When was the last time you played a pinball machine? It’s probably not an easy question to answer. There aren’t too many machines around anymore. Sure, you might spot a lonely cabinet at a bar or pizza parlor on a rare occasion. Your best bet would be an arcade…if you can find one of those. My local arcade (Supercade) closed its doors several years ago and since then it had been tough to get my pinball fix. At least until I discovered Pin-a-go-go, an annual pinball convention held in Dixon California. For a modest entrance fee (benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Sacramento) pinball enthusiasts can play all the pinball they want, with all 100+ machines set on free play. The convention also serves as a swap meet of sorts where owners can sell machines and trade parts. It really is an impressive gathering, pulling in fans and vendors from all over the bay area and northern California.
This was my third year at Pin-a-go-go and I wasted little time, arriving soon after it opened on Saturday morning. Even at that hour, there was already a pretty big crowd on hand. The first machine I played was Doctor Who, a Bally machine (created in the early 90s) and based on the original BBC series. My first few rounds weren’t very awe-inspiring. I soon moved on to The Addams Family, a Midway machine themed around the 1991 movie. I finally hit my stride with that machine, ultimately perfecting the skillshot, prompting the Thing to emerge out of its box and retrieve my ball from the playing field, saving it for a future multi-ball round. After several rounds played throughout the day, I eventually hit a personal-best of over 77,000,000 points. Not bad, but according to Twin Galaxies, I still have a ways to go; the world record is 332,020,990. But my ridiculously high score of the day was achieved on Twister, a Sega machine based on the 1996 Bill Paxton/Helen Hunt tornado flick. Whether you’re a pinball veteran or a complete newbie, this is the machine to play if you need an instant boost in confidence. It’s relatively easy and very forgiving, seemingly awarding multi-ball craziness every few seconds. At the end of one session that seemed to drag on for over 20 minutes, I walked away with a score of 1,467,390,060. This was a first so I had to take a picture. I don’t think I’ve scored over a billion points on anything. Still it wasn’t enough for a record since the machine’s top score was well over three billion.
My performance on other machines was novice-like at best. Missed Mr. Hankey’s toilet bowl multi-ball on South Park. Never made it past the rank of Lieutenant on Star Trek TNG. Failed to trigger the water skiing mini-game on Baywatch. Only fed the T-rex once on Jurassic Park. Nevertheless, I had a blast, even though my crazy flipper-fingers are a bit sore today. So if you’re a pinball fan and find yourself in northern California in mid-May, head on over to Dixon. Supporting a worthwhile charity has never been so much fun.