By Kayla Greet
On September 23 the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) announced that they have started tracking women’s standings separately, and are introducing a Women’s Championship tournament for 2016.
This is a huge step forward in competitive pinball. Since creating a section of the site dedicated only to female players, we can finally extrapolate some remarkable statistics about women in pinball. Out of the 25,471 people currently ranked on IFPA, 2,015 of them are women, meaning 7.9% of all ranked pinball players are female. That is a staggering statistic, and one that is truly telling of why more women aren’t as involved. The main goal of this is to encourage more women to compete, and it will be interesting to watch the numbers grow.
To put this in perspective at a local level, let’s look at the Seattle Pinball League (SPL), the Add-a-Ball weekly Flip-offs, and Monday Night Pinball (aka the bar league). These garner the most number of players on a weekly basis in the Seattle area, and should provide a good snapshot of where we’re at with women in pinball. For SPL in 2015 there are 137 players, of which 18% are female. Add-A-Ball weeklies attract about 40 players. I looked at the last weekly posted, which coincidentally was on the same day as the IFPA announcement, and 22% of the 37 players were women. Monday Night Pinball is not an IFPA-sanctioned organization, meaning there are no points or money awarded, just a cool trophy and bragging rights. Maybe you’d be surprised, but this format is the most popular in our city, and has 140 players meeting once a week, AND a monster 27% are women! When compared to the just under 8% on IFPA, I’d say that Seattle is doing pretty great.
The Women’s Pinball Championships will be held on March 17th, 2016 at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. This tournament will run alongside the Pinball State Championship Series, aka the Nationals, and will invite the top 16 best players to compete. In the case that some of those women can’t attend, the spot will be offered to the next player on the list. Some of the current top 16 players are as far reaching as Danielle Peck in New Zealand, Carola Kolbeck in Germany, Kate Morris in the UK, and sitting at the number one spot, Helena Walter in Sweden. One a side note, Stockholm is dominating the number one spots in pinball with Jorian Englebrecktsson topping out IFPA overall.
So while this isn’t changing the rules on IFPA points on women-only tournaments such as Powderpuff, Babes in Pinland, and Belles and Chimes in Oakland, it’s changing the history of competitive pinball as a whole. With 5 of the top 16 women hailing from the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle’s own Hannah Holmberg, Nycole Hyatt, and Julie Gray, I’d say there’s some correlation with the aforementioned stats. We’ve really got something special going on here that is inclusive to everyone — as long as you’re old enough to drink.