news & gossip

Skill Shot 23 News and Gossip

Originally published in Skill Shot 23, March/April 2012

Right after our last issue was sent to the printer, we were informed that the annual Northwest Pinball And Gameroom Show (PAGS) was moved to the second weekend in June. We were not the only ones surprised by this date change as the IFPA9 World Pinball Championship, which is being held in Seattle this year, is also scheduled for that very same weekend. This presents a conflict for many: regular expo volunteers, those who qualified for this year’s World Championship tournament, and also visiting players who planned on arriving a week early to attend the Show. Despite the date change, the NW Pinball Championships — usually held during the expo – will still happen on the original date (June 1-3) but will now be held at the Holiday Inn in Marysville WA. To add to the confusion (or not), the expo also changed their name this year to the Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show to better reflect itself to the general public (who may not know what a Gameroom is).  NWPAS?  PAS?  PAAS?  It’ll always be PAGS to us! XXOO

Another interesting development since last issue is the takeover of pinball operations at Full Tilt Ballard from Space Age Amusements to Bobby Conover’s 20XX Amusements. Bobby’s been itching to make his mark with an expanded pinball route for some time (he already had a pin at Café Mox) so it is nice to see him get a chance to flex his muscles. During the transition, both operators have had machines at this location at the same time.  This is a unique situation for Seattle, as 20XX moves in and Space Age moves out one or two pins at a time. Full Tilt Ballard has become a pinball powerhouse in the short time they’ve been open as they currently have 13 games there, including pins such as Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Johnny Mnemonic, which haven’t been around for awhile, either in good working condition or at all. And stop asking Bobby if he’s going to charge 75¢ per game!

The Seattle Pinball League had their first general membership meeting of 2012 just before the annual Janufest Party at Rod Olsen’s house. There was a lot of talk about limiting the number of tournament styles and coming up with ways to shorten the length of the monthly events. Since the SPL usually meets at private homes, tournaments lasting over 6 or 7 hours can sometimes cause conflicts with the host (and their spouses). Other topics of discussion concerned the general purpose of the SPL (competition vs fun) and clarifying the rules about guests who win tournaments when it comes to year-end SPL Finals, a sore spot in 2011. It was a nice clearing of the air, and new board member Aaron Bendickson is doing a great job of bringing more communication to the SPL. Janufest itself was a happy time of fancy beers and pinball. A particular highlight was the whitewood CSI in Rod’s bedroom and Jason showing us how he could put his legs behind his head. Hmmft!

A few weeks later the SPL had a chance at a trial run of the new self-imposed time restraints at their first tournament, a four-round VRPA tournament which was also held at Rod’s. While new friends were made and much fun was had, the tournament lasted over 8 hours (despite Spider-man’s center post removal, amongst other tricks). The next SPL tournament was a Round Robin format held at Todd Mac’s house, which is always a treat, not only because of his great pinball line-up but also for his vintage arcade collection. The 9PM deadline ended up being ignored not only due to the excellent playing that day but also because the host made the finals. Back to the drawing board, we guess. Fun was had by all despite Sprite-soaked socks at the end of the day.  Wet!

The first weekend of February was a busy one. It kicked off on Friday night with Cathy Cartoon’s birthday celebration at Add-a-Ball Amusements in Fremont, which lead to an impromptu (and final) visit to Liberty House for a Skill Shot Tournament with Jeff Groper and Mitch Anderson. We tried to play all the different game styles written about in our previous issues, but after a while it just wasn’t practical: everyone was too drunk. Groper also kept playing the music very loud to bother his housemates as some sort of revenge. Saturday was the first (?) Pinbrew beer tasting and pinball tournament at Dorky’s in Tacoma, organized by Steve Cartoon. The venue was closed to the public for the beer tasting for the first three hours, which seemed to annoy Steve, but the tournament was well-attended. It’s always great to visit Dorky’s, even though the upper floor was closed off for the tournament and policed by the beautiful yet intimidating Janice Edes. JJJ won despite his supposed underdog status (not). At the same time Dorky’s co-owner Caroline hosted a Chili Cook-off, which she also won with her delicious white chicken chili. Sunday was the first 1st Sunday Tournament at Shorty’s in which JJJ almost cemented his not-an-underdog status by narrowly losing to tournament organizer Paul. Pinball is fun!

In case you didn’t already know: Stern Pinball’s latest release ACDC (Pro) recently debuted. The official Launch Party for the Seattle area was held at Dorky’s, with other unofficial launches later taking place at the Seattle Pinball Museum and the Seattle Waterfront Arcade. After the Transformers release, which had multiple (official) launches, all the new Stern pins will only have one official launch that will rotate each time between different locations. That makes sense since some of the last few had unhappy customers and venues. ACDC is a pretty cool pin and we look forward to playing the premium (and limited edition) versions of the game, which will have a lower playfield (among other features) that the Pro version does not. Shorty’s is getting the “Let There Be Rock” version. (Sorry Rod.) Noise pollution!

Did you notice that Shorty’s recently switched out their Medieval Madness? They pulled it for maintenance and replaced it with the one previously at Duck Island Ale House, then brought it back with a new playfield and other improvements. There’s been a lot of activity at Shorty’s (the warehouse) recently as they get pins ready for the opening of the Unicorn’s new basement game room, Narwhal (opening later this spring). Shorty’s owner Avout recently hired local Bally expert Brian Headley specifically to work on Fathom, which we assume means it will return to Shorty’s (the bar) as the games rumored for Narwhal are going to be less vintage machines. Like Wheel of Fortune?  We hope so.  Free Spin!

Shorty’s was also the location of two different tournaments on the same day on March 4th: the monthly 1st Sunday Tournament (which began at 3) and the Beard and ‘Stache Tournament (that started at 6). We have some reservations about the new single elimination format now used during the Sunday tournament (when we lose in the first round), but it is rather nice to have an event be short and sweet compared to other tournaments that sometimes seem to last forever. While it’s cool that Sunday tournament organizer Paul Sonier uses the Tourney Helper app he created to keep the scores, we wish he would bring back the sack of numbers for drawing which game to play. It seemed more transparent, as opposed to his new way of doing it: a coin toss and quick math (in his head). The Beard and ‘Stache Tournament was run by Kevin Lessig and was part of a larger charity event benefiting foster kids. If you didn’t have a real beard or mustache you could still play because they had fake staches for you to wear. Triple J finally cemented his non-underdog status that day by winning both tournaments. Zing!

The (semi) Annual Georgetown Open returned in February and added a new location (The Mix) to the other bars that are part of this roving tournament (Calamity Jane’s, Jules Maes, and 9LB Hammer are the other locations). Hosted by Larry Reid and Mike Poetzel, it’s an event that encourages imbibing and also gives everyone a free t-shirt just for entering. Timmy Smith got a little bit more than that when he was the first one out of the tournament (taken out by team Skill Shot) and was later tossed on his head. Sorry, Timmy! Claire won a prize for being the last woman standing, Bro Bro was the most enthusiastic, Sherry walked home, and ELF won the grand prize: a barrel of beer! Beer!

The Seattle Pinball Museum also held their first Quarterly Tournament on March 15th.  As a way of promoting competitive pinball to less experienced players, SPM did not include World Ranking Points. It still drew many of the best players in the city, who not only play for points, but also like to compete for the fun of it (and cash). Perhaps a novice or kids tournament might be a better angle, since an all-ages tournament with no points is more of a handicap on younger up-and-coming champions like Raymond and Kevin, who can’t compete at tournaments that are held in bars. Kidz rule!

The Seattle Pinball Museum was also one of the sites of the Reel Grrls short film Still Playing, which they recently entered into the International Documentary Challenge. They had 5 days to plan, film and edit an experimental short film, which they chose to make about the local pinball scene. They also filmed at Full Tilt Ballard and the Skill Shot Office, and Skill Shot’s Bernard, Nosebleed and Graham were all hilariously and prominently featured in the film, as was SPM’s Cindy and Charlie Martin, and Space Age Amusement’s Marc O’Farrell. A premiere showing of the film was held at SPM. The short won’t be available online until the contest later this spring, but when it is we’ll post a link on our website! Pinball Quicksand!

Did you notice how great Skill Shot 22 looked? That’s because local pin fan and printer Don Weyland has stepped in to help us out with the printing. It looked great! Our last Folding Party at The Lookout was the most successful yet and all the copies were folded in a record 2.5 hours! It doubtlessly helped that we began at an earlier time than usual. Thanks to everyone who helps fold and distribute Skill Shot; we couldn’t do this without you! We are also planning on having a new t-shirt available this year, most likely in time for the NW Pinball Show. Maybe a hoodie, too. Don’t shoot!

One of the first pins removed from the Full Tilt Ballard takeover was Whirlwind, last issue’s The One To Beat. We heard that RAY beat the score so we were going to move the contest when the machine went to the Feedback Lounge, but Space Age reset the scores. With no photo there is no glory, so please take a pic if and when you conquer our TOTB challenge so we can at least put it up on our website. Also, check out our website for local tournament results and upcoming events on our pinball calendar. And don’t forget to check out our Seattle Pinball List online, where we keep the most up-to-date listings of pinball games (please let us know if you discover any changes). Skill Shot #25 will be out this August and it will also be our 5th anniversary! We are going to have a party. Party!

Pinball Tidbits: The Aquarius Pinball Party was apparently a lot of fun until Mitch discovered that Sagel ate the cupcakes. It’s a war now! * Gordon Brown and Amanda Kunzi won the 2nd Annual Dorky’s Couples Tournament on Valentine’s Day. Awww. * The Simpsons Pinball Party holds the current title of Most Pins on Location in Seattle with 9 machines, followed closely by Fish Tales with 8. * Pinball pioneer and innovator Steve Kordek died recently at the age of 100. He was the first person to design a pin with two flippers at the bottom of the machine. His best known machines on location locally are Space Mission and Grand Prix. * The new Wizard of Oz pin from Jersey Jack Pinball will make its Seattle premiere at the NW Pinball Show this summer (June 8-10). You can also win one in a raffle! * Avengers will be the next new pin coming from Stern, followed by Resident Evil. Or are they? * We have not been invited to play Dolly Parton yet…

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