Pinball Expo 2009

After work on Friday eve, me, Ben, Allison and Chris all trekked out to a Westin hotel in Des Plaines to attend the 2009 Pinball Expo. Despite some bumps along the way getting there (why is there a hotel way out in the middle of nowhere?), we eventually found the hotel, as well as a spot in the crowded parking lot.

A good sign we’re in the right place.

A row of the “tournament play” machines, where people would be competing all weekend for the highest score.

A couple manning one of the booths right near the front door. The woman has on a hat decorated with faux pinballs; I thought about asking the dog’s name, but they seemed a bit wary of me taking photos.

View of the main room.

As was the case when I came here in 2007, the main room is where many of the vendor show off their wares – circuit boards, ramps and all manner of parts/electronics that go into an actual pinball machine.

It’s not part of an actual working game, and I hand’t done anything other than walk up to this thing… but for some reason, I felt like I won something.

Another view of one of the lanes in the main room.

There’s a secondary room adjoining the main one, and that secondary room tends to be full up with pinball games. Where the main room is open and spread out, the second room is more reminiscent of an old arcade – narrow spaces, and lots of people everywhere.

Score! Tucked way in the back corner of the second room is The Machine: Bride of Pinbot. I played this game a TON while in college (it was in the basement of the main room of the Foster Quad).

My old college friend Jim and I sank a small tuition into this machine.

View from the top.

I forgot how hyper-sexual the whole thing is, with the concept of the game being a robot that slowly becomes a human woman. Also, subtle touches like the above graphic add to that whole feel.

Despite the rather embarassing sound effects, I had a blast playing this thing. I was amazed that there was no one else around, as there was a pretty big line two years ago.

Tonight was a lucky night for me, as this was the first game I played. I walked up, saw the machine, saw that it was open, and played maybe 10 games straight with no one else waiting behind me.

Chris, in the zone.

Back in the main room. Another vendor, showing off neon signs.

Thought this wasn’t a playable game (demo only), there were one or two other working machines elsewhere on the floor.

By a large, this seems to be one of the more popular games. Not sure if it’s because of the Addams Family theme, or if it’s because the gameplay is so fun.

On sale for $4295. See what I mean about being popular? I wans’t shopping around for prices, but few other machines seemed to go this high.

Of course, Star Trek made its way to the pinball world too.

Including this mostly because there’s a black cloth backdrop, complete with faux stars. We had a similar idea to use christmas lights, back when we were discussing our Star Trek Intro.

Saw several of these displays, tucked into fancy metallic suitcases. I know they’re scoreboards, but I kept thinking that we only had a few seconds to defuse the bomb before it went off…

This means something to someone, but not to me.

Outside in the hallway, there was a GIGANTIC machine called Hercules. The actual ball in the machine was around the size of a tennis ball.

Ben and Allison, playing on Bride of Pinbot.

When I first walked by, I was saddened to see the Guns ‘n Roses machine not working. About an hour into the night, I saw the owner tinkering with the glass cover and noticed the machine was lit up and running.

The owner had modded out the game a bit, and wired up a Guitar Hero guitar in lieu of the controls. Instead of using the flipper buttons, you had to play a certain note on the guitar (the flippers and the guitar buttons were color coordinated).

A neat idea, but made the gameplay rather difficult. I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t simply play the game normally.

Probably the BEST find of the night: The Black Knight 2000!

This game was at the 7-11 near my house, and through high school I spent a lot of time just hanging out there. Eating chips. Drinking cokes. And dumping quarters into this machine.

I forgot how awesome the soundtrack was, and you really have to just hear it for yourself.

For a cleaner (and extended) version of the sweet background music, check out this video from Ben.

View of the board.

Note the two levels. There’s a ramp on the far left that launches the ball to the top tier.

Slightly blurry, but hopefully this shows off the two levels.

I totally forgot about this until some guy nearby mentioned it. The game also has a “Magna Save” button. The trigger is the white button, located above the right flipper.

The Magna Save is a strong magnet underneath the board. If your ball looks like it’s going to fall into the outer lane, you can hit the Magna Save and it’ll pull the ball back. When you release, the ball gets released safely into the inner lane.

Circa 1:30 AM. After getting some gas, we’re on our way home. There was a nearby White Castle, and per my request we went through for some food.

The last time I had White Castle was probably when I was in Columbus, as a grad student (back when I kept late, late hours). Ben was correct in his assessment – White Castle is fonder in memory that it is in actuality.

We got back to the city sometime around 2:00 AM. As I walked up the stairs to my apartment, I knew that I would just plop onto the bed and fall asleep quickly. And yet even after closing my eyes, I could still hear the ringing bells and still see all the flashing lights of those magnificent pinball machines. And every so often, somewhere in the backgorund, I’d hear the the thick and heavy *POP* that signifies a free game.

Pinball Expo 2007: Free Play Heaven
Collection of Pinball Promotional Videos
Visiting Nickel City Arcade, Family Entertainment Center

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Allison was the only girl I saw in any of the images and video on here (besides the older woman in the beginning) Craziness.

    Liz Reply

  2. There was a mixture of guys and girls there (and more than what show up in my photos/videos). In fact, I’m always surprised at the number of kids I end up seeing too, given how late it is. Not a ton, but there are some families wandering the rooms as well.But yeah. There were way more dudes.

    avoision Reply

  3. I own a BK2K and loved your write-up! It’s definitely one of my favorite games. It’s been a while since I was able to hit a pinball show in my area — the last one was held in a local mall, which kept me & my game away due to security concerns.One minor BK2K operation correction: the Magna-Save button will only *start* the ball-saving electromagnet running. The game program decides when to turn it off (holding/releasing the button does nothing.) I believe the amount of time it activates is determined by an adjustment. It’s something like 2-3 seconds by default, which seems like forever.I think the original Black Knight game made use of this feature, as well — in both outlanes. Apparently it featured variable (player-controlled, to a point) EM time, as you mentioned.However, now you’ve got me wondering if holding down the button actually does anything different! I’ll have to try it out. :)

    Chris Atkins Reply

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