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Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

Time Event
It Won't Be Long

To our amazement the local hipster bar got in The Beatles pinball game. To our further amazement we haven't played it yet: the game had broken its first day. Swapping out the bad motherboard from another game put it back in operation. But we haven't had time to get there and play it. So our first experience on the game was at another venue that's got a Beatles. A table, mind you, everyone expected would go straight to collectors and basically never be ``on location'' where any member of the public could play. We know four locations in Michigan, two of them in Lansing and East Lansing. World is weird.

This experience was on Friday, at Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum. Besides the regular league night they held a launch party. The launch party format was simple enough: you play two games of The Beatles and keep your higher score. The top eight scores go on to two rounds of playoffs. The twist we didn't know was seeding in the tournament was based on playing Iron Maiden. That's because Stern is running a worldwide, yearlong tournament named ``Up The Irons'' in which any score on any Iron Maiden game played during a sanctioned tournament can put you on the leaderboard for cash and prizes. If you're wondering how they're compensating for how different instances of the table will play differently, and might be on different difficulty settings, and how they keep a player with mischievous thoughts and a compliant tournament director from cheating don't worry: they don't know either. But we know of at least one score that's been stricken from the global rankings on the grounds of suspicious circumstances.

Still, The Beatles. It's very like Sea Witch, an early-80s game from the Original Stern company. The major change is a spinning record in the center that adds chaos and unfair drains to the game. And modes that open up two- and four-ball multiballs. It's a beautifully uncomplicated game. Each of the five main songs --- from the Beatlemania period --- matches to a mode. Each mode one kind of shot is extra-valuable. You're told what to shoot for before you start a mode, and it's reinforced in text on the playfield. Playing too much of the game might make you feel like you've heard ``All My Loving'' as much as you really need to. They licensed only a half-dozen or so songs, one of them the anachronistic ``Taxman'', but considering how hard the licensing would have to be that's still amazing. Also the game inspires people to sing along, so, use your judgement there.

bunny_hugger and I like to believe we have a relative advantage on early-solid-state games. That is, we're just more in tune with them than many players of modern DMD- or LCD-era games are. The Beatles is an LCD game, but the playfield and the main play is very early-solid-state. So, yes, my first game I put up about two million points, taking High Score #2 on the game, and leaping to the top of the standings. bunny_hugger's second game she put up 2.6 million, the highest score any of the competitors put on. And both of us were playing fantastically well. When AJG, who's the Eastside's strongest player and a strong candidate to be the state champion this year again, popped in and put up a score people just assumed he had taken the lead. No; bunny_hugger was ahead of him yet. Well, one person beat her out after all, but it was a long time before that happened.

We didn't have great seeding for the playoffs, in part because we didn't know about the Iron Maiden game being what would seed us, so we had only one hurried game each. No matter. The important thing is that we were not in the same group. Two people from each of the two groups would advance to finals, and this way either of us succeeding wouldn't hurt the other's chances. Unfortunately bunny_hugger lost, by a whisker, and tried to avoid people telling her what a close match it was. Everyone comments on this sort of lost-by-a-whisker game, and she hates it.

Me, I had another good game, including edging AJG out of the launch party playoffs. This is, rumor has it, the first time he hasn't won a launch party he's gone to, and leaves us wondering if he's going to appear tomorrow at The Beatles launch party bunny_hugger's running. He might. AJG very publicly declared that he was out of competitive pinball, after a couple rounds of drama too petty and confusing for me to share. But when that wasn't greeted with cries of ``oh no, please don't leave us'' from the people he antagonizes online or beats in every tournament, well. He said he was making an exception for this sort of small stakes thing that can't affect your world rankings or anything but are just fun little hangouts. So, he was all smiles and graciousness, and you certainly want to encourage people doing that. But in the greater context I know who to cast as Eddie Haskell in the Leave It To Beaver remake.

So the second and final round of playoffs? I had a decent game, not as good as bunny_hugger's qualifying game, but solid. Two of the competitors --- JMA and DAD --- startled me by having mediocre games. GRV, the fourth, had two rotten balls, but he's so skilled a player to start with, and so good on early-solid-state games, that I was expecting him to beat me. And then he just ... didn't.

I won. I got to take home the trophy for the Beatles Launch Party Grand Championship. Which looks just like the one for our launch party, Tuesday, although odds are we won't be taking that one home. It's the first launch party tournament I've ever won, and only the third tournament --- besides Tuesday Night Smackdowns --- I've ever won. I'm astounded yet.

I like The Beatles, but I don't think just because of this.

Trivia: At the 1939 opening ceremonies of New York City Municipal Airport, skywriting planes overhead spelled out the message: 'NAME IT LA GUARDIA AIRPORT'. Eighteen days later the New York City Council officially named it New York Municipal Airport, LaGuardia Field. Source: Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure, Alastair Gordon.

Currently Reading: Plotting The Globe: Stories of Meridians, Parallels, and the International Date Line, Avraham Ariel, Nora Ariel Berger. Kinda getting to think this is the book Ian Bartky was thinking of when he was getting all snarky in One Time Fits All. I'm not sure that's possible, but you know what? I'm going ahead and choosing to believe that anyway.

PS: A few last pictures around Marvin's.


One of the many modern coin-op attractions: this has both foxes walking, with them turning their heads to look back at different points in the procesion. There's a mirror in the back of the box so you can see both sides of the marionettes at once.


And in the back of Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum is the Fake Fake Cardiff Giant, the one P T Barnum made when he couldn't get the Real Fake Cardiff Giant. At least they present themselves as believing this to be the actual Barnum Fake.


And back around to the last dregs of pinball league, up front. The 'Stern Army Official Location' is a banner Stern's been putting out for venues that have regular pinball events. It's a good idea to have something like this, but I (like many people) would rather they didn't go for the whole 'army' metaphor.

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