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Eugene Hosts State Pinball Championship

Angela Kellner / KLCC

Five players from the Eugene area have qualified for the state pinball championship. And this is the first year Eugene is hosting the state pinball tourney.

For the past five years, Portland has hosted the state pinball championship. The Rose City is home to the highest number of pinball machines in the country. That’s why it was such a big deal for Eugene to land the state tourney this year. But before then, it’s time to practice…

Inside Level Up Arcade in downtown Eugene, the excitement is high and the drinks are flowing.
Matt Walton is co-founder of the Emerald City Pinball League. He says his league - and the number of pinball machines in Eugene has grown in the past few years.

“Before this year, no Eugene player had ever qualified for the state championship,” explains Walton. “So it was kind of kismet that in the year that we’re a host city, we were able to get 5 players qualified for it.”

Walton is one of those 5 players. Today is a sanctioned tournament before the finals. Mira Mason-Reader is the other co-founder of the pinball league.

She explains her strategy for playing well.

“Every machine’s different so some machines you’re gonna just naturally be better at than others,” says Mason-Reader. “But usually I just try to hit the flashing things and keep the ball up. Those are my main goals. Matt is a little bit more strategic about that than I am.”

“I try to learn the rule set of each machine and you can do that online. There are a lot of resources that players can use to kind of know what I should be aiming for. It sometimes can be counter-intuitive,” explains Walton. “But, yeah, Mira kind of hit the nail on the head. If something’s blinking, its usually a good tip to just try and aim for that.”

“Any questions?” Asks Walton to the crowd. “Let’s play some pinball!”

As the tournament gets underway, Mason-Reader takes her turn at the KISS game. She smacks the buttons, trying to keep the ball from becoming the victim of gravity. And she uses her arms and legs to get more leverage.  

Credit Angela Kellner / KLCC
Mira Mason-Reader plays the KISS pinball game at Level Up.

“So I noticed a lot of the really good players are very physical,” explains Mason-Reader. “And because I’m a very small human, I have to like get my whole body into it or else I can’t move the machine at all. So if I’m not super active, I just can’t do it.”

Over at the Tron game, Walton reacts to his attempt. “Horrible.” But he quickly shifts into an explanation which may strike some of you as inside pinball…how to focus your attention when there’s more than one ball in play.

“Kind of one of the main goals of any pinball player is going to be to do a series of goals to qualify that multi-ball, which will then give them 2 or more, sometimes as many as 8 balls, to play around on the table at the same time,” says Walton. “And the nice thing about that is you have a lot more scoring opportunities.”

Credit Angela Kellner / KLCC
Michael Allred, a well-known comic book artist, plays The Creature From The Black Lagoon pinball game.

Banging away at the “Creature From the Black Lagoon” game, is Michael Allred. He hasn’t played much pinball since junior high. But says it was his work in the comic book industry that got him back into it.
“I write and draw comics for a living and I’m the cover artist for Batman 66,” says Allred. “And a guy offered to give me a Batman 66 pinball machine if I did a painting for him. So I did and this was right before Christmas. And so just got all crazy about it and really, really getting into it. But I’m still very much an amateur.”

The state championship is Saturday at 10am at Blairally Vintage Arcade in Eugene. The winner goes to the nationals in Las Vegas. The victor there qualifies for the world championships in Italy this summer.

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