“In 2018, there was nowhere to play pinball in Long Beach. It was a pinball desert, and it was my mission to get pinball here.” Says Gerald Kirchner. He’s the founder of two leagues. Pinball Wizards, Beachwood Brewing & Distilling in Long Beach, and Pinball Wizards, Good Times Family Billiards in Lakewood.
If you’re an Angelino, there’s a good chance you’re not far from where you can get your flip on. Pinball has been rising since 2013, and now it’s taking off. Machines are popping up all over the place. Did you know there are pinball leagues and tournaments?
Kirchner fell in love with the game in 1977, at the age of four, when his brother took him to a 7/11 where they had a pin. “He lifted me up and showed me the world of pinball. Ever since, I’ve loved all things pinball.” Says Kirchner. “By the age of nine, me and my friends were taking the bus from Belmont Heights to The Lakewood Mall to play at Aladdin's Castle and sometimes all the way to Downey to play at Golf N’ Stuff. That place was huge for pinball at the time.”
The first time pinball caught my attention was when Rad Coffee announced they were opening Horrorcade, The First Horror Arcade Pop-Up, inside of their West Covina location in November 2021. A coffee shop with punk show flyers on their walls and horror-themed pinball, how could I resist? They have ten pinball games, some of which include: Halloween, Ghostbusters, Freddy: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Elvira, The Munsters, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. If you're on a drive east, it's an excellent place to make a stop.
Why the Comeback?
Kirchner tells me that Pinball was hanging on by a thread in 2013. The manufacturer, Stern, noticed an interest in the home market in 2010 and started launching one to two games yearly. They split these games into two tiers; one for the home market and one for arcades. The tier for the home market is a more limited edition run and can include different features and artwork. The Signature Edition model of Elvira’s House of Horrors includes a swatch of fabric from her iconic red velvet sofa. “The home market kept Stern chugging along until 2013 when they hit it with their Metallica game. I think one of the reasons is that It’s a good game. Pinball players like, and for the general public, it’s approachable, it’s fun, and you have the popularity of Metallica, right? It just really struck a chord with people.”
Mia Mazadiego and Mark Guenther, owners of Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, thinks that people gravitate towards pinball because there’s the physical aspect of a ball in motion that is a little more intuitive for some people than playing a video game. Mazadiego says, “There’s always so much going on in the actual game, but when you look at the controls, it’s just two buttons,” Says Guenther. “If you jump in and play Street Fighter, now you have a joystick and six buttons. It can be much more intimidating for some people.”
This is a tiny snapshot of places where you can play pinball in L.A. County. Check out Pinball Map to find pinball near you! This is a fantastic resource. It’ll tell you how many machines are at each location and which machines.
That was more than ten places, but 13 is s a good number too. My favorite game? Tales from the Crypt! There’s a good chance you’ll find me at Rad Coffee in Long Beach on a Friday or Saturday, having some cold brew and getting my flip on.
Also, check out IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association) Here, you’ll find tournaments, leagues, upcoming events, pinball news, rankings, and all things pinball.
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