Around the Playfield Pinside Edition with Frax

With Frax: Pinside Edition


Frax is an active member of the Pinside forums.

Around the Playfield with Frax: Pinside Edition

The Start Button: How did you first get into pinball?

My earliest memories of anything pinball was from bowling league and Putt-Putt Golf. Really, it’s my mom’s fault. She was into pinball, and convinced me to play with her instead of playing Street Fighter Alpha or Puzzle Bobble, and I figured out pretty quick that getting free replays was AWESOME because it meant that my arcade tokens lasted much much longer! I remember playing Bride of Pinbot with her at Putt-Putt, and playing Fish Tales, T2, Indiana Jones, and No Good Gophers at the bowling alley. I remember playing STTNG a *lot* when we would go visit family in Oklahoma City…this place called Perfect Swing had one that was directly at the apex of the stairs to the upper level, and I would sit up there for HOURS racking up replays.

The Plunge: What was the first pinball machine you bought?

We had a Cyclone at home for a while when I was 16, but the first game I actually purchased was Space Shuttle. It was nerve wracking. I had no experience with repair, soldering, or even a multimeter. I had heard about Tron Legacy getting turned into a pinball through KLOV boards, we had recently bought a Nintendo Vs. cab with Dr. Mario on it, but I was frustrated trying to repair the CRT. It was a few days before my birthday, I’m trolling Craigslist looking for deals on arcade games, and I did a search for pinball just on a “huh, I wonder what they go for these days” whim. There wasn’t a lot listed, but it didn’t matter…soon as I saw Space Shuttle, I about fell out of my chair. I had never seen or heard of it..I had no idea that game had ever existed, but I’ve been a NASA/Shuttle nerd as long as I can remember. I contacted the lady, made a tentative agreement… explained to her “Hey, I don’t have a truck or anything to move this with..I’m going to rent a U-Haul to drive the 140 miles round trip and come get it, and I have cash.” 

LOL…. Murphy’s Law, right? I go get the U-Haul the morning we’re supposed to be going. I call her to verify we’re still good, and she says “Yeah, but someone’s going to come look at it before you get here.” Cue the instant rage. I’d already paid for the truck, this was at a time where money was fairly tight, and I was working 60-80 hour weeks. I really blasted her with every bit of logical outrage I could muster, and thankfully it worked…in hindsight, it could’ve easily backfired. Anyways, we went and got it. Perfect backglass, beat up playfield and it wasn’t a looker, but it was mine…for all of 500 bucks plus the U-haul. I ended up putting in a CPR playfield and plastics, replacing the ramp, putting in LEDs, getting a custom topper made…I did everything but the cabinet and chrome. Sold it…someone else did the cabinet and chrome…and then won an award for it at TPF. That’s awesome. 🙂

The Skill Shot: What is your best pinball achievement or favorite pinball moment?

Achievement? Honestly, I think just being able to keep pace with most of the ridiculously good players we have here in Texas is a worthy statement. The Austin guys like to give me a lot of shit because of my general irritability, and they know that certain ways of saying things will push my buttons, but it’s all good. No matter how much we get at each other on Pinside or Facebook, it’s always amicable at tournaments…which is what matters to me. I really have enjoyed the level of competition here, even if I don’t get to travel and participate nearly as much as I want to. 

Favorite moment is related… a few years back.. went to state championships. I had a TERRIBLE seed. Just god-awful. When you look at your brackets, and you’re like…. “Okay, I have to play….oh SH…. really? Garrett Hays, Jon Drew, Bob Matthews…and THEN….IF I get through that… likely Colin MacAlpine…” It’s enough to make me want to break down. By the time the tournament actually rolled around, I’d convinced myself that I was screwed first round. I’ve played Garrett enough times to know that it’s a crapshoot on games we both know of who wins, so I’d resigned myself to that loss right away. Turns out…the best way to win or do well at a tournament is simply….don’t give a crap. Don’t care at all. It’s not easy to do that, but any time I have done that.. I’ve done really well. I ended up playing against Colin, and had him down 3-0…and being who he is… that fourth game, he put Portal on Tron on BALL ONE and I was just devastated after that. Tron was my best game at the time, and I just got utterly dismantled. Colin won 4-3 in the end. I went to Nationals in his place because that was the first year he was running the TPF tournament. But that SCS was hands-down, probably my single best memory of anything I’ve done in pinball. Also, shout out to Keith Christensen for hosting that year. Amazing collection and setup. 

Good Shots, Bad Bounces: What is your favorite and least favorite pinball machine?

Favorite: It’s so cliche…it’s Lord of the Rings. I’ve been through 60 games in 7 years, and nothing really has the “full package” like LOTR. TSPP and AC/DC Premium are *extremely close* though. 

Least: Can this be like an 5-way tie? Cue Ball Wizard (YOU SHORE COULD SHUT UP, MAN.), Far Out (non-resetting drop targets and nothing else to shoot for), Walking Dead (pops feed, and just general shot geometry), Avengers (rules, flaky mechs), Paragon (because I never win on this game).

The Wizard Mode: What is your dream theme you’d like to see made into a pinball machine?

Voltron, but I’m half-heartedly wanting to do this myself as a WPT retheme. I started on the art for it last year, but life circumstances have changed and I don’t have the time to work on it like I used to, and the work I’m doing is extremely detailed. Frankly, it’s probably too detailed for the size it would be printed at. What I’d really like to see from the manufacturers is Infinity Gauntlet. I’ve wanted this for years…long before we knew it was happening in the movies. I only ask that they create a ball lock mechanism where the balls lock into the gauntlet where the gems would go. I actually have a playfield concept sketched, and a mech design, where I know how to make this work as an under-playfield lock with a window, so I know it’s possible. I’m sure with all the hype from the movies, we will probably see this game next year, just not in the way that I want it!

The Tilt: What is the dumbest mistake you’ve made in pinball (mishap moving a machine, messing up trying to fix a machine, etc.)?

I actually haven’t done anything to seriously damage a game as of yet. *knock on wood* Honestly, one of the worst things I ever did was trading AC/DC Premium for TZ and really over-valuing what TZ was worth at the time. I had a hell of a time getting rid of TZ when I was done with it, and that just led to a lot more money lost and more bad deals for me. Either that or selling the HUO LOTR I’d bought for 4k from the original owner. I’m not sure which of these was more stupid, but they feel just about equally terrible. 😐

The High Score: Describe the pinball hobby in one word.


Match – Next Game: Where do you see the pinball hobby in 5-10 years?

Stern will still be around. JJP and Spooky will probably still be around in 5 years…I dunno about 10. I think we’re going to see a price ceiling hit in 2-3 years where even the “rich white guys” that are the mainstays will be tired of increasing costs and decreasing quality paired with lack of actual innovation, and theme won’t be enough to carry new games anymore. Multimorphic are really the only ones doing anything innovative (Don’t get me wrong.. I love TNA..but it’s a throwback, and that gig is only going to happen once or twice) and if you can look past the art design in Lexi, there is an AMAZING game there. I’m really exited to see what comes in the future with them. I really honestly hope that at this point everyone has learned enough to avoid future Jpop/SkitB/Heighway type situations…but….


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