Date: 8th - 10th April, 2016
Location: Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel, 375 South Moorland Road, Brookfield, WI 53005, USA

Another City, Another Show

Moving on from the Texas Pinball Festival, I headed to Milwaukee, arriving days before the Midwest Gaming Classic.

This show just grows and grows. It was started as Jagfest 2K1 in 2001 by Dan Loosen, owner of the GOAT (Games of All Types) store, and Gary Heil, and has been in held in a Milwaukee school hall and various other locations before finding its current home at the Sheraton hotel in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield.

Home of the Midwest Gaming Classic
Home of the Midwest Gaming Classic

The current show covers in excess of 65,000 square feet and has the Sheraton bursting at the seams. So much so, that a tent covering 5,000 square feet is erected in the car park as an extension to the hotel. A stage at one end of the tent is where live music is provided. Other events take place in the hotel’s corridors, basement, bedrooms, and the reception area. Never have I attended an event that takes over a venue so completely.

The scope of the show reflects Games Of All Types, including PC gaming, console games, platform games, video gaming, Cosplay, pinball, and more.

This report will focus on the pinball element.

For me the show started on Wednesday when I volunteered to be a pinball test pilot over at Tom Taylor’s.

Tom has one of the largest private collections in the world, with approximately 300 games (mainly EMs) set up and available to play.

Tom Taylor with a Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons which was brought the the event by Kerry Imming
Tom Taylor with a Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons which was brought the the event by Kerry Imming

My job, on this occasion, was to play the games and produce a fault report list, where appropriate, so a team of volunteers (including Tom Lucht, Glenn Andersen, Kerry Imming, Dennis Haberman and Don Caldwell) could follow on and prepare the machines for the charity event Tom generously hosts on the Friday afternoon prior to the show opening.

All proceeds go to help house, clothe, feed and train Milwaukee's homeless
All proceeds go to help house, clothe, feed and train Milwaukee’s homeless
A few of Tom's many games
A few of Tom’s many games
They even look good in the dark
They even look good in the dark

Returning to Tom’s on Friday for the charity event, two of the first people I met were Dennis Nordman and Kerry Imming who were chatting not too far from Kerry’s Whoa Nellie! Kerry was a key contributor to the WNBJM project, providing the hardware architecture.

Kerry and Dennis
Kerry and Dennis

The event provided the opportunity to play all the games on display, including low-production games such as TKO and three different versions of Snow Derby, as well as an opportunity to chat to other worshippers of the silver ball.

Over 125 people attended and together they raised almost $3,000 for the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.

Then it was on to the Midwest Gaming Classic.

Friday night was an interesting combination of activities. Whilst the show was officially open to those who had purchased the exclusive VIP tickets (sold out way in advance), many people were still arriving and setting up games, and there were also fun (free to enter) Pin Golf and Clock Chaos competitions taking place.

Playing in the tournaments
Playing in the tournaments
The tournaments team joining in the fun
The tournaments team joining in the fun

Saturday was a chance to play the many games available (approximately 150 in total) including the prototype Lexy Lightspeed from Multimorphic, the rare Williams EM Lunar Shot, two The Hobbits (each with different artwork) and Full Throttle.

Lunar Shot by Williams
Lunar Shot by Williams
An alternate translite and other mods in theis Star Wars
An alternate translite and other mods in this Star Wars
This Stern Star Trek also had a custom translite
This Stern Star Trek also had a custom translite

Stern’s latest offering, Ghostbusters, of which there were two pre-production games available, was at the Marco Specialties booth, along with Game of Thrones Pro and Spider-Man Vault Edition. As usual Marco was also offering pinball consumables, including rubber rings, balls, Whoa Nellie! merchandise, and ‘Feel the Stern’ T-shirts.

Custom Virtual Pinball games were available to play too
Custom Virtual Pinball games were available to play too

The Full Throttle was available to play in Rob Anthony’s room. Rob offers an extensive range of pinball consumables and upgrades, as well as a board repair service. The Full Throttle was on pay-per-play, with the takings going to charity.

Full Throttle in the Pinball Classics room
Full Throttle in the Pinball Classics room
All the money raised went to the local animal charity
All the money raised went to the local animal charity
This rare Alied Take Five cocktail game was also in Rob's room
This rare Allied Take Five cocktail game was also in Rob’s room

There was also the chance to rub shoulders with the many pinball celebrities in attendance, including Steve Ritchie, Mark Ritchie, Dave Christensen, John Trudeau, Barry Oursler, Dwight Sullivan, Joe Balcer, Tim Seckel, Greg Freres, Dennis Nordman, Jeremy Packer (a.k.a. Zombie Yeti) and more.

Three generations of pinball artists: Dave Christensen, Greg Freres and Jeremy Packer
Three generations of pinball artists: Dave Christensen, Greg Freres and Jeremy Packer

Throughout the day there were various seminars available.

Of particular interest was John Trudeau (Game Designer), Jeremy Packer (Artist), and Dwight Sullivan (Software), doing a Q&A on the creation of Ghostbusters.

John, Jeremy and Dwight
John, Jeremy and Dwight

This was quite a coup for MGC as it was Jeremy Packer’s first time attending a pinball event.

John Trudeau
John Trudeau
Dwight Sullivan
Dwight Sullivan
Jeremy Packer
Jeremy Packer

Seminars of interest to the pinball community included:

Butch Peel: Jersey Jack Pinball Update – who gave an update on The Hobbit, as well as what else this innovative company is up to now!

Eugene Jarvis: 35 years of Arcade Games – an arcade industry giant for 35 years. His first smash hit, Defender, was released in 1981. His latest products are with the arcade company Raw Thrills which he owns. What happened in-between produced many of the most influential and best-earning games of all time!

Gary Stern: Pinball Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – Gary Stern was born into the coin-operated industry, and today is the president of Stern Pinball, the largest pinball manufacturer in the world! Gary talked about the past, present and future of pinball.

Gerry Stellenberg: Multimorphic and the P3 Pinball Platform – Gerry is the man behind the innovative P3 Pinball Platform that is gearing up for production now, with easily-swappable playfields, virtual screen interaction, and more. Gerry shared his vision for the future of pinball!

Jim Schelberg: PINBALL – Obsessively Hiding Your Gun While Barenaked and Drunk – Jim shared new ways pinball has been in the media this past year.

After the show closed to the public on Saturday night there was a party for all those that contributed to the show. Copious supplies of beer, soft drinks and pizza were replenished into the earlier hours.

I had hoped the exclusivity of the event would mean the queues to play the cream of the games would be shorter, but in fact they were longer. I did manage to get a few games on the Rob Zombie game at the Spooky booth though.

Dave Christensen at the Spooky Pinball booth
Dave Christensen at the Spooky Pinball booth
Rob Zombie's Spookshow International, Domino's Pizza and America's Most Haunted
Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International, Domino’s Pizza and America’s Most Haunted

Sunday saw a continuous influx of new attendees playing the games on offer.

Overnight snow greeted visitors on Sunday morning
Overnight snow greeted visitors on Sunday morning

I think the judges were high on irony as they awarded the winner of ‘Best Electromechanical Pinball’ to Winner, the 1972 Williams horse racing game (388 made). Truly, it was very popular with visitors, and was played constantly throughout the show without failing once.

Winners of the Best Electromechanical Pinball, Don and Liz Caldwell
Winners of the Best Electromechanical Pinball, Don and Liz Caldwell

Sunday also brought us the most ‘fun’ seminar of the weekend in the form of Don Caldwell and Mark Bakula’s The History of Pinball.

The first half of the session covered the complete history of pinball at 100mph, and then came the ‘fun’ in the form of a trivia quiz. Audience members were given a raffle ticket each and when their number was pulled from the box (and all the tickets were drawn) they could choose to answer a trivia quiz on pinball or rock music. If their answer was correct they won a major prize. If not, they were awarded a candy bar. Sorry, no photos; I was so engrossed in the presentation that I forgot to use my camera!

The tournaments (results of which can be found here) continued to the close of the show; which was officially at 5pm and, unlike most shows, only a small percentage of games had been removed when I left the show for the airport at 4pm.

Must fly
Must fly
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