Arcades and the pinball machines that excited generations with dazzling lights and bouncing metal balls have faded into foggy memories of the past for many.
But the first Arcade Expo, which starts Friday in Banning, brings the chance to relive the glory days of youth.
More than 500 pinball machines – plus classic arcade games – will be powered up and ready to play at the three-day event. Organizers hope the site of the expo, which will also feature seminars on gaming and movie screenings, will eventually become The Museum of Pinball. But before finalizing grand opening plans, they want to get people out to play the games.
“This is a big party,” show director Kenny Hardy said by phone. “There are going to be more parties and events like this as time goes. As we have more people seeing what we’re doing out here, we can work on being open year round.”
Why make Banning the pinball mecca of Southern California?
Show organizers say the Pass-area city is the perfect spot because of its proximity to Los Angeles, Orange County, Las Vegas and Arizona. The future museum has about 40,000 square feet and has room to grow. They also own 80,000 square feet behind the property.
“In a weird way, I think we’re going to put Banning on the map,” Hardy said.
The concept came from two big collections of games.
Hardy said he met fellow pinball collector John Weeks and the duo decided to combine forces to show off the games. Many machines are from the ’70s and ’80s. Hardy estimates the expo will have about 750 total games. In addition to pinball machines, the event will include arcade classics such as “Donkey Kong Jr.” and “Missile Command.” The show also boasts obscure shooting and bowling games from the ’60s, Hardy said.
With so many machines from the past, the event will be a time machine of sorts. Playing favorites from year’s past is a great way to take people back to simpler times, Hardy said.
“It’s like a reunion with all of your old friends from the ’80s. Remembering your old friends and even making new ones. And sharing it with future generations. Because if we don’t do that, this stuff won’t stay relevant anymore and will just go away.”
Pinball enthusiasts share the sentiment.
Pat Choy, owner of the sale and restoration business Endless Pinball in Murrieta and Anaheim, works with J.J. Abrams production company Bad Robot and lists guitarist Slash and actress Megan Fox as clients. Some clients must have pinball machines they played for the first time with their girlfriends, he said.