Forth hosting nostalgic pinball pop-up

More than 20 machines dating as far back as the 1940s set up in shop’s lower gallery

Nostalgia is the name of the game for pinball league member Grant Zeilstra, who will be able to play over 20 machines at Forth’s pinball pop-up.

Zeilstra, 48, started playing pinball while studying an arts degree in economics at the University of Manitoba more than two decades ago.

“Where I got hooked was at U of M, at the UMSU arcade there,” Zeilstra said. “[…]They used to have the best arcade in the city right in [University Centre].”

Zeilstra started playing again after the Manitoba Pinball League formed in January 2017. League commissioner David Morris said he started the league after traveling to pinball expos including the Vancouver FlipOut Pinball Expo.

“I love competition and it only made sense,” he said. “I wanted a pinball community and competition, and we had none of the above here and I had to fix that.”

The league is currently hosting a pop-up pinball arcade at Forth with twenty-one machines – dating from the 1940s to more modern machines – set up in the lower-level gallery space.

The pop-up runs from March 15 to April 15, and will host tournaments, league play, and women’s league play at the venue throughout the month.

Zeilstra said playing with the league was the first time he played in years. He first attended a tournament at the Good Will Social Club, where he met a number of fellow pinball fans.

“I played with a bunch of guys,” Zeilstra said. “I think I came in 12th or 13th or something, and I’ve been playing in the league ever since. I try and play two or three times a month.”

Zeilstra has been attending the events at Forth. Two weeks ago, he placed second in the Forth Friday Night Knockout tournament.

“For me personally, there’s a lot of nostalgia with it,” he said. “I have really fond memories with it and it’s a thing that disappeared and then came back, so it’s exciting that way.”

Zeilstra said he played a lot of video games when he was younger, but the physical nature of pinball appeals to him.

“I really like pinball because it’s hands on and physical. There’s physics,” he said. “You can tell when you make a good shot if it’ll be a good shot or miss.”

The main draw to pinball for recent league player Samara May is that it reminds her of her youth. The 45-year-old started playing again at the first women’s league event at the Good Will Social Club in February.

“It’s all about the nostalgia for me,” she said. “I spent so much of my adolescence, and allowance, in arcades and pool halls it’s been a real blast from the past to get to play again.”

May said she plans to attend the women’s league every month from now on.

“I’ve attended two Manitoba Pinball League events since learning of their existence last month and now I’m hooked,” she said.

For Zeilstra, the love of the game is so powerful that he recently purchased a pinball machine – The Cyclone – because he used to play the same machine in the tunnels under U of M.