NWPAS Wrap up
How quickly the biggest pinball and arcade show comes and goes! I spend weeks looking forward to it, they spend months planning it, and then in three short days June it's here and gone. Though I had a wonderful time as always and wanted to report on some highlights.
This was my ninth time attending the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show and I still have the best time. When I started going in 2008 (just a year after the show started) the show was still in Seattle and still referred to as PAGS – Pinball Arcade and Gameroom Show. Now NWPAS is held at the Tacoma Convention Center and they allow us to take over the entire top floor of the event space! I heard that this year had the most games than any other, clocking in at around 475 machines. And somehow it didn't seem any more crowded than usual.
Walking out to the show floor on Friday the first thing we did was say hi to Tommy Floyd at his awesome looking Nitro Amusements display. Tommy is a major distributor in Canada and works with all the main companies like Stern, Jersey Jack, and Spooky. One of the big surprises of his booth was the Thunderbirds pin made by a brand new company called Homepin.
After chatting with him about the affordability of it (only $5k – USD, not loonies and toonies), I started a game with Levi (operator of Flip Flip Ding Ding) and Gordon (editor at Skill Shot). I didn't have much time to figure out the rules and instead just tried hitting all the cool looking shots. It's got a great sound system, a ramp that feeds to the pop bumpers, and some neat bash toys.
One of my main goals for the weekend was to play one each of the nine Iron Maiden pinball machines. I think I got through five of them, but the line was always a couple people deep on each game. Definitely one of the new pins that was in high demand that weekend.
My other goal was to win a NWPAS token from the Safe Cracker pin. After failing a few games in a row on Saturday, I went to it first thing in the morning on the last day and won! This pinball machine has a board game on the back box where you're trying to break into the vault of a bank, all the while being thwarted by guards, robot dogs, and alarms to deactivate.
The show also included the world's largest pinball machine – Hercules. I've played it before at the Pinball museum in the International District, but there's no sense in passing up another opportunity. It's so large that it uses a cue ball from a billard's table as the pinball. My arms are almost too short to reach each flipper button. It's massive!
There were pinball tournaments all weekend long for classics (pins from the late '70s and before), amateur players, women, and open divisions. I gave the open tournament a shot mostly out of a sense of tradition, but did not play well enough to move on. But I did get to play a game with my friend Gene X Wang who was visiting from San Fran and had never been to this show before. He won our game. Visitor's luck!
Another pin I was pretty excited to play was the new game from Jersey Jack – Pirates of the Caribbean. Many years ago Stern made one of these, but Jersey Jack's version is pretty advanced compared to that other one! Coolest things about it are the moving ship, the compass that points to the most valuable shot on the table, and the tilt warning near the flippers so you're never surprised when you shake the machine too much.
My favorite vendor was definitely Pingravings (https://sites.google.com/view/pingravings) who is a new company that makes these gorgeous pinball art pieces by engraving them on balsa wood. I bought a framed Gorgar piece. And they had made a present for us at Skill Shot which was engravings of some covers of the zine! Amazing!
I only managed to get to one seminar but I'd bet it was the best one all weekend. Raymond Davidson (#1 player in the world and two time IFPA champion from Mukilteo) versus Robert Gagno (#8 in the world and star of the Netflix documentary Wizard Mode) battling each other. The cool thing about it was they also challenged the two champs on a series of drills, showing off their advanced playing techniques, all the while answering questions from the audience and hosts Ashley Weaver and Chase Nunes. Really cool to witness those two heavyweights go at it on an Attack From Mars pinball machine. Even though I lost $2 betting on Raymond in the earlier drills, he eventually won the last challenge and thus the entire match. USA!
On top of all of this there were just so many wonderful people who attended. The NW show is really the best place for a pinball family reunion and a chance to play the best and newest games. Plus there's usually an after party at The Triple Knock in case you didn't quite get your fill of pinball, or meet up at The Mix for a night of karaoke if you're all pinballed out.