Coin-Op Carnival Event could be a Jackpot for Nostalgic Gamers

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 9:13 am
Sarah Spohn

Photos courtesy of Ryan Claytor.

Calling all pinball wizards: on Sunday, April 14 from 6 to 9 p.m., the Coin-Op Carnival is coming to Abrams Planetarium in East Lansing.

The event celebrates the release of “Coin-Op Carnival,” a 64-page print publication by Ryan Claytor and Nick Baldridge. The illustrated book focuses on the history of electro-mechanical coin-operated amusement devices before 1978.

In addition to the book release party and signing, Sunday’s free event will offer an historical gaming presentation, and an immersive 360-degree video.

Award-winning comics artist and MSU professor Ryan Claytor spoke about his fondness for vintage pinball games. “My dad had a couple as I was growing up, so I think I probably have some nostalgic connection to that,” Claytor said.

Around six years ago, Claytor revisited that interest, and fell deeply in love with the many facets of pinball games. “I think there’s such a rich history in pinball,” he said. “I don’t think it’s been explored very much. There are so many stories associated with it. There’s a ton of innovation that happened in those early games, which a lot of modern players mistake as modern innovations.”

Many of these innovations were in fact, introduced by one very influential man, Wayne Neyens, the world’s most prolific pinball designer. Neyens was interviewed for “Coin-Op Carnival,” and will also be featured in the immersive 360-video at Sunday’s event.

The illustrated book includes Q&A’s with electromechanical pinball and pre-video game designers, offering readers behind-the-scenes knowledge from the people who designed the machines’ mechanics.

“The main crux of each issue is a designer interview,” Claytor said. “There’s going to be four issues. In each issue, there’s also a couple game reviews: one electro mechanical pinball game review, and one electromechanical game review, a tech segment, product reviews, and comics.”

Through pinball competitions and tournaments, a large community exists– which has led to friendships like that of Claytor and Baldridge. Baldridge is co-writer of the “Coin-Op,” host of “For Amusement Only,” the E.M. and Bingo Pinball Podcast, and a ‘technical wizard.’ The two met a few years ago, and their idea to create the publication came when they were on co-family summer vacation.

With Baldridge in Virginia, and Claytor in Michigan, the pair worked on the publication for the past two years. They officially released “Coin-Op Carnival” at the Texas Pinball Festival last month. East Lansing is the second stop on a 16-stop, 10-state promotional tour across North America.

Claytor has been working with Abrams Planetarium tech John French to translate images from Neyens’ home, and 360-video of his last remaining pinball machine onto the giant planetarium walls.

Together, they’ve superimposed video of pinball machines onto the interview segment. “This is an immersive video, it’s a 360-degree view,” Claytor said. “It feels like you’re in his garage. I took these high-resolution photographs which will zoom into planetarium-sized images, so you can see what he’s talking about close up.”

Following the presentation, and Q&A, there will also be a book signing. During the book signing, a handful of Neyens’ designed pinball machines will be on free play in the lobby. Claytor said the hobby is appealing to him and many others, for many different reasons.

“You can enjoy it for the history, the mechanics, the repair aspect, or the electronics. It’s a really deep hobby, and I feel like I’ll never be able to explore everything in it,” Claytor said.

The event is free of charge, and seating is limited. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Abrams Planetarium is located at 755 Science Road on the MSU Campus


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