Apologies to the good people of Benton, Wisconsin (can’t wait to play Total Nuclear Annihilation!), but from October 20th to the 22nd, the REAL spooky pinball action was in Banning, California. Home of The Museum of Pinball where PINBALL MADNESS was taking place over the weekend!
Honestly, “Pinball Madness” is a bit of a misnomer. Even “The Museum of PINBALL” isn’t really the greatest way to describe this place, as there’s not only quite a lot of pinball action going down, but there’s hundreds of arcade games to play as well!
My pinball playing homie / nephew YUNG MARK accompanied me on our trip through the desert. Whenever we visit TMOP, we have our own little battle among ourselves to determine who really is the best pinballer in the family! It pains me to admit it, but the kid is kinda besting yours truly every time. Not by a lot, but a win is a win and having one more than your opponent is all it takes! I was inspired by the wonderful CRITICAL HIT tournament to make somewhat of a card game for Mark and I to play. Using a bunch of Magic: The Gathering land cards, I created my version of a pinball scavenger hunt. The cards had descriptions such as “pick any Solid State game beginning with the letter “B”, or “pick any Bally EM” and so on. Mark chose one card in the deck and he would have to pick a game based on the description. If he won, he received five points and he would pick another card. If he lost, he received no points and chose two cards for the next round. If he won that time, he’d win four points and he would pick one card again. If he lost, he’d get zilch and get to pick from three cards. All the way to five cards, and one point for winning. Keep reading to find out who the Pinball Wizard was!
Oh, speaking of Pinball Wizards… I was dressed as one.
Yung Mark was supposed to wear a zombie banana costume, but he decided that the mask wouldn’t allow him to see the playfield, so he went without it. I stuck to my guns though, and I’ll be honest, I was totally feeling wearing a robe. Made me feel fancy!
I’m going to make a bold claim here: The Museum of Pinball has the most pinball and arcade games in excellent condition under one roof, period. As far as festivals are concerned, ReplayFX comes close, and has much more to offer as far as consoles and board gaming go (as well as being held in a much nicer place than Banning). Pinball PA in Pittsburgh and The Museum of Pinball in Las Vegas would be the runners up – and both of those places are open year-round, whereas ReplayFX only happens once a year and The Museum of Pinball opens their doors to the public about three to four times a year. But those three to four times that anyone can pay admission to enter TMOP… those are some incredible times to be sure. If you’re into Pinball and / or Arcade Games, The Museum of Pinball is mecca, and you owe it to yourself to make the trek there at least once in your life.
One thing that visitors should keep in mind when visiting TMOP: some events are more epic in scope than others. The annual Arcade Expo (going into its fourth year!) is the biggest, baddest and best of all the events: the entire Museum is open, including an area filled with electromechanical shooting gallery games. There are vendors throughout the complex – including Marco Specialties who have a tent full of the latest Stern releases. And the food vendor situation usually has about three to four varieties of cuisines to choose from. Other events, such as the big tournament It Never Drains In Southern California (INDISC) and the Pinball Madness event that I’m presently describing, are on a smaller scale. In the case of INDISC, that means a heavy focus on competition and some (but – as of 2017 – not all) pinball machines in the main room available for free play, and the arcade game section is completely closed off. No vendors whatsoever. For Pinball Madness, there was a pretty lame hot dog cart (selling the saddest nachos ever – Yung Mark ordered some, and got a plate full of bottom-of-the-bag broken up chips and the slightest hint of nacho cheese. No Marco, and not a lot of vendors. But for an extra seven dollars (!), there was a haunted house people could visit!
Another thing slightly off about Pinball Madness was the fact that there were more games than usual that were unavailable to play. Not a HUGE amount, mind you – but if you were hoping to play any Atari or Zaccaria or GamePlan games (I realize that’s not a huge portion of the pinball playing populace), you were out of luck because that whole section of TMOP was roped off. A slight disappointment, but when there are a good four hundred other games to choose from – including a bunch of pristine wedge heads that you’re unlikely to find in such great shape anywhere else – it’s a disappointment one quickly gets over.
The Museum of Pinball deserves commendation for the army of volunteer technicians they had working the event. There were at least a dozen red shirts working on machines at any given time, and if they weren’t toiling away under a playfield, they were making sure that the guests were having a good time. One gentleman even came up to Yung Mark and I and asked if we had any questions about the EMs we were playing! It warms my dark, bitter heart to see so many people willing to sacrifice their time to make sure all the boxes of bells, lights and wires were always playing their best.
To wrap things up: Pinball Madness was a blast, and if you love Pinball, you simply must plan a trip out to the desert to check out this beautiful oasis!
Check out these upcoming events:
IT NEVER DRAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: January 12-14, 2018 (Pinball only)
ARCADE EXPO 4.0: March 16-18, 2018
WHO’S A PINBALL WIZARD!!!!?!??!
Abra Ca Dabra: 0
Attack From Mars: 0
Devil’s Dare: 0
Extra Inning: 0
Flipper Cowboy: 0
Free Fall: 5
Grand Slam: 0
Hit The Deck: 5
Jungle King: 3
Lost World: 5
Pirate Gold: 5
Space Invaders: 1
Space Odyssey: 5
Spanish Eyes: 3
Spin Out: 5
Star Light: 5
Target Alpha: 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 0
Voltan Escapes Cosmic Doom: 0
X’s and O’s: 0
TOTAL SCORE (out of a possible 135): 59
STRICTLY SPEAKING: it was a tie, 14 to 14
YUNG MARK IS A PINBALL WIZARD
BUT SO IS CORNELIUS