There’s something about pinball I’ve always loved. It’s the lights and the sounds and the physicality of it that really sets it apart from video gaming. My first time playing a pinball machine was in primary school, when there was an Adams Family along with a few other arcade machines set up at the Jamison shopping centre here in Canberra. I remember being attracted to it because it was obviously a game, but intimidated at the same time because it was so big and – to a child – difficult to fully understand how to play it. The basic principal, keep the ball alive and bouncing around, was obvious. But it’d take me many years longer before I realised the depth and detail included in these these games. During uni the campus bar had a small games area which had pinballs on and off. I certainly clocked a number of games on Lord of The Rings there. And for my 21st I decided to combine a toga party with a pinball party, where I had a Big Hurt in the house over the weekend. It was a successful night, full of anachronisms and entertainment. After I started full time work my disposable income lead me to an impulse buy about two years ago, which was a Sega StarWars Trillogy from 1997. That was the point where a new hobby germinated, after over about two decades of having it in the back of my mind.
Canberra’s not a big city and arcades come and go. Since the late 90’s there have only been a few options and in 2014 there are even fewer. So I was very surprised when I discovered there were a number of pinball players and collectors here. At the beginning of the year, after joining the Aussie Arcade forum, a character called “Z” organised a social meet for like minded individuals. It worked well right from the get-go. Not much later the “Vice City Players” pinball club was established. Regular meets were organised. A ladder was established. A logo was designed and t-shirts were printed.
As this was all taking place, in a radio studio in Canberra’s north, a podcast was being recorded. I remember listening to the first episode and thinking that “I’ve heard this guy somewhere before…”. Rod Cadighee, who is no stranger to the airwaves, is often heard on bus and taxi radios in the mornings as Mix 106.3’s energetic-guy-who’s-awake-too-damn-early. His seeming encyclopedic knowledge of pinball lead me to become a dedicated listener to The Pinheadz Pinball Podcast.
From there it was a done deal. Vice City Players managed a full year worth of weekend meets and continues strongly in 2015. I attended Australia’s first pinball expo in Penrith, of all places. I continue to save for a Sega Jurassic Park. This will be the first of many pinball related posts.