top 16 best compete to win

Pinball wizards hone their craft as they prep for championship

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Pinball wizards hone their craft as they prep for championship (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Pinball wizards hone their craft as they prep for championship (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Remember when kids went to the arcade to play a game called pinball?

Yeah, those were the good old days, with no PlayStation or Xbox. The game of pinball has ties all the way back to the late 1700s when the first game was made. Then in the 1800s, the flipper piece was added. And in the 1900s, pinball went from table-top to the high tech digital game we see today. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible.

It's a rule Will McKinney learned from his dad before he was even tall enough to reach the buttons to play.

"My dad got me playing before I can even remember because he played as a kid," said McKinney. “I was a kid of the '80s. Pinball came before video games, and with video games there's no challenge. You can only go so far before the computer takes over."

National pinball leagues have formed across the country over the past few years and now competitive pinball has become increasingly popular.

 "For some of us, it's nostalgia and I think for some it's a little bit of escapism," said Mark Pearson, president of the IFPA Arizona chapter.

A field of 300 players has been narrowed down to the top 16 players in the state. Those players will compete this Saturday in the state finals.

"We start with a bracket of 16 and then whittle it down, best of 4 of 7 games each round until we have a new champion," said Pearson.

Will McKinney is the current state champion and wants to take the title again. “I want to win every tournament I’m in and I play to win from that standpoint hopefully come out on top," said McKinney.

McKinney has some tough competition. Jim Smith has been playing since he was in college. “I started competing when we formed our local pinball league here in 2009," said Smith.

Smith has worked hard to keep his spot in the top 16 over the past few years.

"I’m a middle of the road player. As far as top 16 I’m seat eighth this year," said Smith.

The guys spend about 10 hours a week practicing. Come Saturday, they will find out if the hard work paid off. The state champ will head to nationals in Las Vegas in March.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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