With Eric Meunier
Eric Meunier is a Game Designer for Jersey Jack Pinball.
Around the Playfield with Eric Meunier
The Start Button: How did you first get into pinball?
My father started Kingpin Games when I was ~3 years old. Within a year of starting, we had over 100 different arcades in the Wisconsin Dells area. For as long as I can remember, I have been working on games. I started working ‘full time’ (nights, weekends, all summer, etc) at age 12 for Kingpin. I was a repair tech for the family, fixing boards, electronics, etc. I decided I was ‘done’ with the game business when I turned 18 and finished with high school. I went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison to pursue an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering, which I immediately followed with a Master’s of Science- Mechanical Engineering, and was pursuing the field of thought-controlled prosthesis. As I was finishing my Masters, I went to the Midwest Gaming Classic with my dad and my brother, and met Jack Guarnieri. He was talking about his new pinball company, and I decided to give him my resume on a whim to see what would pan out. I was brought in as a highly-over-qualified (Jack’s words) lab tech, working part time while still in school. After graduation, I took a full-time position as the company’s Electrical Engineer. 4 years later, I was given a shot to design a game.
The Plunge: What was the first pinball machine you bought?
The first game I bought was Stern’s Lord of the Rings. I bought it when I was 22, still in college, and living in a one-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend (now wife). My dad bought an operator’s collection of warehouse games, and there was a LOTR in there. It was a routed game, but not destroyed. Norbie(as most people in the industry know my father), sold it to me for what he paid for it. It cost me $2250. I had to eat a lot of ramen that year, but it was worth it.
The Skill Shot: What is your best pinball achievement or favorite pinball moment?
I think my best pinball achievement was the launch of my first game at Expo last year. It was a blast getting up on stage and sharing my passion with the world. People ask me all the time if I was nervous, and the answer is no. I’d been dying to talk about this thing for a year, and it was finally my chance to share it with everyone. It was tough, since most of the people I hang out with all the time are pinball folks, and keeping a secret from all of your friends for over a year is not a fun thing to do.
Good Shots, Bad Bounces: What is your favorite and least favorite pinball machine?
My favorite (non JJP game, since I only feel that is appropriate to leave those off the list), is still probably my LOTR. It was the first game that really got me into pinball. I remember the day that my dad bought 3 NIB LOTR games to put on route(it was a school night). I was 14 years old. He asked me to set up the games in the warehouse to make sure they were ready for delivery the next day. I set up the games, tested some switches, and threw the glass on. I decided I would play a game or two. Next thing I know, It’s 2:30 in the morning and my dad is out in the warehouse screaming at me that it’s a school night and I need to go to bed! I had never gotten into rules on a game, but this clicked with me (maybe because I was such a Tolkien nerd, or maybe because it was just the great rules and gameplay). The game resonated with me like no game had before. It only took me another 12 years to get to Valinor 😉
My least favorite game is probably Creature from the Black Lagoon. It has nothing to do with not liking the design or rules or anything, just that I have never had a good game on Creach. It always eats me alive in any tournament setting, and I don’t really know why. Ugh. That game is like my Kryptonite.
The Wizard Mode: What is your dream theme you’d like to see made into a pinball machine?
Hard for me to answer this one without giving away company secrets. I’ve heard that there was a game in the works for Heighway that featured my favorite band of all time. Hopefully it still gets made, and done well. If not, I would love to do it myself.
The Tilt: What is the dumbest mistake you’ve made in pinball (mishap moving a machine, messing up trying to fix a machine, etc.)?
My brother and I were moving some games into a client’s house (because when we’re not working our day-jobs in pinball, we work pinball…), and in the effort of unloading the games, the brand-new freshly-shipped box of 2 sheets of Invisiglass got set alongside the truck. Now, the truck has a 24 foot trailer hitched to it, and in the effort of readjusting the trailer position to better line up with the door, well…yeah. Ran over the box of two invisiglass sheets. Completely exploded and destroyed. Whoops.
The High Score: Describe the pinball hobby in one word.
Match – Next Game: Where do you see the pinball hobby in 5-10 years?
I hope to see more companies making games, and more new blood coming into the industry.