- Roger Sharpe
PINBALL EXPO FLIPS THE SWITCH FOR 35th ANNIVERSARY
CHICAGO, IL – For more than three decades, the annual staging of Pinball Expo has reflected and celebrated the legacy of the silver ball. Organizers of this year’s event are expecting another record-breaking turn-out for the 35th anniversary of the longest running pinball-centric exposition in the world. Currently slated to take place October 16th through the 19th, the festivities promise to draw a wide range of attendees from around the globe to the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, Illinois.
As show organizers have noted, the more than $25,000 to be awarded in cash and prizes will once again draw some of the best pinball players on the planet to compete in a hotly contested array of tournaments. However, the show is also now expected to continue a trend of attracting a new generation of pinball players of varying skill levels.
“We’re getting a whole new generation of pinball fans,” said Rob Berk, who has headed up Pinball Expo from its very beginning. “It isn’t just the long-time pin enthusiasts, though we still attract plenty of those. The millennials have discovered the joys of the game and many of them are every bit as enthusiastic as their predecessors.”
As Berk explained, these new enthusiasts likely discovered pinball through the proliferation of bar arcades that often feature an assortment of vintage pinball and classic video games. Although eSports has attracted much media attention, pinball continues to flourish in its role as a uniquely American past-time. “Pinball is the ultimate out of home entertainment, and it has been for a hundred years,” Berk said. “You can’t play it on a smart phone, and you can’t replicate the classic games.”
As with past shows, this year’s event will feature more than 500 pinball machines and other arcade games all set on free play for attendees. “Once a year we create this epic arcade experience,” said Berk. “Many of these games are 50 or 60 years old and still in perfect working order. This will be the only opportunity for players to play them. Nothing like it exists anywhere else. And to have the experience of not just playing games but also meeting some of the people responsible for creating the machines, it’s really something very special and memorable.”
As Berk noted, “We’re extremely proud of being the one event where attendees will also be able to play the newest and latest games,” he said. “Many of these games are making their debut at the event for the first time anywhere, including the official unveiling of pinball machines from Italy and Spain.”
In this regard, the newcomers will not be disappointed with the collection of classic pinball machines dating back to the earliest days of the game, many of which they have only seen in movies. In addition, the event will also include dozens of famous video games for casual play and competition guaranteed to take baby boomer players back to their happily misspent youth.
Another key component of the event will be more than 30 hours of lectures by legends of pinball history for attendees to get their pinball geek on. These extraordinarily talented individuals span the spectrum of design, mechanical and electrical engineering, music composers, artists, animators and many, many more who bring all of these diverse skills into a fully choreographed symphony of lights, sounds and special effects that define pinball. Seminar sessions will include a deep dive into the stories behind the games, technology, and the entire industry along with enough pinball trivia to satisfy the most seasoned fans.
As show organizers have noted, it is particularly appropriate the event is held in the Chicagoland area. The capital of the world for pinball manufacturing, during the game’s heyday pinball companies employed thousands of artists, engineers, and assembly line personnel. In later years, when voice prompts were added to the machines, local actors, including those from The Second City, found acting work voicing the games’ characters. Among those who leant their talents to the effort were Tina Fey, who went into a recording session for Williams Bally/Midway’s 1997's Medieval Madness.
Easy to play but difficult to master, for more than a century the gaudy artwork and fanciful sound effects of pinball were at once dangerous and enticing, their appeal luring in tavern players and celebrities alike. Paul Newman played a game in The Verdict. Madonna posed provocatively on a pinball machine called Taxi for her 1992 book titled Sex. Hedy Lamarr posed with a pinball machine for a press photo, and so did pop icons as diverse as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Alfred Hitchcock, and Beyonceˊ. If not genuine fans of the game, generations of movie stars, musicians, and other celebrities have recognized the allure that pinball has for the general public.
Mark your calendars for Pinball Expo 2019 and be a part of pinball history. Maybe you will even make your own pinball history. For more information and special event packages, please contact Rob Berk at (firstname.lastname@example.org); call 330-716-3139 or visit the official website for Pinball Expo 2019 www.pinballexpo.com.