The history of Skill Shot is also a snapshot of the Seattle pinball scene in general. As we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the zine I would also like to take the opportunity to reflect on the changes we have witnessed over the years – not only in the zine but in the local pinball community as well. Support Local Pinball!
– Gordon, publisher of Skill Shot, Seattle’s Pinball Zine
Skill Shot got its start at the Madison Pub on Capitol Hill. It was just three friends, Steve Mansur, Brad Hayden, and myself, hanging out and playing pinball as something to do. None of us were especially proficient pinball players but it was fun playing and learning the games together. Brad and I had talked in the past about making a zine together and Mansur and I had previously collaborated on the Chicken With Penis flyer, so it seemed natural that the three of us would make a zine together. Pinball was an obvious choice for a theme since it was something we all enjoyed and there seemed to be lots to say about it.
Issue 1 came out in the summer and was a single 8.5 x 11” folded sheet of paper with all of the basic elements that would continue through all of the issues: a list of machines in the area, a News and Gossip column, an article or two, and a cover image. We had discovered the Pinball Crazies Yahoo Group and they encouraged us on our project. Even before we published the first issue we were invited to Keith and Dave’s Pinball Birthday Bash and we got our first taste on how welcoming pinball people could be. They had a lot of pins there and it was fun.
Ironically, when the first issue of Skill Shot came out, none of us had been to Shorty’s in years and our first Pinball List focused entirely on Cap Hill where we all lived. We originally only planned on making three issues and each of us would take turns being the project manager of each one. I organized the first issue, Mansur did the second one, and Brad would do the third. By this time we had made it to Shorty’s and included them on our List.
2007: Issues released: 1, 2 – Locations with more than 4 pins: Shorty’s (16), Piccolo’s Pizza (5) – New games released: Family Guy, Spider-man (all Stern).
When we created a Skill Shot Myspace page, people (like Jeff Groper) contacted us with more locations to add to the Pinball List. Georgetown, Downtown, and the U-district got the most attention and the List expanded to a full page in issue 3. This was also when Brad discovered his talent for creating a catchy cover so he became the cover editor. Our friend Geoffro joined the staff by searching for pins and writing articles. The first NW Pinball and Gameroom Show (PAGS) happened at the Seattle Center in June and we decided to expand issue 4 to 11 x 17” paper for more content. Full Tilt reached out to us about their new ice cream/pinball shop opening in White Center in May and they became our first advertiser.
The first PAGS had about 100 pinball machines and a sprinkling of arcade games. This was also the site of the first NW Pinball Championships and our first look at the local tournament scene. The Shorty’s weeklies were happening but we were still newbies and tournaments didn’t interest us yet. In November we finally entered one: the Shorty’s Annual hosted by Larry Reid. It was fun and we met a lot of people, which was great. Shorty’s was also the site of controversy by increasing the coin drop of the new Sterns to 75 cents.
The interest we received about Skill Shot spurred us on to keep making the zine. Our friend Tyler began helping us with the paste up and with issue 5 Bert became our cover photographer. Issue 6 was our first Halloween issue and featured two different covers – both of Centaur. Nosebleed joined us around this time and he created stylized logos for the covers (and soon took over the List). A full color 6.5 mini-issue about Spectrum rounded out the end of the year!
2008: Issues released: 3, 4, 5, 6, 6.5 – New locations: Full Tilt White Center (8) – New games released: Wheel of Fortune, Shrek, Indiana Jones, Batman (Stern).
The first Georgetown Pinball Tournament, hosted by Larry and Mike Poetzel, happened at three different bars – which would become a pattern for this and other tourneys during the next few years. The prize was a keg of beer, which was won by Groper, and Rod Olsen later hosted a party with it! Other tournaments were the 1st Ground Kontrol Annual (aka Pinbrawl) and the Shorty’s Powder Puff biennial. Because of the number of contestants (116) at the last Shorty’s Annual, this year’s tourney was expanded to a two day event.
The first incarnation of Add-a-Ball opened around the same time as the 2nd PAGS. The space was still a scooter repair shop and the pinball was regulated to a side room which is now part of the current neon room. The emphasis was on EM’s, and SilverAge/SilverBall supplied many of the pins that weren’t owned by Add-a-Brad himself. The Tiger Lounge in Georgetown and Full Tilt Columbia City both opened this summer also. Rumors about a new bar called Unicorn began to circulate by year’s end.
Skill Shot featured articles written by Maka, Nycole, and 4th Place Andy, while Headley became our distribution manager. We hosted our first tournaments this year with a Siamese Twins tourney at Shorty’s and a Chicken With Penis themed one at Add-a-Ball. Other notable events that year include James Edes 50th birthday party with 50 pinball machines and the formation of the Seattle Pinball League in October.
2009: Issues released: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 – New locations: Add-a-Ball (10), Tiger Lounge (5), Full Tilt Columbia City (5) – New games: CSI, NBA, 24 (all Stern).
Add-a-Ball abruptly closed amidst rumors of Add-a-Brad selling off his pins to open a television studio. AAB would eventually reopen at the end of the year. Dominique’s Galactic Girl premiered with a tournament at Tiger Lounge and the first Ballard Tournament happened, which was like the Georgetown one except players were driven to some of the locations. A 2nd Georgetown tourney also happened. The year before, Shorty’s had a free pinball night, but Avout didn’t like how it panned out so he and Larry created the blindfolded Tommy Tournament to take its place (which team Skill Shot won). The Seattle Pinball Museum and Dorky’s in Tacoma both opened during the summer.
Like everyone else, Skill Shot moved from Myspace to Facebook. An early version of our website was put up thanks to PAPA’s Kevin Martin. Our first Skill Shot Folding Party happened for issue 13 and was a success despite being organized at the last minute. This allowed the zine’s circulation to grow since we didn’t have to fold them all ourselves.
2010: Issues released: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 – New locations: Dorky’s (21), Seattle Pinball Museum (23), AAB.2 (5) – New games: Big Buck Hunter, Iron Man, Avatar (Stern), Galactic Girl (SilverAge/SilverBall).
The announcement that 2012’s IFPA World Championship was happening in Washington caused an uptick in local tournaments. The locals with the highest World Pinball Player Ranking points could possibly get an invite to the event if higher ranked players couldn’t attend. This created friction as people became more competitive whenever points were on the line. The SPM began hosting tournaments, and the Shorty’s monthlies (with brunch), the SPL, and the Ballard tourneys were all happening regularly. The 1st Greenwood Open on 4/20 happened at multiple locations with the finals at Add-a-Ball. This tourney had the first accidental breaking of the pinball glass on Stars. Add-a-Ball will later reopen as a tavern, which is its current incarnation.
Graham Klym joined Skill Shot at the beginning of the year and immediately went to work creating a Skill Shot website with an events calendar. We had a falling out with our printer, who missed deadlines and gave us poor quality prints. The zine’s distribution still kept growing and the locations would run out of copies almost as fast as we could supply them. This wouldn’t have happened without the Folding Parties at The Lookout and everyone who came to them. Andrew Cole joined us at the end of the year and created the current version our pinball database.
2011: Issues released: 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 – New locations: Full Tilt Ballard (11), Add-a-Ball.3 (9) – New games: TRON, The Rolling Stones, Transformers (all Stern).
Add-a-Ball opened the neon room which expanded the pins there to 12. They also changed the name of their annual to the 420 Tournament and began to have semi-regular Wednesday night tournaments. Full Tilt Ballard switched to 20XX Amusements which gave Bobby his first multi-pin location. The first live-streamed local event happened when GeekGamer.TV broadcast the NW Championships finals. This tournament split off from the annual show because of a scheduling mistake which had PAGS, now officially called the NW Pinball and Arcade Show (NWPAS), happening the same weekend as the IFPA World Championship. These tournaments and the special events associated with them gave Seattle its first taste of what it would be like to have a pinball tournament every day of the week.
Skill Shot’s inconsistent print quality prompted Don Weyland to volunteer to become our new printer. Long-time friend of the zine Kayla Greet joined the editorial staff, Kevin Birrell wrote his first article and Justin Blau became the new official Skill Shot cover photographer. When Space Age Amusements’ Marc O’Farrell died, Beth Ann Fell from Hi Score Arcade wrote a loving tribute to him for us. We had our 5 year anniversary party at Shorty’s with two special issues of the zine: #25 with a spot varnish cover and a limited edition 25.5. With the help of Groper and the beta version of Brackalope, we began hosting the Shorty’s Annual and it was a big success!
2012: Issues released: 22, 23, 24, 25, 25.5, 26 – New locations: Narwhal (8), John John’s (9) – New games: AC/DC, The Avengers, X-Men (all Stern).
Amidst controversy, NWPAS moved to Tacoma. The Wizard of Oz and the ill-fated Predator pins were just two of the highlights at this year’s show. Pinheads Pinball added pins to Olaf’s and Add-a-Ball once again expanded with the opening of Point Break. The SPM increased their pins to over 50 with the opening of their Upper Playfield. Middletown Dreams in Port Townsend, Replay Café in Everett, and High Score Burgers in Redmond also increased the number of games in the region. 8-Bit Arcade in Renton opened in December too!
Sergey and Heather began hosting weekly Flip Offs at JJ’s and AAB. A weekly at Full Tilt Ballard and monthlies at Narwhal and Olaf’s soon followed and Kayla began the women-only Babes in Pinland. The IFPA announced their new State Championship series which encouraged local tournaments to register with them to obtain ranking points. Skill Shot also began hosting the Tommy Tournament, Powder Puff, and restarted the First Sunday Tournament at Shorty’s.
Python Anghelo extolled both Skill Shot and the Seattle scene from the stage during his presentation at NWPAS. We attempted a full color issue with 31 but the yellow ink kept running out and we had to switch to black and white for the main print run. Blue Star Creeper played at one of our folding parties, ZEN wrote an article, and we took our zines to the Short Run Small Press Show. The introduction of the Skill Shot App rounded out this productive and fun year.
2013: Issues released: 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 – New locations: Olaf’s (5), 8-Bit Arcade (23) – New games: Metallica, Star Trek (Stern), The Wizard of Oz (Jersey Jack).
The 1st WA State Championship took place in Edmonds at an empty storefront next to Another Castle. They would eventually renovate the space into their Arcade Edition. The Button Makers in Georgetown reopened as Flip Flip Ding Ding with 7 pins and Vidiot in West Seattle added more space and pinball to their location too. The Pinball Seattle league (later renamed Monday Night Pinball) began season one in April with 8 teams of 8 players. Dave Stewart became the tournament director for NWPAS and introduced the pre-tournament series, while 8-Bit, FFDD, Another Castle, and Iron Bull all began having regular tournaments. Beneficial Malfunction’s 1st Emerald City Cup happened at John John’s.
The Skill Shot-hosted Powder Puff tournament became an annual. The First Sunday Tournaments we organized featured a different guest-host each month, and they decided the tournament style or format. For the Tommy Tournament we invited local drag legend Mark Finley to MC and another event had Ronald McFondle. The year ended with our revamped smartphone friendly website designed by Alice Wicks and Andrew.
2014: Issues released: 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 – New locations: Flip Flip Ding Ding (16), Another Castle Arcade Edition (12+), Vidiot (6) – New games: Mustang, The Walking Dead (Stern), America’s Most Haunted (Spooky Pinball), Bride of Pinbot 2.0 (Dutch Pinball).
Flip Flip Ding Ding added their upstairs area, and Jeff Rogers bought and then closed John John’s “for a few months” for renovations. Josh Bartlett hosted a weekly Tuesday tournament at Dorky’s, but after Les’s public meltdown, Josh moved it to the 8-Bit. NWPAS gave out full weekend passes for the show at the pre-series tournaments this year. Beneficial Malfunction took over the NW Pinball Championship and moved it closer to Seattle. The block that Shorty’s is on was slated for demolition until Belltown residents and regulars rallied together and got the building next door historical landmark status.
The Skill Shot Pincast began during the summer with a focus on local players. Long-time zine supporter Aaron McAbee wrote an article for the zine. (I think Aaron had been to every single Folding Party!) The zine only had four issues this year which put us on track to have #50 and our 10 year anniversary happen at the same time. Skill Shot was still hosting the Shorty’s Annual and while Andy Burton didn’t win he did get second and a second upgrade to his nickname!
2015: issues released: 37, 38, 39, 40 – New locations: Raygun (6+), John John’s.2 (9), – New games: Wrestlemania, Whoa Nellie!, Kiss, Game of Thrones (Stern), Full Throttle (Heighway), Medieval Madness remake (Chicago Gaming).
Seattle Super League began in January, and the 8-Bit began having monthly Match Play tournaments, both of which were new formats. The Fraser Valley Flip Out in British Columbia rethemed their annual tourney this year and expanded it as part of the Vancouver Expo. Another Castle opened a Bremerton location, and The Iron Bull was bought by Jonathan who promptly added a bunch of pins to it. AAB expanded again with the addition of the Green Room, while both Lucky Liquor and Olaf’s removed tables to add more pins, and FFDD took out the Button Makers to add more seating. New operator Grand Champion Games began adding machines to both new and old places, including Ozzie’s who inherited many of the Iron Bull’s pins when they had to close down for extensive repairs.
Skill Shot moved the Folding Party to the Iron Bull with issue 43, an all Doctor Who issue with both a cover and List collage featuring the game as well as an article written by ELF and a video mode guide by 2nd Place Andy. We hosted the 10th edition of the Powder Puff tournament and the 19th Annual Shorty’s tourney with the help of Germain because Gropes had to go to a wedding.
2016: Issues released: 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 – New locations: Another Castle Bremerton (9), Iron Bull (12), Lucky Liquor (8), Triple Knock (20), Machine Shop (12+), Ozzie’s (5), The Goat (8), Bad Jimmy’s (8) – New games: Spider-Man VE, Ghostbusters, PBR Can Crusher, Batman 66 (Stern), The Hobbit (Jersey Jack), Rob Zombie (Spooky), The Big Lebowski (Dutch).
Hellbent, Fitzgerald’s, the 4B’s, Hounds Tooth, The Goat, and Bad Jimmy’s all had more pins added to their locations. Jupiter and Coindexter’s are the newest locations to open with a new Full Tilt on Capitol Hill soon to join them. Monday Night Pinball expanded to 22 teams for their 8th season and Bremerton/Kitsap County explodes with both pinball and tournaments. NWPAS showcased new companies that will soon be selling pinball machines, and almost every location in town seems to have newbies checking out the pins. The local scene has grown with multiple events happening almost every night of the week – even on Friday! Both The Goat and John John’s would close by year’s end, but there are new locations already filling the void that their passing has left.
The Seattle Pinball Scene has grown so much in the past 10 years that it has become impossible to keep all of the information about it contained on an 11×17” piece of paper! Now that Skill Shot has reached its 50th issue I feel like it is time to try out a different format for the publication. I’m not sure what the format is going to be yet but keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for an announcement about it in 2018. Naturally the List and Calendar will be maintained during this reimagining and there will probably be some News and Gossip tidbits as well. Thanks to Alexa, Dwayne, and Sagel who all joined the ranks of Skill Shot writers this year, as well as everyone who comes out to the Folding Parties, helps distribute and keeps us updated on the pins at your favorite locations. Bola Salvada!
2017: Issues released: 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 50.5 – New locations: HellBent Brewery (7), Fitzgerald’s (5), 4B’s (14), Coindexter’s (12), Jupiter (26)- New games: Aerosmith, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy (Stern), Dialed In (Jersey Jack), The Jetsons, Total Nuclear Annihilation (Spooky), Alien (Heighway), Attack From Mars remake (Chicago Gaming).