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Texas Pinball Festival Goes Full Tilt

Image By ElHeineken via Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Pinball Festival recently concluded its fourth consecutive year at the Frisco Convention Center, and judging from the masses that were in attendance Sunday, this is one popular event in our fair burb.

This year marked my first to check out this cool event and after being inside the festival for only a few minutes, I pinched myself wondering why I’d waited so long?

Even before paying admission and receiving a wristband, you are almost overwhelmed with the sights and sounds emanating from a wide array of pinball machines and video games–cool and recognizable sound effects, bells, and whistles.

The best thing about the Texas Pinball Festival is that pretty much every machine and video game there can be played, for free of course. And if you have a favorite TV show, movie, comic book character or band, it’s a safe bet they’re represented here.

Among the famous TV shows that I saw portrayed in pinball form was Family Guy, a popular title which sadly I never got the chance to play, along with The Simpsons, which being a huge fan of this animated juggernaut, I did play. I also checked out a Rocky and Bullwinkle machine and being a huge fan of the zombie genre, way before it went mainstream, I also played The Walking Dead machine.

There were also plenty of movie-themed machines, with The Black Hole, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ghostbusters, Johnny Mnemonic, Star Trek, Star Wars and Terminator 2 being the more memorable titles I saw.

As for comic book characters and/or superheroes, this genre was also well-represented as I saw machines featuring such heavyweights as Batman and Spider Man. The Batman machine I played features the current incarnation of the Dark Knight as played by Christian Bale.

Well-known musical acts were also well represented with machines tied to both Metallica and one for The Who’s popular rock opera, Tommy.

Heavy metal superstar Rob Zombie is also in the pinball game with his Spookshow International Pinball Machine, which intertwines elements from his popular horror films like House of 10,000 Courses with his music as a solo artist or from his days fronting White Zombie.

For those who like old-school pinball, there were also plenty of great vintage machines from days gone by. One of the cooler vintage machines I saw as a Muhammad Ali one manufactured by Stern back in 1980, and yes, I gave it a play or two. It was just as great as I remembered from when I was a kid.

Other vintage machines I checked out included Bobby Orr Hockey and Space Odyssey, which was produced by Williams in 1976.

A colleague of mine who is a big pinball aficionado and owns a Congo machine but who couldn’t make it to Frisco gave me a few tips on which machines to check out. He told me to try to play the machines featuring The Hobbit and The Wizard of Oz.

His other recommendation was to try to play the Dialed In machine, where players are connected to one another via a Bluetooth connection.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of his three recommendations, but it didn’t dim my enjoyment of the festival one bit.

Another pretty cool machine was the Jurassic Park machine, one which comes equipped with PinSound, which gives players a complete immersive experience where the accompanying audio supplements the playing experience with well-timed sound effects.

The 2017 Texas Pinball Festival started on Friday, March 24 and ran through Sunday, March 26. And throughout the weekend, there were special guests signing autographs. The headlining guest on Saturday was Cassandra Peterson, who is better known as Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

Sam Jones, best known for playing Flash Gordon in the 1980 feature film of the same name, was also at the festival. Several years back, Jones re-entered the pop culture lexicon by appearing in both installments of Ted, which was written by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who also happened to voice the title character in both installments.

But if pinball isn’t your thing, there were also a hearty number of vintage video games there for playing, with titles like Defender, Joust, Missile Command, Pac-Man and Q*Bert present as well as several machines where more than 30 different titles could be played at the touch of a button.

There are also plenty of pinball-themed vendors selling everything from pinball shirts to stickers to even spare parts.

Yes, this might all sound like complete sensory overload, and believe me, it was, but in a good way. But the overwhelming sentiment I had after departing the 2017 Texas Pinball Festival was just how much I enjoyed it and that I couldn’t wait for next year’s event.