Tennessee state pinball championship taking place in Millington

MILLINGTON, TN (WMC) - Once upon a time, arcades were the entertainment hub for kids of all ages.

Before the rise of video games and smart phones, kids spent hours putting quarters into slots in hopes of setting the high score.

Pinball was the king of arcade games, but eventually "Call of Duty," "Halo," and "Madden" took the crown, but Pinball is making a comeback.

"Pinball kind of went underground for a while, but then it started resurfacing into new areas," Tennessee Pinball tournament director William Krusa said.  "The competitive scene has really helped with the resurgence."

That resurgence brought Krusa, a Nashville native, to Millington on Saturday for the International Flipper Pinball Association Tennessee State Pinball Championship.

The IFPA keeps track of points and the top pinball players in each state and the world.

Krupp and David Yopp, another Tennessee pinball tournament director, put together the state championship.

Yopp is the reason the championship is in Memphis though.

With pinball making a comeback,  Yopp got together with his friends Jon and Nina Stoddard to open the Retro Arcade, which is housed inside of Mid-South Marketplace in Millington.

"I just so happened to have machines at the same time pinball starting coming back," Yopp said. "So we put them out for public play here, and it's kind of just caught fire. A lot of people come to play.  We have a tournament every Friday night at 7:30, and more and more players came. The IFPA gives points, and as you get more points you go up in rank. The top 16, they invite to play in the state tournament, and that's basically what we did."

The players aren't just from Tennessee though.

While the Memphis area qualified 11 out of the 16-man field in the state tournament, there's people from Arkansas and even Indiana.

Eric White, is from Southwestern Indiana, but he said it's closer for him to compete in Tennessee.

He competed in just one tournament in Nashville and did so well he automatically made it to the state championship as a 15 seed.

"It's fantastic," White said. "I do it more for fun, not so much for the competition. It's not video games, it's not pre-programmed animations. You make out of it what you want. The better you get the farther you play. I call this a sport. This is like bowling or any other sport. There's very much skill involved."

The state title is played in a bracket style. Each match is a best of seven with four rounds.

At the end of it all, one person will be crowned the state champion, and represent Tennessee in the national final in Las Vegas in March.

Yopp sees the famous arcade staple growing even more.

He said smartphones might end up actually helping Pinball thrive.

"Those apps that people on their phones play pinball on, I think is one of the reasons real pinball has come back," Yopp said. "Kids have turned onto those apps, and someone said 'hey, there is a real machine out there that that's based on.' They've come out to seek those machines out and play for real."

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