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April 22, 2015

Pinball dreams

We all know pinball as that bright, flashing noisy thing sitting in the darkest, dingiest corner of the pub. But there’s a competitive side to this arcade game and cash to be won. We caught up with SA’s youngest state pinball champ (and the first female), Lucy Fairlie-Jones.

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  • Words: Tiarne Cook
  • Pictures: Andre Castellucci

We here at CityMag have wasted a gold coin or two trying our luck at pinball, but our skills are pretty rusty. The golden rule, according to Lucy Fairlie-Jones, is never flip both flippers at once, ever.


Try out some Pinball at The Metro, where we caught up with Lucy.Once you’ve had a go, be sure to leave a credit for the next player – it’s considered good pinball etiquette

In the 1970s pinball was banned in New York until Roger Sharpe – the godfather of Pinball – proved it was a game of skill, rather than a game of chance.

“If you’re a bit scattered, you will not play well. If you are feeling calm, cool or weird even, you are gonna play well. You are in full control, more than you know, of how you play…It totally reflects your mood, ” she says.

Lucy achieved the zen-state needed to win a state pinball championship in 2013, making her youngest winner and the first female.

But all the prestige and all the glory came from humble beginnings.

A few weekends spent waiting around for friends and killing time at the Ed Castle eventually led Lucy to discover her competitive streak and rack up some pretty good scores.

“When you’re out and you don’t feel like socialising or you feel a bit awkward somewhere or you’re waiting for someone… It’s just the best go-to thing,” she says.

After spotting a competition poster, she achieved the highest score on a registered pinball machine and qualified for the state championships where she took the crown by defeating a bunch of other passionate players.

“I went into this mode where it was like multi ball after multiball. I felt like a machine. I felt like a part of the machine. Then eventually when I stopped playing I realised I hadn’t breathed in in like 5 minutes, I was covered in sweat and then I saw my score and was like ‘oh yeh!’”

Lucy represented SA at the Australian Pinball League Championships.

But the competition environment is very strange, she explains, a funny mix of old-school gamers, big macho men and occasionally ‘WAGs’ too.

It is clear that Lucy does not fit the ‘pinballer’ stereotype.

When she’s not hunting down pinball-training venues, she studies nutrition and food science at UniSA. And while she plans on competing in the future, she admits that she doesn’t take it too seriously.

“I’m really glad that I found it. It’s a lot of fun and it’s such an interesting game. It’s not sport and it’s not like being on a computer screen, it’s different to that because it’s physically in front of you…It’s totally a game of skill.”

She just hopes others can take the same enjoyment from it – whether they are male or female.

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