YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — When did 16-year-old Sydney Wamsley start playing pinball? A better question is: Did she ever not play?
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“There’s pictures of me crawling on glass tops of games, so I’ve been around pinball all my life,” Wamsley said, in town from Columbus, Ohio, with her dad Chris for the White Rose Gameroom Show.
Wamsley said she’s ranked about the 3,000th best pinball player in the world, among 80,000 ranked players.
If you didn’t know competitive pinball was “a thing,” well, you probably haven’t been to the game room show, which continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Admission, including unlimited pinball — no begging mom for more quarters — is $15 for people 13 and older, $5 for children 6 to 12 and free for younger children.)
On the other hand, East Memorial Hall at the York Fairgrounds had plenty of people who are more passive fans, like Tina Marquette, wife of the show’s promoter Richard Marquette, who owns about 60 pinball machines. Many reside in their basement, which is a step-down or up — depending on one’s perspective — from their previous, smaller home, where machines crowded the living space.
Tina Marquette won’t lie and tell you she loves pinball as much as Richard, but after 22 years married to him, she’s fine with it. Richard Marquette said, “I mean, the games pre-date her, so she knew what she was getting into.”
Tina Marquette confirmed that allegation. “I think he already had at least eight or nine games in his apartment” when they met, she said.
Multigenerational families aside from the Wamsleys included David Lapinski of Benton (Columbia Co.), Pa., and his 10-year-old son Nick. The two enjoy playing together — sometimes classic pinball games you might have played while waiting for your pizza back when people were willing to walk in somewhere, place an order and wait for food; sometimes multi-level “games that I can’t even keep track of where the ball is,” David Lapinski said.
“And I like to beat you,” Nick said. “And he likes to beat me,” David confirmed.
Does David ever beat his son? No, Nick said. “I’ve accepted that already,” David said.
Like a lot of people at the show, the Lapinskis buy and rehabilitate old pinball machines. Some they sell. David Lapinski said it’s nothing you get rich doing, but you do earn enough to, well, go buy another pinball machine. He loves that Nick loves not only playing but also fixing the machines.
What happened to all the pinball games in places like pizza parlors?
“Now everybody plays on their cell phones, has better things to do,” Richard Marquette, who lives with Tina in Etters, said.
What could be better than pinball?
“I don’t know,” he said. “But people have other ideas I guess.”
No matter how old you are, if you’re alive today, the show has functioning pinball machines from when you were a kid. That includes pre-war machines, as they’re known. Yes, pre- that war — machines from before 1941. The show also has a few dozen old arcade video games — Ms. Pac-Man and such.
Just because you won’t find many pinball machines in restaurants and arcades — or won’t find as many arcades themselves — it doesn’t mean the playing has stopped, as is evident at the show.
“Buying one for your home, your basement, has really taken off,” Richard Marquette said. In fact, that’s how he got hooked, back before it’s how most people played.
“Back in the ’70s, my father bought us one for Christmas, for the, you know, game room,” he said. And the rest is… well, you know.