Local pinball arcade cures boredom with weekly pinball tournaments and unlimited play

The Ottawa Pinball Arcade is an affordable activity for students and others in proximity of the Algonquin College campus
Photo: Itel Sapozhnikov
Dylan McGowan attempts to set a high score on an older pinball machine.

A pinball arcade west of Algonquin College was filled with flashing lights and a mixture of sounds during a recent tournament, proving that old-school games are still holding interest in the modern-day world.

With a flat-rate fee and a tournament combined, the Ottawa Pinball Arcade was full of people of all ages competing on the evening of Mar. 6.

Located inside The Neighbourhood Pub on 2559 Baseline Rd., the arcade offers a variety of vintage pinball machines and video games, alongside a selection of more modern machines too.

“Every Wednesday at our ‘all-you-can-play’ event, there’s a free tournament, and you get a chance to win one of two pinball machines,” said Mike Loftus, the owner of the arcade.

For a chance to win a 1978 Black Jack Pinball Machine, contestants must compete in the playoffs finals match that will be held in September.

The clacks and dings of the pinball machine overpowered the upbeat music as players were focused on breaking the high scores.

competitor playing the Black Hole pinball machine
A player being challenged by the Black Hole Pinball Machine. Photo credit: Itel Sapozhnikov

The entire room was lit with flashing coloured lights throughout the night as laughter, cheers and sounds of disappointment came from different ends of the arcade.

On Wednesday nights and Sundays, the arcade hosts a ‘free-play’ event that offers unlimited plays for the price of $15.

Besides the tournament, the Ottawa Pinball Arcade hosts vinyl night on the first Saturday of every month.

“It’s a combined retro experience,” said Loftus.

Smiles were seen around the room as more relaxed players who had been eliminated and spectators enjoyed refreshments and food.

“A tallboy [beer] and a half pound of wings for ten bucks,” said Loftus. “Cheap beer, wings and pinball.”

Dylan McGowan, a computer engineering technology student at Algonquin College, visited the arcade for the first time.

“It’s pretty cool if you are into pinball arcade games,” said McGowan. “They [the arcade] have a couple of other machines too like Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Space Invader and Galaga.”

McGowan described the atmosphere a “classic arcade-y” that also had an “underground vibe.”

Evan Jesty is a Carleton University graduate who is a regular at the weekly tournaments. He has been playing for about a year.

“I come every week to compete in the tournaments, I didn’t do well this week but I like playing pinball,” he said.

His love for pinball and the people around is the reason he visits routinely.

Loftus, McGowan and Jesty said that pinball is a fun activity that anyone can enjoy and they recommend others visit.

“You can jump in a tournament even if you’ve never played pinball,” said Jesty. “I jumped into a tournament when I first came here, I pretty much didn’t have any pinball experience.”

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