Culture

Pinball wizards

People enjoy the different feeling and style each individual machine offers. Photo: Bodie Seder.

In the world of gaming entertainment, technological innovation appears to be striving for minimal machinery and all-encapsulating experiences, but the humble pinball machine has stood strong throughout this and around its colourful, clunky design, a passionate community of players continues to grow.

The biggest three days of the year for the WA pinball community will happen next weekend from September 10 to 12, with the annual West Coast Pinball Festival being held at RAC Arena in the city.

Over 100 machines will be showcased and available for play, with competitions held for different age groups and genders.

Key event organiser Lance Roughsedge saw a mix of people attending the first festival last year, as the community continues to grow.

“During the day sessions we had a lot of families show up,” he says.

“We had the kids tournaments on the Saturday and the women’s tournament, so there’s quite a diverse group”.

People will gather at Barcadia this Saturday for the sixth WAPinball community tournament. Photo: Bodie Seder.

According to Roughsedge the pinball community has always remained active, barring a decline in the ’90s with the advent of video game consoles.

Despite the introduction of video games, he believes the reason pinball has stayed popular is the more tactile experience each individual machine offers.

“People stop and they remember they enjoyed the feeling of playing the machine, like the size, the stability of it.

“People have missed that hands-on game” he says.

One man whose love for the game has done a great deal to further foster the community in Perth is Anthony Cirillo.

He’s the founder of WAPinball, a group he started about eight years ago, and has grown in recent years.

He says while nostalgia is one of the selling points, there’s also been a shift in the target market towards families and home-owners.

“We’re seeing a lot more people having them at their house, playing with their family and that creates a bond,” he says.

Some of the 36 pinball machines at Barcadia in Northbridge. Photo Bodie Seder.

Mr Cirello is the number one ranked player in WA and has participated in many official International Pinball Flipper Association (IFPA) tournaments across Australia.

“Pinball is a game of skill, more-so than a lot of arcade machines…it’s a physical metal ball, it requires a lot more hand-eye coordination, a lot more thinking about what you’re doing and knowing the rules of the table,” he says.

Mr Cirillo has provided a number of machines for the “Barcadia” section of Planet Royale on Lake Street in Northbridge.

The recently-opened business is housed in the old IMAX theatre, and this Saturday they’ll be hosting the sixth WAPinball event for the first time.

Planet Royale general manager Christian Beaden says without the Cirello family, it would’ve been very difficult to acquire the amount of machines they have.

“The Cirello family have one of the biggest collections in the southern hemisphere,” he says.

“Tony and his dad own most of those pinballs out there, we don’t own many because you know, getting most of those quality pinballs takes 30 years to accumulate.”

Nostalgia and pop culture are a big part of the design aesthetic, with cultural references ranging from The Beatles to Stranger Things.

Mr Roughsedge says it’s one of the appeals of the festival for pinball lovers.

“The titles all have fun, unique things about each one, that some people will like, some will like others … there’s a list of people’s favourites.” he says.

Edith Cowan University media and culture lecturer Laura Glitsos says the nostalgia evoked from cultural artefacts like pinball machines can bring people back to happier, more carefree time.

“Nostalgia is a yearning or longing for something that has gone and can’t be retrieved.

“If you draw a parallel to the original tradition of nostalgia and what it was originally conceptualised as, you can start to understand how it plays a role in retro toys or practices we had as children,” Dr Glitsos says.

“It’s this sense of not-so-much wanting to return to the thing itself, but wanting to return to the state of being a child, to the state of being free and not so limited by obligations and responsibilities and the weight of the world … nostalgia provides a kind of balm of comfort for people.”

While the charm of pinball is partly attached to its cultural resonance among older generations, Mr Cirello believes the inherent fun within the game continues to captivate a young audience.

Anthony Cirillo discussing the goals of the West Coast Pinball Festival. Video: Bodie Seder.

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