Pinball is not Angry Birds: Michigan Pinball Expo Provides Alternative Entertainment

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Drawing people from as far away as Mexico, Canada, Japan and Europe, the Michigan Pinball Expo thrilled throngs of pinball fans. The Pinball Expo, directed by John Kosmal and hosted by Oakland University in Rochester, took place Thursday, April 4 through Sunday, April 7, 2013.

While the number of guests was not tallied, as many as 5,000 people are estimated to have attended the expo. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder in long rows of carefully aligned pinball machines, strangers bonded over the shared experience of pinball.

“I think the social factor is really good,” said Roy Wils. “You can sit behind your computer, and you’re not getting social. That’s the nice thing about coming upon a scene like this, just to hang around each other.”

Wils made a 13-hour flight from Holland to participate in the Michigan Pinball Expo’s tournament, as well as another tournament a week later.

Not all fans made such a long journey. Macomb Community College student Casey Foren came to hang out and see what the hype was about.

“I’ve never been an avid fan,” said Foren, “But it’s pretty cool to see all the old machines.”

Becky Schutter, of Royal Oak, is an avid fan. She’s attended the expo each time since it began four years ago.

“This is an attraction because you don’t get this many machines in one room,” said Schutter. “There’s more students as it goes every year, but there’s hardcore fans. I think it’s just pinball nerds.”

Pinball experts and rookies alike experienced history playing older machines, and the technology of new machines. Some machines even have a digital interface. Continuing to draw large crowds of enthusiasts, pinball is a genre of entertainment that has survived through years of rapidly evolving technology, and will hopefully survive for many years to come.

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