April 18

NEWS : Revival of pinball launches top players, a prosperous business : Missourian

4-18-2017 7-34-07 PM

An article written for the online publication of the Missourian talks about pinball leagues and the revival of pinball.

COLUMBIA — On a Monday evening in late February, 32 men and women crowded around the nine pinball machines at Lazer Lanes.

A small pinball tournament, called “Como Strikes V” was being held by the Columbia Pinball League, and some of the players had  driven from St. Louis and Kansas City to participate.

Josh Noble, the group’s director, stood up to explain the games they’d play and the tournament rules. He ended his speech with a reminder:

“Just remember, we’re all friends here,” he said.

With that, Noble and his friends grabbed their tokens and started flipping the silver ball.

The Columbia Pinball League began in 2013 as a small cadre of players. Today, the group has between 16-20 regular members — and one of the 100 best pinball players in the world. Adam McKinnie is currently ranked among the top 50 in the United States.

In the last decade, pinball has seen a revival around the globe. More people are playing competitive pinball than ever before — the number of players ranked worldwide has increased by nearly 100 times in the last decade, according to the International Flipper Pinball Association.

Arcade bars have become a popular trend around the country, especially in major cities like Portland and Los Angeles. In Columbia, Lazer Lanes with nine machines is one of two arcades in Columbia — the other, called The Arcade, is located in the Columbia Mall. Pinball machines can also be found around town at Billiards on Broadway, Shakespeare’s Pizza and several bars.

A local business in south Columbia called The Pinball Company has seen sales more than double over the last decade. The company said The Pinball Company now sells roughly 300 pinball machines every year.

“Nostalgia is huge nowadays,” said Brooke Parks, the co-owner of the business, which was founded in 2006. “There’s just something really appealing about sitting down and playing pinball on a machine.”

History of the silver ball

The game of pinball is simple: Work the flippers at the bottom of the machine to keep the ball bouncing around various obstacles in the “play field” and score as many points as possible.

The amusement as we know it rose to popularity in the early 1930s, when companies began manufacturing countertop machines and selling them to bars and points of commerce.

Original versions of the game didn’t have flippers or bumpers — they were uncomplicated games where a player would plunge the ball onto the board hoping to strike a metal pin in just the right way, bounce into a hole and earn points.

Pinball hit a snag in the 1940s when it was considered a game of chance, thus falling under the umbrella of gambling. It led a number of major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City to ban the game.

Then in 1976, a pinball enthusiast named Roger Sharpe testified before the New York City Council by playing the game. He called many of his shots before he made them, proving that pinball was, in fact, a game of skill.

The council lifted the ban, and Sharpe was hailed as “the man who saved pinball.”

Read the entire article below :