The Pinball Expo rolls into OU

The Oakland Center’s banquet halls were filled with lines of pinball machines ranging from electromechanical machines dating back to the 50s to modern machines based on movies like Lord of the Rings and Iron Man. The sounds of pop bumpers and flippers filled the hall as players young and old enjoyed a classic American pastime throughout the weekend.

Event organizer John Kosmal set up the Michigan Pinball Expo to try an give Michigan fans a taste of the expos that other states have had for years. Kosmal said that he’s been to pinball expos for years in other states but there’s never been one in Michigan for collectors and players to attend.

“There are other shows across the country and we thought we could do it better than other shows. We’re trying to put our best foot forward,” Kosmal said.

Kosmal brought five pinball machines from his own collection for players to use at the expo.

Pinball has been a popular American pastime since the early twentieth century, back before flippers were even added to machines. It blossomed between the 70s through the 90s, but currently the only pinball manufacturer left still in business is Stern. Few arcades remain that keep and maintain pinball machines, with a decline in pinball as video games gain popularity.

However, groups of people still collect and play pinball. Kosmal says there’s a tactile experience you get from pinball, and a randomness that video games can’t duplicate.

“Pinball is a different experience. It’s 3D, it’s live, it’s physical. There’s geometry and physics involved.”

Kosmal is a member of the Detroit Pinball League, a metro area group of collectors that gather monthly to play each other’s pinball collections. Kosmal himself has over 40 pinball machines and won second place in the 2007 international pinball PAPA tournament. Most of the pins used at the Michigan Pinball Expo were brought by member of the league. Others were exhibited by local pinball sales outfits, like Big Toys.

Event organizer and co-founder of the Detroit Pinball League John White said that they were seeing a higher turnout than they expected at the expo. League members were volunteered at the expo by setting up tournaments and making sure that all the pins were in working order.

The expo attracted pinball veterans and newbies alike, but the hardcore pinball competitors went head to head in the expo tournaments.

There were tournaments set up into amateur and professional divisions, with a $1,000 prize given to the winner of the main division. The winner of the “A” division, Andy Rosa, took home the $1,000 prize.

Kosmal said that if this year’s expo turns out to be a hit, then the expo will be back at OU next year.