Back in the days before video games were all about slicing off heads, stealing cars and shooting aliens, people would go to arcades to play civilized games like pinball and Pac Man, Defender, Space Invaders and Asteroids. Those days are long behind us, but thanks to the nostalgia of hobbyists like Marcel Gonzalez and Charles Lyle, the games live on through events like this weekend's Florida Arcade & Pinball Exposition.
The duo attended a series of pinball shows in 2004 and decided that South Florida needed its own opportunity to reconnect with the games of yesteryear.
"I'm 41 years old and I'm stuck in the '80s," says Gonzalez. His nostalgia for the arcade culture of the past is contagious. "My favorite machine is High Speed. That takes me back in the day. It's like the '80s personified. It came out in '84 or '85. Pinball was so hot in that time. It's a beautiful game."
Gonzalez and Lyle contacted other local private collectors to bring in dozens of machines to add to their own (Gonzalez himself has seven pinball machines) and the Florida Arcade & Pinball Exposition was born. Gonzalez is enthusiastic to show the vintage games to new audiences. “You simply don’t see these older games in current arcades anymore, all those ‘old-school’ times just passed us by.”
Part museum and part arcade, the event will showcase pinball games from the '50s all the way to now including five of the latest pinball machines from Stern Pinball, the only company still manufacturing pinball games for commercial use.
The show will take place this weekend at Xtreme Indoor Karting with all 150 machines set to "Freeplay," meaning no quarters, tokens or game cards necessary; just walk up to a game and press the start button. There is a daily admission fee of $15 per person, which includes one child 10 years old or younger. Of course, there will be pinball tournaments and high score contests and prizes for the winners.
The event provides a dose of nostalgia and a chance to marvel at the craftsmanship of the games themselves, says Gonzalez.
"People will appreciate the artwork and the passion that went into creating these games."