Instead, his time at Madison Area Technical College was all about making sure that his "Judge Dredd," "Pin-Bot" and "Fire Power" pinball machines were in proper working order. Hiring someone to fix a 25- to nearly 30-year-old pinball machine isn't cheap, and technicians are scarce.
"It's strange motivation, I know," said Stickney, who remodeled his basement four years ago to accommodate his pinball habit. "There's no room for a bar. If I had more space, I'd have more (pinball) machines.
At first, stand-up video games crowded pinball machines out of places such as Space Port on State Street, Tilt at Westgate and the Aladdin's Castles at East Towne and West Towne. Home systems eventually closed the arcades, and now smartphones let us play wherever and whenever we want.
Bars, fraternal organizations and American Legion halls also dumped pinball in favor of more lucrative games such as video poker gambling machines and the "Golden Tee" video golf games that would bring in more money in a day than a pinball machine would generate in a month, Stickney said.
But pinball might be making a comeback.
A tournament that drew players from five states was held on a recent Saturday in Waunakee while the Mad City Flippers Pinball League formed last fall and has 20 players. They travel throughout southern Wisconsin and play in the homes of pinball machine owners once a month in cities that include Reedsburg, Waterloo, Madison, Black Earth and Lodi.
Milwaukee is home to the Twisted Flippers Pinball League, while the Appleton area has the Fox Cities Pinball League.
Enders, 43, of the town of Westport, is an industrial engineer at a fuel controls manufacturer and has been playing since he was a kid growing up in Madison. He can quickly rattle off some of his old, now-defunct pinball haunts.
Enders owns 11 pinball machines.
"It just builds from childhood," he said.
Members of the Mad City Flippers come from a cross section of professions. Todd McIlwee, 42, manages the Waun-A-Bowl, a 16-lane bowling alley attached to a Pizza Hut in Waunakee.
It was McIlwee who started the Waun-A-Pinball tournament in 2011 after meeting Steve Tully, a technician with Quarter Time Distributors, a Waunakee-based vending company founded in 1932. Tully, who has been with Quarter Time for 24 years, also loves his pinball and has 10 machines in his heated garage in Waterloo.
"I thought it would be just Madison players here, but now we have five states represented," McIlwee said of the tournament. "It's a hobby thing. Some guys work on their cars; some guys work on their pinball machines."
The Saturday tournament, held in the bowling alley's banquet room, was limited to 50 players, and had eight people on the waiting list and a purse of $750. Five pinball machines were used, including "Big Buck Hunter," which features a deer that slides across the machine and challenges players to hit it with a silver ball flicked from a flipper. Other games included "Operation Thunder," "The Avengers," "Judge Dredd" and "Scared Stiff."
"We mix and match and try to change it up every year," Tully said. "We set them harder for good players. If you don't, they're going to (play) for 20 minutes on one ball."
Tully, 54, grew up in Watertown, where his father was a minister. After high school, he worked as an auto mechanic in Madison before delivering for Pizza Pit and enrolling at what is now Herzing College to study electronics. Tully's interest in pinball can be traced to an aunt who had a pinball machine in her basement.
The annual Waunakee tournaments have helped revive the game locally and led to the formation of the traveling league. The pinball machines can be in garages, basements, living rooms and dining rooms. Sometimes, in all four.
"It's neat to have like-minded people together," Tully said. "It's just kind of a childhood thing run amok."
To get a peek at the pinball and other gaming worlds, Tully suggests a trip to Brookfield on April 12 and 13 to the Midwest Gaming Classic, a massive trade show and convention at the Sheraton Hotel, near Brookfield Square. The event started in 2001 with console games but now includes video arcade, pinball and tabletop games and fills a 40,000-square-foot convention hall.
Pinball also is getting a further boost locally.
Hilton Jones, who has 10 machines in the living and dining rooms of his Madison home, is putting four pinball machines in April into Pooley's, a sports bar on Madison's Far East Side. In September, the bar will host the Mad Rollin Pinball tournament, which raises money for cancer.
"Steve's kind of the godfather of pinball," Jones said of Tully. "We just want to bring back real pinball.' "