Date: March 23rd & 24th, 2013
This is our first visit to the Midwest Gaming Classic, being held at the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Actually, the MGC isn't exactly held at the Sheraton, it takes it over for the weekend. Almost every room - with the exception of most of the guest bedrooms - contains some kind of games-related display or attraction.
The show was still being set up when we arrived, as it didn't officially open until 10am on Saturday.
Games, parts and displays were arriving and being unloaded on Friday afternoon. There was evidence of a recent snowfall all around, but there was no disruption to the roads and the temperature was relatively pleasant in the afternoon sunshine.
The front desk was still under construction.
But they had plenty of T-shirts in stock and they were already selling some to early visitors and those unloading their games.
If you're visiting or staying at the hotel, there is no escaping the MGC. This area was later used for playing board games.
Even the bar has a very attractive modded Tron machine which was hosting a high score competition. Entry costs $2 per play and the winner was announced on Sunday as Joshua Henderson who took home the prize pot of $105.
The main corridor through the hotel was already nearly full of machines - both pinballs and video games - and it continued to fill up as the last few remaining spaces were occupied on Saturday.
On one wall is a bank of eight pinballs which look like they will be used in the tournaments. They are 2 x Spider-Man, 2 x F-14 Tomcat, 2 x World Cup Soccer, a Fireball and a Silverball Mania. A Panthera replaced the Silverball Mania on Saturday morning and an Orbitor 1 was also in the line-up.
There was actually a tournament on Friday night, where competitors played one game on a selection of different machines. Entries were already sold out for this one, but one of the machines used was a beautifully restored Fish Tales, which featured the ColorDMD Sigma display we showed you at the Texas Pinball Festival. This time though, the display was green (although the camera made the brighter parts look white in the picture below).
In one of the larger side rooms, the Arcade Hall - sponsored by Jersey Jack Pinball - was already full of machines.
Vince (TheKorn) and Angela (SheKorn) brought a Zaccaria Time Machine with some attractive playfield lighting mods fitted.
After a long journey to the MGC from Las Vegas, some liquid refreshment was most welcome, and it wasn't necessary to visit the bar to combine beer and pinball thanks to this game.
Simply score 100,000 points or more with your three balls, and at the end of the game the tap on the backbox is enabled and you can pour yourself some home-brew beer. Genius.
As the show opened, this room was the focus for pinball fans.
Here's a full list of the 85 pinballs in the Arcade Hall at the start of the second day.
Just outside the Arcade Hall, Jersey Jack Pinball distributor PinCades has a The Wizard of Oz machine for guests to play.
Pincades were selling The Wizard of Oz playfields ($400), translites ($80 or $120) and backglasses ($250), as well as sheets of Invisiglass ($250). They were also selling standard edition machines for $7000, a standard model with Invisiglass and a shaker motor fitted for $7300, and taking pre-orders on The Hobbit for $7500.
Eric Meunier and Matt Riesterer from Jersey Jack Pinball were also there to tell visitors about the game, which had a constant queue to play it.
Elsewhere in the hotel, video games and pinballs popped-up in many of the corridors.
The Star Wars was running the new updated version of the software, while all three were used to demonstrate the P.I.G. 2 controller board which simplifies adding powered mods to games.
With the show open, guests either playing or watching the games often made the corridors difficult to navigate.
A little further down the corridor, a food stand was set up selling burgers, chocolate bars, cold drinks and other assorted snacks.
One machine which caught our eye was this Bally City Slicker, one of only three hundred made. This one had red powder-coated trim as well, but unfortunately sold quickly and was then not available to play.
Next to the City Slicker machine, Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres were exhibiting their Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons game.
Here's a list of the pinball machines found in various locations around the building. Because they were occasionally moved in and taken out when sold, the list is just a snapshot of a particular moment on Sunday morning.
But while there are plenty of pinballs and coin-op video games, there was just as much - if not even more - home video gaming represented here. That means consoles from Nintendo, Atari, Sega and others, as well as home computing from Atari, Commodore and on PCs and Macs.
This was well illustrated as setting-up was well under way inside the main vendor hall, where it appears the stands were nearly all related to video games rather than pinball.
First thing on Saturday morning, everyone seemed to descend on the vendor hall to try to grab some early bargains, making it extremely busy. After a couple of hours though, things had calmed down.
To provide more vendor space, some of the guest bedrooms on the ground floor were given over to vendors.
In the room next to Rob, Benjamin Heckendorn and Charlie Emery were combining their efforts to show the progress so far on their respective games - Ben's Ghost Squad and Charlie's Pinball Zombies from Beyond the Grave...
Ben's playfield and control system was housed in Charlie's cabinet, and made available for visitors to play.
The hybrid used a Pinball Zombies from Beyond the Grave... cabinet, backbox and translite.
Many other conference rooms on the hotel's lower floor were full of classic video games systems, including consoles and home computers.
Back upstairs, the pinball tournament area was one of the busiest.
Entry to the main tournament cost $10 for 3 games. There were five different models to play - Spider-Man, F-14 Tomcat, Panthera, Fireball and World Cup Soccer. Competitors needed to record scores on all five and could enter as often as they wanted.
There were duplicate Spider-Man, F-14 and World Cup Soccer machines set up, but problems with some of the machines meant there was soon only one of each available during Saturday's qualification.
Also on Saturday, the hotel's bar area was turned into a seminars room.
John Trudeau held a seminar about the work he and a team from the UK had done on producing a Forbidden Planet pinball.
He showed pictures of the development process and the whitewood version of the playfield.
Later in the day there was a seminar on the history of Atari. When the main part of the presentation about the video games company had concluded, Steve Ritchie joined in to talk about Atari Pinball.
Steve described the people and the atmosphere at the West Coast company and talked about how he started working there and the games he designed.
Down the corridor and back in the tournament area, the Women's Division was reaching its conclusion early on Saturday evening.
The final was played on a Spider-Man machine and produced a fairly easy win for Molly McIntyre who didn't need to play her last ball to take first place.
Later that night, there was live music in the bar area to entertain the guests; first with the band rock band Ourmada, and then with AC/DC tribute band Billy Bon Scott.
On Sunday, there was a screening in the bar area of two short films - Pinball Donut Girl and Wade Krause: Pinball Artist. This began at 11am, as the last 90 minutes of qualifying in the pinball tournaments was under way.
On our travels around the hotel, we found some new exhibitors had opened their doors.
There was another seminar of interest to pinball fans on Sunday afternoon. This one featured Benjamin Heckendorn (Ben Heck), talking about his Ghost Squad game which we showed you earlier in this report.
Unfortunately, Ben's seminar coincided with the start of play-offs for the A Division of the pinball tournament in which we were playing, so we were unable to stay and watch.
The final part of the show to conclude was that pinball tournament, which took place in the main corridor.
The Junior division was played a earlier in the day on the same machines as the main tournament.
In the Junior Division, it was a win on World Cup Soccer for Ian Seidler with his 470M score.
In the main A Division of the tournament, after a series of play-offs between the twelve qualifiers, it came down to a four-way battle between Art Dodd, Chris Tabaka, Jason Werdrick and Dave Hegge. They competed on three machines rather than the usual four, due to the lateness of the hour (6pm) and the snowy weather outside which could cause travel problems later in the night.
The first game to be played was Panthera, with Art playing first, followed by Chris, then Jason and finally Dave. This order was maintained across all three machines, and the winner of each machine earned 4 points. Second place scored 2 points, third place 1 point and last place zero points.
Jason won on Panthera with a score of 215,760. Dave was second on 144,570, with Art third on 86,360 and Chris fourth on 50,590.
The second game was World Cup Soccer which swapped the order of the top two places and the bottom two places, giving Dave the win on 488.87M with the 4 points, and Jason in second earning 2 points. This time Chris was third on 159.54M and Art fourth on 126.96M.
That meant with just Spider-Man to play, only Jason or Dave could win, as they both had 6 points, to Art's and Chris's 1 point each.
None of the players had a good first ball. Art Dodd was first to play.
He ended ball one on 1.318M and only improved slightly on ball two to score 3.216M.
Second was Chris Tabaka.
Chris began slightly better with 2.74M and improved on his second ball to go into the third with 16.19M.
Next was Jason Werdrick.
He began like Chris with a modest first ball score of 3.66M, ramping it up on ball two to 12.63M.
Last to play was Dave Hegge.
Dave did the opposite to Jason and Chris, starting strongly with 15.93M on his first ball, but only increased it a little to 20.51 on ball two.
So, going into the each player's last ball, Dave was in the lead on 20.51M, with Chris just behind on 16.19M. Jason was in third on 12.63M but needed to beat Dave to win the tournament.
On the last ball, Art couldn't increase his score much and ended in fourth place with 6.52M. Chris did better and bumped his total up to 22.96M, taking the lead. Jason couldn't increase his score enough and ended with 18.41M. Dave didn't need to play his last ball, as he already had 2 points in the bag and so had already won the final.
Then, at just before 7pm, it was trophy presentation time.
The conclusion of the main tournament brought the 2013 Midwest Gaming Classic to an end.
By all accounts, this year's show was the busiest yet. Co-organiser Dan Loosen said on Saturday that preliminary estimates showed 4,500 visitors on that day alone - equivalent to the total from both days last year. This, despite a price increase which was expected to restrict numbers.
The total of over 100 machines would be enough for many shows, but pinball is only a part of the MGC - accounting for around 40% of the floor space. The console gaming section was around the same size with arcade video games taking up the rest. This combination seems to work well for the organisers and is one of the things which gives this show its unique feel.
The other is the hotel. In truth the show has outgrown the venue, with guest bedrooms being turned into games rooms when no other spaces are available. The show would benefit in some ways from having a single large hall where everything could be accommodated, but on the other hand it would lose the intimate feel it currently enjoys.
Even after spending two days wandering the corridors and peering into darkened rooms to see which variety of video games systems were being played, there was the nagging suspicion there were still more undiscovered areas yet to explore.
© Pinball News 2013