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Keeping The Game Alive At The Rocky Mtn. Pinball Showdown

In an electronic age of social media, Facebook games, summer blockbusters and other distractions what has happened to the amusements of yesterday? They're still alive in Colorado.

Don't call it a comeback. It isn't a revival either. Pinball, and the arcade for that matter, isn't going recapture the cultural zeitgeist that it once had. Where there were once a handful of American pinball manufacturers, now only one remains - Stern Pinball.

At the Rocky Mtn. Pinball Showdown, it's a celebration of the history of the game - and its continued stubborn existence.

Set amongst the loud clatter, alarms, beeps and bells of over a hundred games are tournaments, vendors, spare parts, seminars, and the camaraderie of fans of all ages. Some of those players are brought by parents and their fond memories of growing up in the pinball age.

Credit Steve Grasso / Used with Permission
Used with Permission
Much like older model cars needs parts - so do pinball machines. Vendors and Coin-op experts help keep the machines alive and playing

It isn't just nostalgia either, there are new pinball games. Gamers need a new challenge. As The Verge notes in their retrospective of the life and death of the American arcade, Stern Pinball produces about three new games a year. One of those newer titles was on display, based on last summer's blockbuster The Avengers.

If you're curious on what goes into producing a modern pinball machine, pictures of the The Avengers machine in its infancy and development can be found in The Verge's story, 'Inside one of the last pinball factories in the world.'

Slideshow: Pictures from the 2013 Rocky Mtn. Pinball Showdown

The Rocky Mtn. Pinball Showdown celebrated its tenth year showcasing pinball, but it isn't alone in Colorado. There are year-round places to play. Lyon's Classic Pinball has been at it just as long, a business that started out as a hobby of collecting pinball machines. There's Denver's 1up and PinBall Jones in Fort Collins.

There's also your closest basement. A few of the machines at the Showdown are brought by the very fans that attend the expo. Kept in working order and shared with fellow like-minded players.

Pinball isn't likely to reclaim its throne as a prime amusement, but for fans in Colorado and at the Showdown, there are still a few games that aren't on tilt.


Special thanks to photographer Steve Grasso, who contributed photos to this post - those photos are copyright Steve Grasso 2013 and used with permission.

I’m not a Colorado native (did you know that "I'm from Missouri" means "I'm skeptical of the matter and not easily convinced?") but I have lived here for most of my life and couldn't imagine leaving. After graduating from Colorado State University, I did what everyone wants to do; I moved to the mountains and skied, hiked, and hid from responsibility! Our listeners in the mountains may know me from my time in Steamboat Springs and Vail or as the voice of the Battle Mountain Huskies Hockey team in Vail.
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