Road trip: Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown
Ryan Summerlin April 19, 2013
Next weekend, for the 10th year in a row, the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown will bring the sounds of flippers, bells and sirens and the whirl of rolling metal projectiles to the Front Range.
“It’s kind of a unique thing,” said Dan Nikolich, owner and co-founder of the Showdown. “We have over 125 pinball machines and classic arcade games on free play. You pay your admission to get in and can play to your heart’s content.
“We have kids who can barely reach the flippers and need to pull up a stool to grandparents in their 80s who remember playing.”
In addition to the pinball and arcade games, the event includes movie screenings, a classic car show, tournaments for all ages and skill levels and exhibitors buying and selling pinball machines, classic arcade games and parts.
“We’ll have exhibitors that are selling games and parts and a lot of new technology,” Nikolich said. “At one point, there was only one company that was left, and there’s this great resurgence in the past few years where interest has gone way up.”
The event features games ranging from the very old to the inaugural release of a new Wizard of Oz machine.
“We even do a history of exhibit, the roots of pinball, games on display – so people can see where pinball came from with pins in a piece of wood with marbles rolling around – up to the newest game that just came out,” he said.
Vintage pinball machines are a reflection of pop culture, with their artwork and graphics showing whatever was grabbing the world’s curiosity at the time, Nikolich said.
“The art aspect of it is cool,” he said. “In 1940s, it was World War II, and in the ’60s, it was the space race. It’s whatever we were doing at the time, which makes it interesting to people.”
Whatever era of pinball you like to play, it will be available at the Pinball Showdown, from the original electro mechanical machines to the modern games with digital displays.
“You can’t really replicate pinball in any other way,” Nikolich said. “You can’t put it on a TV screen.”
The power of pinball derives from it being a very simple game to pick up but a really hard one to master, Nikolich said.
“I think it’s an interesting thing to see because even a lot of younger kids who didn’t grow up with pinball will come in and just walk up to it,” Nikolich said. “It’s really simple to understand, just the basics of don’t let the ball go down, then as you get a little better, you learn more.”
Nikolich said kids and even adults are used to having media in the palms of their hands, video games that have patterns, and once they are figured out, they are no longer a challenge.
“Pinball, since it’s inherently mechanical, the ball is wild,” he said. “Every game is different; you never play the same game twice.”