided to come up with 10 "categories" to win a figure. With about 8 guests expected that would be good odds for everyone to win something. My daughter and I came up with these:
- Top score on each game (6 figs)
- Top combined score
- Most 4's in scoring
- Most 13's in scores
- Single worst score of the night (this would not be announced beforehand, but only hinted as a "mystery category")
To whet their appetites, we assigned figures to each game and I labeled them as such in the gift set package. We tried to match the figures to the game (redhead girl to Old Chicago; green zombie to Space Station for "Condition Green"; wolf to Dr Who for K-9; evil spider to the evil Firepower; and my favorite: daughter's assignment of Creeper to Worst Score because "that means the game blew up in your face like a creeper does"; etc). The set was put on display so the kids could see the fig assignments to games and try to scheme their favorites.
Before cake and presents the kids all played informally for fun.
After cake it was tourney time. I kept it simple: one round on each game, scores logged in a spreadsheet. After they played every game once, they each got to choose ONE game for a do-over. Their better of the two scores on the done-over title would count. So 7 games played in total, with only 6 counting toward the tally. This kept things quick and understandable. I had a seat near the lineup to watch scores, monitor any issues (there weren't any, my lineup stayed rock solid and the kids behaved great) and answer questions.
I have to say, it was great watching the kids respond and try to strategize their do-overs: which games they felt they locked up, versus which they had a chance to improve, versus which they wanted to knock their friends out on. They kept coming over to see the score tallies as the sheet filled in. And they were all quite honest, too. It was simple tangible way for them to foster some competition without being too stressed.
This format played out brilliantly: some kids were defeated unexpectedly at the end. Others experienced the joy of a monster game after a few rounds of futility. Some obviously favored one style of game versus others. But most of all, they HAD FUN.
In the end, I emcee'd the score announcing to build suspense since it worked out that every kid managed to win at least one figure. The categories spread the sense of accomplishment, and the "worst score" (achieved on Firepower, naturally) was fun capper to the proceeding. After the tourney they all got to pick some candy for participating, an then turned loose to general free play again which they were all too happy to do.
This is where I should mention that out of 10 kids, half had not seen a pinball machine before. But I think there's a few new fans out there... not to mention, the parents who were excited to join in and play.
I tell you, it was a great feeling. I've been busting my ass and risking insolvency since moving to a house with space to set up this small arcade, but this night made it all totally worth it: