Like vinyl records and postcards, pinball simply will not die. Despite technology providing plenty of digital alternatives to the quarter-hungry beasts of the 1970s, the public's interest in these anachronisms doesn't seem to be waning, says Dan Nikolich, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and Gameroom Expo.
"I bought my first pinball machine about ten years ago," Nikolich remembers. "I said I'd just buy one and that's it. But then I bought another. And another. After that, I saw there were pinball competitions all over the country, so my wife, Holly, and I started the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown about nine years ago."
The Showdown has grown into a three-day event, with nine different competitions, $2,500 in cash prizes, and exhibitions by pinball manufacturers and professionals on the history of the game as well as its modern resurgence. Last year 1,700 people attended the event -- and Nikolitch anticipates around 2,000 will come to this weekend's event. "People fly in from all over the world just to compete in [the RMPS] -- from London, Canada, California," he says. "There are local players who are rated in the top 25 of the International Flipper Pinball Association. There are four or five local monthly tournaments."
In addition to the nine pinball tournaments of the weekend (the Open Tournament winner will pull in a cool $1K) the RMPS will also have plenty of classic arcade games like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac Man set to free-play (no quarters needed), with players ranging from "kids from four years old to grandmothers who are 85 years old," says Nikolich. "Adults are rediscovering pinball with nostalgia -- and younger people are discovering it for the first time. Kids used to playing video games haven't seen anything like it." "You can't replicate pinball on a video screen," Nikolich continues. "That was the death of arcade games. With Nintendo and eventually Xbox, you could play these games with perfect graphics and home theater sound. But digital pinball doesn't compare with a steel ball rolling across a piece of wood. It's its own little world under the glass; the ball physically interacts with something else. That's not the case on a video screen."
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The Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and Gameroom Expo begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 27, continues until midnight and then runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center, located at 10250 East Costilla Avenue. Admission is $20 per day, or $50 for a three-day pass. Kids seven to ten years old receive a discount of $10 per day or $25 on a weekend pass. All games are set to free-play once inside, though fees of $5 to $6 are asked for the tournaments.