Fist full of change

The sense of nostalgia permeated the room as people had opportunity to play old machines and a chance to experience the latest trends in pinball.

The Michigan Pinball Expo was hosted by Oakland University  this past weekend from April 12-15.

People ranging from seasoned and grizzled pinball tournament kings, to their children, turned up to play more than 150 machines held by private collectors and showcased by pinball companies.

That sense of reliving childhood memories ran deep in many of the people attending. With some of the games dating back to the 1940s, people relived their fondest childhood moments, replayed their first pinball game again.

Along with the old however, came many new machines. One such machine, called Big Juicy Melons, was showcased by Whizbang Pinball, LLC, an American pinball company headquartered in Chicago.

According to Greg Freres, co-owner of Whizbang, developing the machine took much time, patience and research. From its rules, to the pin-up inspired art on the playing field as well as on the

back board, everything was

hand made Whizbang Pinball, LLC.

“We bought four old (pinball) games and we completely reconfigured them into one game,” Freres said.

Another featured game was the 2012 Stern AC/DC machines, which were hooked to live score board and had their boards projected onto a screen for tournament play.

The most anticipated machine, however, was the Wizard of Oz machine made by N.J. based Jersey Jack Pinball.

The machine, one of which was being raffled off at the expo, features many “industry firsts,” including a 26-inch LCD screen in the backboard showing clips and characters from the movie, custom sounds and animations that represent a new trend in pinball manufacturers to incorporating more modern technologies.

“More (manufacturers) are trending towards LCD TVs,” John Kosmal, the event’s director, said. “It’s making games more modern.”

Modern technology has impacted the way machines are being made.

“The 1990s are when you saw an explosion of the depth of rules,” Freres said. “Now, with better (computer) chips, it’s opened even more exciting opportunities.”

Even with all the innovations in developing and manufacturing pinball machines, many attendees preferred the older machines, with wood and metal construction and their well-worn buttons and edges.

“It’s not like a video game,” Kosmal said. “Each time you play, it’s unique. There’s always a different way to approach your goal, and that’s what people like. It’s the feel of it.”




Contact Staff Intern Stefan Pelak via email at [email protected]