Posts Tagged ‘pinball’

It’s all fun and games until somebody gets shot: My very short, very upsetting attempt to play pinball early one Wednesday morning

March 19, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 19, 2020

Author’s note: Although this post is not graphic, it involves violence. It also includes some foul language and refers to drug usage. As such, it may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.

Worth noting, perhaps, is that I started writing this blog post several days ago but put it on hold as concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic surged. I apologize for the delay. MEM

Around 10 minutes after midnight on the morning of Wednesday, March 11, I walked into a Durham establishment that I will refer to as Pinball Oasis. Pretty much right away I noticed that something was off.

A strange grouping of people was arrayed near the high-top tables on the far side of the pinball cluster. Two men were facing each other; behind each, a few people were fanned out. After I showed my identification to a staffer at the front desk, I took a moment to study this formation.

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Drive, return, blackout: Selected sketches from my holiday travels

January 6, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 6, 2019 2020

I left my home on the morning of Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, and did a bit of holiday shopping in downtown Durham before heading north to the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. (I later realized, in reviewing and deleting old email messages, that my shopping errand could have been done over the weekend thanks to the magic of extended store hours — alas.)

On the evening of the last full day of my trip (more about which I may describe in a future post[s]), I stopped at the home of friends in Northern Virginia. After enjoying lunch at an Ashburn restaurant called Pho Noménal, I struck out for North Carolina.

I parked south of downtown Raleigh around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2020, and walked over to Boxcar, the arcade and bar. After playing a bit of Batman ’66 (Stern 2016), where I don’t believe I got to the main multiball even once, I switched to Monster Bash — again, I’m not sure if it’s the 1998 Williams original or the 2018 Chicago Gaming remake, although I suspect the latter — and put up one good score and some mediocre ones.

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Florida flipping: My pinball excursion to Orlando* (*by which I mean Oviedo)

September 19, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 19, 2019

I went to Orlando to do one thing: Watch Stanford football. But in booking my trip, I gave myself a few days on either side of the actual football game against UCF. I looked online for a few other activities to fill the time.

A quick search of a handy app named Pinball Map revealed that the Orlando area has three locations with large numbers of pinball machines. For reasons that escape me, they’re all in a town called Oviedo, which is five miles north of the University of Central Florida and about 15 miles northeast of central Orlando.

The first pinball venue that I stopped at was District Eat and Play, which is located in Oviedo Mall. When I visited on Thursday evening, the facility was so dark that I at first believed it was entirely abandoned. This is one of the old-style enclosed malls that were popular in the latter half of the 20th century, as opposed to the street-style shopping districts that have supplanted them. (Incidentally, I suspect this trend might be cyclical, but it could be decades before a possible shift back to indoor malls, so I may not live to know the truth.)

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The sign that wasn’t there

August 18, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 18, 2018

The other day, I wrote about my woeful performances in two recent pinball tournaments. What I didn’t mention was that I was feeling a little off-kilter going into this month’s event.

Part of the reason was that my stomach was a bit uneasy that evening; part of it was that I left for the venue a little later than was ideal. That last factor ties into the forthcoming vignette about something else that was distracting me entering the tournament.

Because it was raining and I wanted to avoid getting wet, I drove to the parking deck right across the street from the arcade. The structure has two entrances; the main one is on Ramseur Street, but there’s also an auxiliary entrance on Main Street. I used the latter portal.

But as soon as I’d passed the open gate, a man rose from the stool he’d been perched upon about 25 feet from the entrance and signaled to get my attention. I rolled down my window.

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Pinball gizzard times two: My tale of amusement-machine woe

August 14, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 14, 2018

Two months ago, I wrote (extensively!) about my first-ever pinball tournament championship. I’d now like to recap my performances in the two knockout-style pinball events that I’ve participated in since.

• Date: June 20, 2018
Venue: Boxcar, Raleigh, N.C.
Format: Group knockout (elimination upon three strikes)

Match 1: Total Nuclear Annihilation, Spooky Pinball, 2017 (four players)
Result: Lowest score of four (plus one strike)
Status: Χ

Match 2: Dialed In, Jersey Jack Pinball, 2017 (four players)
Result: One of the bottom two scores (plus one strike)
Status: ΧΧ

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Pinball wizard or pinball gizzard? Tourney tales

June 15, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 15, 2018

I now interrupt my extended — nearly finished! — recounting of last month’s poker (mis)adventures (and my political-tweet interludes) to recount this week’s pinball (mis)adventures!

After getting hooked on pinball over the first half of 2017, I participating in a couple of Raleigh-based tournaments each month. However, I cut back on my competitive play earlier this year, since I felt that my skills were stagnating. But my friend K— began running pinball events on the second Wednesday evening of each month at Quarter Horse, an arcade that opened last year in downtown Durham. I wanted to support K—, and the event is about as convenient to my home as can be, so I’ve played in it regularly.

On Wednesday evening this week, I was running a little late and got to Quarter Horse just a few minutes before the competition’s scheduling starting time of 7:30. As we had 16 players, round 1 began with four groups of four players. My quartet was assigned to The X-Files, a 1997 Sega machine based on the hit television show. (The table’s development was apparently tied into the first X-Files movie, which came out in June 1998.)

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How I became a pinhead

October 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 24, 2017

A friend got me interested in pinball. Back in 2014 or 2015, I think, he bought a World Cup Soccer table. I occasionally noodled around with it when visiting his house.

In 2016, my buddy invited me to play in a couple of monthly tournaments at a downtown Raleigh bar/restaurant/arcade called Level Up. For a while, I resisted his blandishments, but eventually I decided to give competitive pinball play a try.

My first tournament was in March 2016; I finished in a three-way tied for last place in a 19-person field. I’ve played every other month or so since then, although I’ve never placed better than a two-way tie for seventh out of 15 participants.

I might have remained an extremely casual pinball player but for a few things. One was a complicated chain of events that began with the extended illness of a relative, which prompted me to spend a bunch of time in Ye Olde Family Home up north at the beginning of this year.

I had a few days in mid-January to myself. I wanted to participate in the annual charity Scrabble tournament in Durham, but I didn’t want to do a 1,000-mile road trip over the course of four days or so. I wound up driving to North Carolina and booking a pair of flights to take me up north and back down to Cackalacky.

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Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 2

June 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 29, 2017

Late Tuesday afternoon, I showered, took the dog outside and set out for Sterling, Va., which is a 20 or 25-minute drive from where I’m staying. I was going to — well, let’s call it Massive Marvin’s, a dining establishment that a pair of Internet websites assured me had six pinball machines.

I haven’t yet blogged about pinball, but in brief: I started playing casually sometime last year at the instigation of my friend D—, who’d picked up a pinball jones in 2015 or so; I began developing a true pinball obsession myself about two months ago, which has evolved to the point that I played pinball at five different Triangle venues in the four days leading up to my departure for Virginia.

My phone’s navigation program led me to a nondescript shopping center in a part of Northern Virginia that looked remarkably like every other shopping center that was developed in Northern Virginia in the 1990s. It contained a supermarket, a tool store, a library, an automotive parts store, a few restaurants… The place I was looking for was right by the entrance I’d used, so I found it without too much effort.

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