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“Greatest waiting room in Short North,” Pinball league gets new, cheesy home

J.R. McMillan

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There’s still something rebellious about that little silver ball.

Just ask John Geiger, founder of Arcade Super Awesome, whose pinball obsession heralded a local revival of the once-contraband contraptions. Historically maligned by moral crusaders as another form of gambling, even outlawed in some cities during the Prohibition Era, the recent rise of so-called “barcades” is an apropos postscript for the birthplace of the temperance movement.

“I grew up in the arcades in Cleveland playing video games, but pinball was spotty. In the small towns outside of Cleveland, pinball was still illegal into the 90s,” Geiger recalled. “So I never really played pinball as a kid. But when I came to OSU, it was all over campus. That’s when I got the bug.”

An avid collector of classic and contemporary arcade games, the pivot to pinball inspired League Super Awesome, a weekly competition attracting world-class talent, now celebrating its 15th season and a new home at Melt Bar & Grilled in the Short North.

“Even going back to the early 90s, there were a lot of tournaments in Columbus. There’s an organization called the IFPA, the International Flipper Pinball Association, which is our governing body. If you look at the player numbers in Columbus, which indicate when you joined, you’ll find player numbers in the teens and 20s,” he explained. “My number is more than 20,000. That’s how long and how popular competitive pinball has been here.”

Much as disco begat breakdancing and video games supplanted pinball, console games nearly killed coin-ops altogether. But the social component they never replaced has been recently rediscovered by players looking for something Sony and Microsoft don’t sell.

“Pinball is more fascinating to me as a machine. The play is more complex and there’s that factor of randomness,” he revealed. “With arcade games there are patterns that repeat, but pinball has elements of skill and chance. It’s never the same game twice.”

Rube Goldberg would revel in the modern pinball movement, the clever combination of lights and kinetics elevated into a performance art exhibition open to anyone with a spare quarter.

“I’m very particular about curating games together by depth, style, theme, or era. There’s an order everyone doesn’t always see. It’s like a gallery and the placement of the paintings that only makes sense when you see them all together,” he explained. “You can have a collection of things, or you can have a gallery. But it wasn’t an arcade until I opened up my warehouse and people came to play.”

Photo by Hillary Jones

Geiger has been colonizing ever since with enclaves of pinball machines and arcade games throughout Columbus. But, the decision to wind down his space above Yellow Brick Pizza in Olde Towne East, followed days later by the surprise closure of Four String’s westside brewery and Grandview taproom left casual patrons and competitive players nervous about what was next.

“People contacted me worried about where we’d land. It was entirely unexpected, hearing how much they appreciated this community we built,” Geiger recalled. “But I also got a call from Don Johnson, who is kind of my counterpart in Cleveland, organizing league play and the pinball and arcade convention up there. He connected me with Matt Fish, the owner of Melt, and it was a perfect fit.”

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There are lots of stories about how surprisingly small Columbus can be, and this is one of them. Geiger and Fish quickly figured out they both used to be in bands together in Cleveland decades ago. Never the same band, but definitely the same scene. And over the course of my own conversation with Geiger, we discovered the offices of our respective tech startups were right across the hall from each other nearly as long ago in the old Weisheimer Mill that was the birthplace of Arcade Super Awesome.

“Pinball really fit our punk rock brand,” explained Fish, whose burgeoning Ohio-born empire of grilled cheese eateries first expanded into the Columbus market in 2013. “Last year, Don approached us about putting pinball in a couple of locations in Cleveland in some of our unused space and hosting league play. Now we’re part of that community in Columbus.”

The ample waiting area created for Melt’s robust opening crowds received a retrofit. New electrical lines were required to provide sufficient power for more than a dozen games, with plenty of room left for league nights that often attract enough players from around the state to rival the number of restaurant patrons.

“League Super Awesome brings in players from all over Ohio. I’ve seen the same players from Columbus competing in Cleveland the following week,” Fish noted. “Between Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, we have one of the largest pinball communities in the country. Most people don’t know Ohio has the highest number of ranked pinball players in the world.”

League play at the Short North location is every Thursday with monthly tournaments. Like any league sport, the minutiae of matches and eliminations may be intimidating to the uninitiated, but the play itself shouldn’t be.

“With pinball, gender doesn’t matter. Skill level does,” explained Fish. “The women’s tournament creates an opportunity for new players to learn from more experienced players in a comfortable environment that encourages entry into a male-dominated sport. But everyone is welcome for league nights and all-player tournaments.”

Though only a month in, the partnership already shows signs of cross-pollination—with more pinball players introduced to Melt, and restaurant-goers equally intrigued by the arcade. (It also doesn’t hurt to have Killer Queen, the beloved 10-player platform game, attracting its own cult following back to the hive.)

“When you walk by Melt and see these glowing pinball machines in there—not just one or two, but a whole room of pinball—you want to come in and check it out,” noted Fish. “It’s the greatest waiting room in the Short North.”

For details on League Super Awesome, visit arcadesuperawesome.com. For more on Melt Bar & Grilled, visit meltbarandgrilled.com.

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Arts & Culture

Virtual Experiences bring culture to our couch

614Now

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Now that we're all stuck at home for the foreseeable future, we could use some entertainment beyond hours of Netflix bingeing. And yes, Carole probably did it*

WOSU Public Media has come to the rescue by putting together a list of local, virtual experiences to enjoy from the safety and comfort of your bunker. Here's a list of just a few upcoming events ranging from music to the arts.

Sunday, March 29
Columbus Symphony’s Russian Winter Festival – The Columbus Symphony broadcasts its Russian Winter Festival ll concert, featuring masterpieces by Prokofiev, Borodin, Rimski-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky at 1 p.m. on Classical 101.

Columbus Goes Live – The Cyber Festival –  A virtual entertainment experience streaming across different pages to support local performers who are directly impacted by the critical shutdowns of venues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Join in and make history by supporting your favorite bands, comedians and performers in the Columbus area.

Why not a virtual bar?

Brewdog is even getting in on the act with its upcoming, Brewdog Online Bar. They plan to "open" for business at 6pm on Friday, March 27th. The bar plans to feature live beer tastings with our co-founders James and Martin and other beer experts, homebrew masterclasses, live music & comedy and more.

Brewdog will be sharing further details soon and a complete schedule of the events on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

*Carole, as in this Carole.

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Things To Do

8 things to do this week that don’t involve human contact

614now Staff

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It is a strange time to be alive, Columbus. With the concerns and cases of coronavirus on the rise, you may be feeling worried, fearful, and/or unsure of what to do.

In addition to washing your hands to protect you from the virus, you may want to consider being more of an inside person this week. To curb cabin fever, consider these eight activities to keep you occupied indoors.

Plan a getaway

Once the threat of coronavirus is over, which Gov. Mike DeWine assured would happen in yesterday's address, you'll be ready to get the hell out of Columbus. Consider planning a trip to one of the Scarlet Oaks cabins, Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, Yellowsprings, or the birthplace of bourbon!

Schedule a whacky road trip

Already have a vacation on the books and worked into your budget? No problem! Opt for a cheaper, shorter adventure with one of the destinations highlighted in our Worth The Drive series: Buckeye Express Diner in Bellville, Kewpee Hamburgers in Lima, Cincinnati's Hathaway's Diner, Dietsch Brothers chocolate in Findlay, and Waldo’s G&R Tavern.

Test your Columbus knowledge

You're sick of all your board games and you hate the idea of spending another weekend in front of the tube. Liven up your entertainment with Columbus trivia! What is the hottest month on average? What is Hilliard's median household income? What year did the Kahiki close? See how well you know your fine city.

Binge local podcasts

Not only do podcasts entertain, inform, and engage you, they're also great to binge while multitasking. Podcast + mopping the kitchen? No problem. Podcast + walking the dog? Easy. Podcast + julienning veggies? Careful… but definitely possible. Be sure to support local podcasters! We're sure you can find something that'll pique your interest in the list below.

Get hooked on knitting

What better time to dive into your hobby than a worldwide viral outbreak? And though cold weather is almost completely behind us, it's never too early to get a jumpstart on those Christmas gifts. Click the button below to learn more about where to find materials and resources.

Explore the pasta-bilities of a home-cooked meal

You’re probably hungry after all that knitting. Flex on the fam by whipping up a delectable home-cooked Italian meal. You'll have to slip out of the house to grab your groceries from famed local market Carfagna’s, but trust us, it'll be worth it.

Get hyped for Ohio State Buckeyes 2020-21 season

With no spring game to rev your engine pre-season, you may be feeling a Buckeyes football void right about now. To help plug it until the opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 5, check out old Ohio State hype videos below. O-H!

Read the latest issue of (614) Magazine

The physical copies of the March issue of (614) Magazine are flying off the racks, but you don't have to go out into the world to read it. To learn more about the Columbus esport revolution, the latest food and drink news, and other updates in the community, click the button below to read the digital issue.

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Things To Do

Listen Local: 10 Columbus podcasts to binge

Regina Fox

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The thing with binging TV is that you have to be using two senses at once to be engaged: sight and hearing. That really cuts down on the possibilities of getting other things done simultaneously. But, podcasts on the other hand require only one sense—hearing—so the productivity possibilities are exponentially greater.

Podcast + mopping the kitchen? No problem. Podcast + walking the dog? Easy. Podcast + julienning veggies? Careful... but definitely possible.

That, plus the power of spoken word has the ability to inform, entertain, and inspire you unlike any other media.

Now that we've presented a great case for podcasts, consider subscribing to one made right here in Columbus.

The Rock Doc Chronicles

Interviews, Current Events, Entertainment

Being the on-call doctor to some of your favorite musical acts comes with a lot of stories. Dr Randy Sharma (@rockdocohio) sits down with some of his famous patients to discuss whatever comes to mind.

Ohio v. The World

Culture, History, Places & Travel

An Ohio History podcast, hosted by Alex Hastie.

Rogue Squadron Podcast

Culture, Entertainment, Hobbies

Star Wars Comedy, craft beer, gaming, and more. It’s the rowdiest podcast in the galaxy!

Momcast

Culture, Entertainment, Self-Help

Columbus, Ohio moms Mindy Drayer, Mikaela Hunt, and Stacy McKay discuss everything relating to being moms and parenting on weekly installments of the Momcast.

Columbus' Entrepreneurs' Podcast

Business, Entrepreneur

Columbus Entrepreneurs’ Podcast is primarily for members of the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). The stories are inspiring and focus on core principles of EO, including speaking from experience instead of advice giving, building peer learning experiences, and focusing on the top and bottom 5% of our lives.

Chatimals

Entertainment, Hobbies

Chatimals is the nature podcast where information meets imagination. Each episode covers one kind of animal with an eye out for all the goofy, surprising animal facts.

The Sounds of Bustown

Culture, Entertainment, Music

A bi-weekly podcast featuring interviews about the musical creation process with people in the music scene in Columbus, OH.

Thrive and Connect

Culture, Self-Help

How to live your life in a more genuine, simpler manner and develop abundance in all aspects – yourself, family & friends, and business relationships.

Columbus! Something New

Culture, Entertainment, Places & Travel

Why do we do what we do? Why does C!SN exist?

  • To introduce listeners to local entrepreneurs and big thinkers
  • To be a conduit between community and events, museums, and new experiences
  • To be a value to entrepreneurs as we broadcast them to the world
  • To be a value to listeners as we expand their world and bring them new ideas

The Digital Analytics Power Hour

Business, Technology

Each episode is a closed topic and an open forum – the goal is for listeners to enjoy listening to Michael and Tim share their thoughts and experiences and hopefully take away something to try at work the next day.

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