austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Every little swallow, every chickadee

Last year, just before our anniversary, bunny_hugger ran her third pinball tournament at our local hipster bar. She wanted to run one again. Not the same format. We had used a format now dubbed ``Pinball Pinball Pinball'', in which the person who wins a table goes back into a queue, and the person who was waiting there goes off to another game for a match. It's a format that can be fun, particularly if you get thrilled by uninterrupted hours of play. But it does mean there's few chances to stop and get a drink or go to the bathroom or get something to eat, spoiling some of the social hangout aspects, especially over the course of an evening's play. And the format is novel enough that people don't have a natural sense of what to do. Last year people playing kept making mistakes in where they should go and when, at least until the high school teacher in the bunch took onto himself the job of traffic manager.

So this year she decided on a different format. It would be Swiss-style, a format developed for European football leagues. The goal of the scheme is to simulate a round-robin tournament when you have more players than matches to play. Indeed, if you carry it on enough rounds, it becomes round-robin, everyone playing everyone else once. As it is, it matches players to whoever they haven't played yet and has the most similar record.

We set, after some discussion, three hours for play, trusting that would give something like nine or ten rounds of play, enough to make it worthwhile to people who might travel as much as an hour to get here. There would be no round of finals. To count for credit from the International Flipper Pinball Association a tournament needs at least some match play, people going head to head on a table. Ideally it will involve a group of four playing one another. Some formats, such as Amazing Race --- in which the lowest-scoring person on each table is eliminated and you go on to a new table --- don't have any direct head-to-head play and need a round of that added to the end. Swiss-style (and, for that matter, Pinball Pinball Pinball) are all match play. They don't need more.

And a side tournament. bunny_hugger decided again to do a closest-to-the-pin tournament, leading to some thought about the games. These are most challenging for tables that are bonus-heavy, so that it's easy to get enough score you go over the threshold on a bonus or on a plunged ball. (The format prohibits tilting.) We also did a lot of thinking about what would be a good prize for the side tournaments and just didn't have time to get passes to the Klassic Arcade or something else that would be suitable. bunny_hugger chose to make it a cash payout instead: 50 cents per play, half the money going to charity, half to the winner of the table. And a special side trophy to go to whoever came closest, proportionately, to the target score without going over.

bunny_hugger also pulled apart more of the trophies donated by GRV. One was most striking, a four-wire sculpture about the size and shape of a football's seams, pointing upward. It suggested a rocket in its shape, a great fit for the name of the tournament and its Rocky Jones, Space Ranger theme. The side trophies would be smaller, more ordinary things, but that's all right. She's gotten really good at putting together impressive-looking trophies that people really like.

A couple days before the tournament came disastrous news. CST, the best player in Lansing League and the guy who organizes the state's championship and the guy who just draws credibility and meaning to any pinball event, wouldn't be there. Three hours of pinball, he said, was too much for an old man like him. We protested, this wasn't any longer than the tournament last year, or the one he'd done in March. It would even be shorter, since we would know just how long the tournament had to last: three hours plus maybe however long the last game took to play. No go. Someone who never misses a bunny_hugger tournament was missing a bunny_hugger tournament.

Trivia: Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, a Swiss surveyor who arrived in the United States with one of the definitive iron meters, would become the country's first Superintendent of Weights and Measures. He would ultimately affirm keeping the country on the English system of weights and measures. Source: The Measure Of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey That Transformed The World, Ken Alder. (Alder quotes him as first director of the National Bureau of Standards, but that's only so if you consider the National Bureau of Standards as the successor to the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Which can be defended, but is a more complicated story than the text suggests. )

Currently Reading: Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Complete Collection, Volume 1, Editor Victor Gorelick.

Tags: pinball
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