Nerds Unite! Inside Texas Pinball Festival + the Cosplayers of All-Con & more

Pinball is a long passion of mine - I've always loved it - The sights and sounds that surround its culture, the artistry everything. 
Most people think pinball is simply keeping a silver ball from getting past you by using flippers, repeat - But as anyone in attendance here today will tell you, that's just the beginning. 
No matter its motif, every machine is different and the individuality, engineering & the craftsmanship put into one of these is the kind of greatness I've always aspired to. 
This show draws people from all over the United States and beyond. It is one of the largest shows in the industry 
Over 400 vintage and new pinball machines, classic arcade games and slot machines for sale and set on free play. Vendors selling parts, supplies, equipment and memorabilia all weekend. There were presentations by well known pinball artist and designers and answering questions from the audience. Door Prizes for pinball related memorabilia drawn hourly throughout the weekend, included a grand prize raffle drawing Sunday awarding a full size Pinball Machine to benefit the Red Cross.

Texas Pinball Festival 2017 - March 24th-26th - Frisco Convention Center - Frisco, TX

The Texas Pinball Festival  is one of the largest of its kind in the country. It's only 16 years old, but in that time it's moved from a small arcade in Arlington to the 45,000-square-foot Frisco convention center. The most recent three-day festival delivered more than 400 pinball machines.
Pinball has made quite a comeback thanks to a plucky group of indie developers such as Jersey JackSpooky Pinball, who have helped the game catch up to the digital age. 

There is also a great deal of nostalgia of course regarding pinball - whereas these crazy new games are exciting & bridge the past to the present & give the industry what it needs it's also great to walk up a play old machines that are exactly the ones you remember in the places you first discovered them. There is something almost indescribable about that feeling - the art met with the sounds & the unlikely venue you probably first played them.

So with that in mind the two big names that were invited to the this year's soiree were Cassandra Peterson & Sam Jones - Elvira Mistress of the Dark & Flash Gordon, the savior of the universe himself.
I've built a nice rapport with Sam over time & even most recently we spent about 4 days at events together at Marvel's New Year event culminating with Sam making an appearance on our weekly TrickyKid Radio Podcast.
Still, it's not everyday that you get to play an original 1981 Flash Gordon pinball machine & WITH Flash Gordon!


Cassandra Peterson appeared as herself, looking absolutely radiant and not just as some would say "for her age".
At 62 years young, she looks like a stunning woman half her own age & is gorgeous for any age.

Joined by pinball creator legends Greg Freres & Dennis Nordman who fulfilled a desire for Cassandra, herself a lifelong pinball enthusiast, when they launched Elvira & The Party Monsters for Bally in 1989 for a fun panel showcasing their almost 30 years of collaboration that will continue as they made the exciting announcement that there will be a third in the series as the long awaited follow up to 1996's Scared Stiff.

Walking around the expo is so fun, seeing everyone having such a good time and excited to try to new machines and visit the old ones like they were old friends.
Many of the new ones you can't just walk up and play. Sought after new games garner big lines, like Jersey Jack Pinball's Dialed In!, which incorporates cameras and Bluetooth connectivity; and American Pinball's Houdini, which made its premiere at the festival. The line to play Heighway Pinball's new Alien machine is so long that they've got guardrails to organize it.  


Stern's new Aerosmith table and the very fun Batman '66 (right)
& with Elvira in the house, there were plenty of chances to play Elvira & The Party Monsters!

However, as cool as all these new machines are & even the older ones from my youth, for me my favorite part of the festival like this is the custom machines. Think about it: Good or bad, they are one of kind & that will always be attractive to me. And their were some great ones:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (left)
& Total Annihalation (right)

Dallas Cowboys (left)
& this crazy, transparent, poker themed machine that was super fun to play

On Sat, there was the premier screening of a documentary on boutique company Spooky Pinball, a great story that deserves to be told for pinball & non-pinball fans alike about the unlikely upstart and soaring success of the company made up of a family of good people proving hard work and moral fiber pays off.
Spooky debuted two new pinball machines as their liscensing resume is impressively growing, this year with Domino's Pizza & the Jetsons, debuted Rob Zombie last year, so only fitting that they will be unveiling Alice Cooper next year,

Spooky Pinball Family 

...and most importantly what I love most about pinball and this convention is that it is enjoyed by everyone from every walk of life, almost as an unintended unifyer, but united just the same. Good times and until next year.

All-Con Dallas 2017 - March 16th-19th - Crowne Plaza - Addison, TX

So this might be a bit interesting, we (sorta) covered All-Con last year, meaning that the "press agent" was acting like a gatekeeper & actually denied us credentials. It was (like this year) taking place during SXSW in Austin so I wasn't gonna be around for much of it anyway.
A reputable cosplayer I was seeing last year was already going so I made some brief appearances inspite of the sleghting.
This year almost exact same story (dating a different reputable cosplayer however) & this time we were given credentials along with a heroes' welcome. So now that they'd seen the error of their ways, I thought I would check it out in spite of SXSW still looming large.

Quite honestly there isn't really much to report (at least not from me) as stories of this year's con vary so greatly I was beginning to wonder if we were even at the same con as some of the stories I heard & pictures I saw.
Apparently if you were not there late Friday night or at all on Sat you had a completely different experience & that was the one I had.
Still with them changing hotels this year, I can't see it being anything but a severely muted affair given the limited space & half-baked programming.
This is a Con with a serious identity crisis (& poor organization skills) it really can't decide what it want's to be. Maybe that's the purpose of calling it All-Con which is inclusive and great in theory but feel it's actually to it's detriment.

You walk upstairs to a vendor room that can be overly perused in under 20 mins, attend a few criminally under attended panels in some off-shoot rooms & go downstairs for a few rooms of gaming. Next time I won't miss the Saturday night party.

Neil Kaplan (middle)

Vendors Richard & Brooke

Guitar Hero (Anime Edition)

On the final day Hana Li gave a slideshow presentation called Nerdlesque on the increasing influence nerd culture is having on Burlesque & all the sub-genres that it employs.

The Cosplayers of All-Con

And of course, what is a Con without the awesome cosplayers that work tirelessly to display the fruits of their labor?
And there were some great ones.

Erica Muse

Erica is an established cosplayer who's resume boasts over 200 different characters - To illustrated her prowess, I've shot her before and didn't even recognize her when I ran into her here as Black Cat.

She dazzled all weekend & was part of an ambitious photoshoot spear headed by bodypaint veteran Pink Pit Bull
The work that went into this is only paralleled by how stunning the finished product became.

Jill Perkins (right)

Violetta Cosplay Brittain Mudge & Brian Holt

War Girl Cosplay (right)

Charlotte Dolan

Another very talented cosplayer that has been making waves on the con scene is Charlotte Dolan based in Dallas/Fort Worth area.
We first met her early last year & she has consistently upped her game to the point that she was voted by our readers into our Top 10 Cosplayers list last year. This year, she's really kicked things into high gear with some outstanding work.

....and only at a fun Con could you see a mock duel featuring Bain, Wyatt Earp & Walter Sobchek!

Until next year!


Roy Turner
Danny Gallagher
Open Book

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