News : Inside Portland’s Competitive Pinball Scene : Vice.com
Vice.com has written an article discussing the pinball scene and the tournaments that are held in Portland.
At 6:00 PM on a rainy Tuesday, I walked into Ground Kontrol, Portland’s legendary arcade. Up the stairs, in the back room where all the pinball machines live, players were already shoulder-to-shoulder, practicing before the tournament would start.
The heat steaming off the machines, combined with Portland’s dampness, made the place feel cramped and hive-like. Ear-piercing bells and clangs and chirps, the jukebox on full blast, players laughing, cursing; a million strobing and multicolored lights.
Portland has arguably the greatest pinball scene in the world, and tournaments like the one at Ground Kontrol host some of the best players in the game. People like Andy Cobb, current reigning Oregon State Pinball Champion; Derek “DMX” Miazga, ranked first in the state by points; Noah “Opto” Davis, ranked 162nd in the world and gaining; Greg Dunlap, who has nearly two and a half decades of experience as a dedicated pinball player and founded the Pinball Outreach Project, a charitable group that gets kids into the sport. There’s Colin Urban, the unofficial mascot of Portland pinball, who, at the age of 11 beat the world’s greatest player, Keith Elwin, at a local tournament. Now, at 14, Urban is officially the World’s Best Youth Player, and 111th overall. And then there’s Zoë Vrabel, the World’s Women’s Pinball Champion.
The Portland pinball scene began in a garage, Vrabel told me. “Seven or eight people would get together and have these teeny tiny little informal tournaments,” she told me. “But I think the real reason that there’s such a huge scene in Portland is because of CFF.”
Crazy Flipper Fingers, or CFF for short, is Portland’s largest pinball gang. It started off in 2005 as a loose group of 20 or so hard-drinking types, united by a pure, obsessive love of pinball.
“They’d buy a lot of drinks, but they’d only go to bars with machines,” Vrabel told me. Bars started to realize they could capitalize on a group of heavy drinkers who liked to play pinball, and Portland started to get a lot more pinball machines.
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Thanks to Vice.com and Daniel Tastic for the article and pictures.