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Cover photo via Nudge Magazine.
Wait, what day is it again? I think I started losing track about Thursday of last week. Anyway, it's perpetual Blursday over here.
Pinball Expo 2023 was an exceptional experience, exceeding my expectations in every conceivable way.
I'll cover some of our highlights in more detail below, but more than anything else the part of Expo '23 that will forever stand out to me was all the positive, friendly interactions I was able to have with the larger pinball community; many of whom I've only had the pleasure of meeting online until last week. Even though many of us came from different places, with different backgrounds, and different goals and objectives, we all clearly have a genuine passion for pinball and that mattered more than just about anything else.
So with that said, in true Kineticist fashion, here are 6 of my highlights from Pinball Expo 2023.
The Pinball Media Mixer
We did it!
It was so rewarding to partner with Will Oetting and This Week in Pinball to put on a casual, relaxed happy hour at Enterrium for some of the amazing pinball media and content creators in the space. It was the ultimate excuse to share a few beverages and get to know each other a little better. I'm not usually one for networking, but I genuinely enjoyed every conversation I was able to have with folks over the course of a few short hours.
We were fortunate to have the backing of Jersey Jack Pinball, Dutch Pinball and Spooky Pinball, who all provided giveaways and/or financial support for the food and drink.
Special shoutout to the Jersey Jack team here, who went above and beyond with their support of the event. Game designer Eric Meunier even dropped by and signed some of the giveaway items live, which I think created a pretty special moment for folks.
It went so well that we may even do it again next year!
The Pinball Olympics
Everything that you've ever heard about the Pinball Olympics is probably true. It's one of the most unique pinball playing experiences you'll ever have, thanks to the brilliance of Jay Brand, Scott Danesi, and Doug Manley, who put on this annual event, and somehow devise completely bonkers ways to play pinball.
Someone described it best as a pinball theme park, where every game played was a memorable interactive experience, from the TNA immersion room to the spinning platform with a custom Subhumans retheme of Bally's Dolly Parton. I'm not sure I've ever seen more creativity, ingenuity and debauchery (iykyk) in a single event before.
The Three P's of Pinball Seminar
When Rob Berk (founder of Pinball Expo) asks you to do something, you do it! I was humbled to have the opportunity to give a talk at this storied industry event. I think it went pretty well. Given the early time slot it felt a little like being an early band at a music festival, but savvy concert-goers all know the early time slots are where you're more likely to discover your new favorite artist.
Check out the recording from Pinball News if you're curious what exactly The Three P's of Pinball means.
The Pinball Map Seminar
Thanks to convenient session scheduling, I was able to stick around for the next seminar from the Pinball Map team. It was cool to hear their founding story and learn more about how the app was built and how it's evolved over time. Plus Ryan got a Walter Day Trading Card! So cool (and deserved).
Playing the New or New-to-Me Games
The new games at a show like Expo get most of the attention (for good reason), and this show was no different. It felt like a dual at times between Barrel of Fun's Labyrinth and Jersey Jack's Elton John.
Both games played and showed well, and I left wanting to spend more time with each, which is about all I could ask for in an environment like this. I find shows to be difficult places to properly evaluate a new game so I tend to treat these more as "game previews" than "game reviews". If my experience leaves me wanting to play a game more, I take it as a positive sign.
Few notes on some of the games I played:
- Labyrinth - Lived up to the hype.
- Elton John - Pleasant surprise.
- Ninja Eclipse - Shot well and appreciate a company that tries new things.
- Punny Factory - I'd flip it again.
- Alien - I see the appeal.
- Queen - Didn't leave a huge impression but would also flip again.
- Inclusive Gamewerks - Not technically a game but their accessible controllers are a joy to use.
Meeting Billy P. Ball