- CP photo by Vanessa Song
- Kickback Pinball Cafe
Pinball is universally loved.
The machines are a bright and fun adult toy whose biggest appeal comes from whatever movie, TV show or cartoon the design is referencing. And Pittsburgh in particular has an affinity for the game, with the Professional & Amateur Pinball Association located just outside the city.
Pinburgh, the largest pinball competition in history, is an annual summer attraction at the David Lawrence Convention Center. It welcomes 800 players to play on 300 machines.
If this many blinking lights and pinging balls is intimidating, try starting small. Kickback Pinball Cafe (Lawrenceville) will host the Pittsburgh City Pinball Championships on Saturday. The event features a more manageable 24 competitors to duke it out for the title of champion, a banner and a $200 prize.
Not bad for a game that costs a couple quarters.
Kickback originally opened in spring 2013 as a coffee shop equipped with pinball machines and a floor painted to look like one. After the original owners decided to move on, new owners stepped in and launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for repairs and improvements. They quickly met their goal of $5,000, ultimately raising over $12,000 by the end of the campaign. The cafe reopened last July and is one of the only non-bars in the city with multiple pinball machines.
If you can’t make Pittsburgh City Pinball Championships — or don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the professionals — Kickback hosts a weekly pinball tournament (Wednesdays at 7 p.m.) The all-skill level tournaments offer cash prizes and is BYOB.
Pinball might seem like a fun and quirky game for nerds, but it actually has a pretty wild history.
In the 1940s, these machines were seen as a means of gambling because they accepted coins. They were considered a menace to society and a waste of resources during war-time. Former New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia called them “insidious nickel-stealers.” He even instituted a ban on pinball machines in the city, so policemen raided candy stores and bowling alleys to confiscate these big toys.
Kind of seems like there were way more important things the cops could’ve been worried about in the 1940s, no?
Anyway, a web-image search of “Pinball prohibition” reveals a gang of men in suits destroying pinball machines with large mallets.
Thankfully, pinball is now not only legal, but alive and thriving. However, if anyone has one and a mallet… well, that sounds pretty fun.