The end of November usually signals the happening of the annual Southern Pinball Festival in sunny Orlando, Florida, but this year the event gave way to something bigger and better: Free Play Florida, a three-day event packed with pinball machine and arcade games spanning from the earliest machines to today's exciting releases. Former Power Button co-host Brad Hilderbrand, his wife Barbara, and I made the drive into Orlando on a pinball pilgrimage last weekend and did not come away disappointed. The tables spread out as far as the eye could see and many classics were there: The Addams Family, Theater of Magic, Bride of Pinbot, Spider-Man, The Avengers, Stargate, Star Trek (Limited Edition), Doctor Who... the list goes on. For the arcade side of things, old favorites like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Turtles in Time, Battletoads, Punch-Out!!, Outrun, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Donkey Kong, and plenty of others all vied for attention.
I've been playing pinball on and off all my life, but it's only in the past few years that I've really found my place in the game. My skills continue to improve, but overall I don't consider myself much of a wizard. That's why it was an amazing ego boost when, while playing the Star Trek table, I played so well and was at the table for so long that a small crowd gathered around to watch. I earned enough points to play two free balls after the standard allotment had finished, and as it was my last table of the day, I finished and walked out the doors into night back into legend. Then I had to come back and find Brad because he was my ride home. But still: legend!