Updated: Dec 22, 2021
The 2021 Pintastic New England Game Room Expo is in the books. This past weekend, Gabe D'Annunzio and his amazing team put together what I believe was the best pinball show of year. Held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center in Massachusetts, Pintastic began by opening its Free Play room on Thursday at 6 PM. Rob and I woke up early Friday morning and made the two and a half hour journey up, getting there right at open. We then proceeded to play pinball, hang out with tons of amazing people, attend interesting seminars and shop in the vendor area for the next sixteen hours straight 😂.
The sheer number of games at the show that were available for the public to play was truly astonishing. A few of the newest games had lines, but for the most part any time you wanted to play something you could almost instantly or after one turn. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there was literally HUNDREDS of games to play, the vast majority of which were in fantastic shape. Not only was there a lot of games, there was some really rare ones, such as The Sanctum's Stern Electronics' Cue (1 of 6 ever made), Gottlieb's Asteroid Annie and the Aliens (1 of 200 made) and many more. I've been a lot of places so when there's pins that I don't have on my Pindigo list I'm very impressed. Beyond these rare older games, the newest ones in the world such as American Pinball's Legends of Valhalla and Chicago Gaming Company's Cactus Canyon Remake were there.
The show had the largest number of home brew pinball custom machines that I've ever seen at one location too. From Ferris Bueller's Day off by Brian Soares and Reby Hardy to Ryan McQuaid's award winning Sonic Spinball to many more. All told, I'd say that there was at least 7 custom home brew pinball machines at the show and they all were really neat.
When a game went down, as they inevitably do when hundreds of people are beating on them around the clock, someone from the Pintastic team would hop right on fixing it. Any game that went down seemed to be back up and running the next time that I walked past it. It was like magic.
The volunteers at Pintastic were amazing and so were the attendees. One of the best parts of going to pinball and arcade shows is getting to meet all of the people who you know from the Internet in person. So many Web friends became real-life ones over pinball and/or a few drinks. Even the "pinball celebrities" were super cool to hang out with. Stern Pinball's John Borg and Jersey Jack Pinball's Eric Meunier are super friendly and fun to have a couple beers with. John went out of his way to spend a tremendous amount of time talking with Rob, whose favorite pinball machine of all-time is Metallica. What a great guy.
The Vendor hall was super impressive at this year's Pintastic. Beyond the aforementioned Cactus Canyon and Valhalla there must have been nearly 10 Godzillas and all of the other newest Stern machines there to play. The Pinnovators booth had a particularly amazing modded-out Godzilla LE with the burning city speaker grills hooked up to their shaker motor vest that was a mind-blowing experience to play. Right next to them in a moment of weakness I splurged for a Run DMD clock that I've been drooling over for several years. Rob picked up a lighted speaker panel and side blades from the super nice Joe DiRusso at the PinGraffix booth. There was too many great vendors to mention them all, but they were a big part of what made the show great.
While the Sturbridge Hotel conference center was a perfect space for the event itself, I didn't hear great things about the rooms. Rob and I ended up staying down the Road at the La Quinta hotel which as hard as it is to believe seemed a little nicer...until after coming back from playing pinball and drinking until nearly 3 AM when we had a pack of howling dogs in the room across the hall from us and intermittent people who also had rooms on the hall yelling "Shut those Fuc#$#% dogs up!" all night 😂.
On Saturday morning(ish) I stopped back at the show for a few hours while Rob picked up his daughter from college for Thanksgiving break. The highlight of my return trip was beating Dr. Pin in an intense game of Metallica Premium after Mrs. Pin tilted his game trying to help him get a ball unstuck 🤣. I had so much fun hanging out with those fantastic folks. I was zonked after our marathon pinball session the day before so I was fine with leaving Saturday afternoon. We did end up missing what I heard was an epic Guns and Roses cover band on Saturday night.
This year's Pintastic was an amazing experience and one that you won't even have to wait very long to do again. Pintastic New England 2022 is tentatively scheduled for June 2022 so mark your calendar folks. Below you will find several videos and more than 350 edited pictures, more than I have ever taken at one single location. There was so much awesomeness there, I just kept snapping. Thanks for reading everyone!