Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Player 1 Has Joined The Game

As I mentioned earlier, pinball is going through somewhat of a resurgence.  One of these signs is that there in now a pinball league in Ames, IA.  It has existed for a couple years now but I only joined for the latest season.  I'd been looking/hoping for a league in the area for a several years, but there was nothing...and then when I did see the league in Ames...I had excuses.  The league is run by KD Amusement, the big arcade, pinball, billiards, darts, jukebox operator and supplier in Ames.

I've wanted to join since the beginning but came up with excuses on why I couldn't join...

  • I'm too busy
  • The season has already started
  • I'm not good enough
  • I'll have to miss some nights, so it's not worth it
  • I don't like bars
  • It's a long way to drive to just play pinball
  • A league run by an operator seems sketchy
  • I tend not to like people that take any subject too seriously
  • etc...
Some of those excuses have various degrees of validity but mostly it was just an excuse for me to not try something new and to just be lazy.  I can play pinball at home, but I forced myself out of my comfort zone and joined the league.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I first joined but league night has become one of my favorite nights of the week.  I don't know my fellow league members that well yet, but I am enjoying hanging out with others and playing pinball...unfortunately pinball had become a more and more solitary hobby for me, so it is nice to get out more often with others.

How pinball league works - we meet on Main Street in Ames, every Tuesday at 7pm.  You are randomly assigned to a team competitors of 3-4 players and then randomly assigned a location and machine.  The league plays at four different bars on Main Street all within about a block of each other...the machines can vary throughout the season as the location setup is changed for variety. So far this season I have played on five different machines (Medieval Madness, Revenge From Mars, Iron Man, Twilight Zone, and Pirates of the Caribbean).

Your team will play 4 rounds, and you are scored on how well you did versus the other members on your team.  1st place machine score gets 3 points, 2nd place machine score gets 2 points, and 3rd place gets 1 point. If the 1st place player's score is more than the 2nd & 3rd places score combined, the first place player will get a bonus point...if not, the bonus point goes to the 4th place player.

So here is the responses to my previous excuses:
  • Luckily, I have an understanding girlfriend who encourages my hobbies and understands why I am not spending time with her.  I am busy and sometimes it is a little bit of a hassle getting home from work, taking care of my dogs, and then making it up to pinball league...but it isn't too bad if I keep focused.
  • In the past, I had always remembered/found out about the league after the season had started.  I was worried that I would just be thrown in and not part of the group...but the group is very welcoming and it is easy to make up past games (stay late and play more rounds with others).  You can join any time and be welcomed and if you stay to make up some games, you can easily be competitive.
  • I was worried that I wouldn't be good enough...but there are all levels of play and each round can very significantly.  I haven't had a team where one player completely dominated.  To show the variance one week, I finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th throughout the night's match.  I must admit that I am in the lower rankings of the twelve league members, but that is more due to just having off nights when others are doing good and random team assignment.  I don't feel like I am being embarrassed by the other players.  Just bad luck...but I am still having a lot of fun.
  • I have and will miss some nights this season, but it is fairly easy to make up the games the following week (or later), you can even pre-play some games if you know you are going to be gone.  The league is fairly flexible with that.
  • I still don't like bars, but being with like minded people and keeping busy playing pinball makes it tolerable.
  • It is a long drive to play (about 35 minutes) but I am usually looking forward enough to it that I don't really even there can be added benefits (like last night were I found a perfectly good two wheeled cart that someone was throwing out - you know the kind that is nice for moving pinball machines).
  • I was a little worried about the league being run by the operator (corruption), but it all seems good.  it seems to be run pretty well and KD only takes a small percentage of league dues for overhead.  It is actually kind of nice that someone from the company is usually there to help fix the pins if anything goes wrong.  It is also kind of cool  to get some "inside" type info on the industry and the games.
  • Most members of the league are pretty easy going and don't take the game too seriously.  There is much less cursing and hitting things than I thought there would be (although there is a little of that from certain members).  Mostly it's just a good time even if you are doing badly.
If you'd like to join the Ames Pinball League send an email to And there is still plenty of time left in the join now!

I am really enjoying pinball league.  If there is one near you, you should join.  It is a fun time, just hanging out and playing pinball and usually drinking.  In fact, I am thinking about starting a league for Des Moines this spring or summer.  If you are interesting in that, drop me a line and I'll keep in touch (and probably bounce some things off you too).

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