SDCC: The Stern PInball Lounge

Star Wars Stern Pinball
The gameplay! image via Stern Pinball

Comic-Con has turned into a massive, sprawling event that occupies the hotels on either side the San Diego Convention Center. In one of them, you could find respite from the overwhelming sights, sounds, and events: The Stern Pinball Lounge.

The Pinball Lounge was located on the ground floor of the Marriot Marquis and Marina during Comic-Con and it was full of Stern‘s latest machines, including Batman ’66 and Star Wars. There were times when there was no line to play and, even on Saturday, the lines of one to two waiting players was unbelievably short compared to the rest of Comic-Con.

I’d say people were missing out on the joys of old fashioned bells and whistles but then that might cause a larger crowd to show up at the Stern Pinball Lounge next year, so let’s just say it’s a great place to unwind.

I have an interest in pinball, especially on its history, though my play could charitably be considered “casual.” There’s something about concentrating on the ball and flippers that’s relaxing. My twins, who are neuro-atypical, have the same reaction and, together, we’ve visited the Pinball Museum in Myrtle Beach and the Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park.

Stern Pinball Lounge at Comic-Con
Hanging in the Pinball Lounge at Comic-Con. This was one of our pinball stations, photo by Corrina Lawson

But my let’s-play-where-we-can-find-them interest in pinball pales in comparison to Stern’s Jack Danger aka DeadFlip, who I met at the lounge last week. Let’s just say he’s living the dream.

“I basically created a job for myself,” he said with a smile. Danger is Stern’s global ambassador and he travels often, maintaining a live stream on Twitch nearly every night.

While we both loved the new Star Wars Pinball, I have to agree with Danger on his favorite game: the Batman ’66. These are limited edition games, and they’re listed as $7,999 retail, so it’s more of a dream purchase. But it’s full of everything you want in a game, including the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward to guide the play, plus footage from the iconic television show too.

Then there’s the Star Wars game, which will cost a cool $8,995 (at least on Amazon for the Premium edition. The Pro edition is only, you know, $5799.) But the game’s totally worth it if you have the funds because it features scenes from the original trilogy, a chance to destroy the Death Star, color-changing LED-lighted inserts, a sculpted LED-lit Millennium Falcon, and a sculpted TIE Fighter.

I asked Danger what goes into creating these games. He said the designers look at the elements of the IP (Intellectual Property) and what stands out. “Obviously, the Death Star was the big one and because you want to play as the hero, you want to also have the Tie Fighter.” He also said the designers take into account the skill of the expert and the beginning skills of the casual player (that would be me) so it’s fun for both.

But there is a way to improve your pinball skills without having a game in your home or 24/7 access to a pinball lounge.

“If you want to get good at pinball, you have to learn from those better at it than you,” Danger said, which is why he livestreams on Twitch.

Below, check out his recorded livestream from Comic-Con in San Diego.

And then see if there’s a pinball museum or arcade that charges by the hour near you.

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