FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lights... music... pinball!
For the first time ever, the Pinball World Championship will be held this weekend in Fort Myers. And with it, the world’s greatest pinball wizards to Southwest Florida.
“The rest of the world probably doesn’t care very much but, for people who love pinball, yeah- it’s a pretty big deal,” said David Denholtz, President of the Pinball Asylum.
Tucked away on the second floor of a Fort Myers business suite, you’ll find pinball wizards from across the globe.
“I mean you wouldn’t really know about this place, where it is," says Steven Bowden, one of those pinballers competing in this weekend's championship. "I mean it’s off the main highway but, you know, this is a hidden treasure here.”
It’s the Pinball Asylum.
"We got people from Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Germany- you know all over the world," says Denholtz. "Wherever people play pinball- they’re here.”
And this weekend, they’re the hosts of the Pinball World Championship. A first in tournament history.
"Every year the international flipper pinball association (IFPA) takes the rankings from the previous year and the top 64 players end up in the world championship.”
"It’s serious, but it’s fun," says Bowden. "It’s serious fun.”
One of those competitors is Steven Bowden.
"The 64 best players have been invited here to Fort Myers to compete in, I’d say a bank of very unique games here," he says. "There are many games that I have not played before.”
Unique games with all sorts of different themes, spanning different genres of pop culture. But each machine requires a certain technique and skill set.
"Once you get a couple of techniques, you’ll find it’s easier to get a lot more," Bowden said. "Like once you start to understand them, even for the rookie player or someone who hasn’t been playing a lot- ‘Oh, it’s not all luck and you shoot it?’ No! If you can shoot that, if you hit it, that’s great! If you don’t- try and get it back. And the light bulb goes off. ‘Oh, okay.’”
And competition aside there’s something else these players share…
"It’s like a family and we’re all part of the family," says Eric Stone, former Fox 4 meteorologist and current high-ranking pinballer. "It’s like ‘where are you going for lunch? Where are you going for dinner? Let’s all talk and chat and just catch up with each other.’ so it’s really the camaraderie and the friendships that are made that makes this.”
The World Pinball Championship will be streamed live on Twitch this weekend. You can find more information online right here.