Is the Selfie Pinball League the Future of Arcade Tournament Play?

A proud player with her Iron Man score
A proud player with her Iron Man score
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Fowlkes

Selfies are good for lots of things: to prove you visited a major tourist spot, to capture the moment you met your favorite celebrity or — take it from the Kardashians — to show off your flawless makeup and outfit on a daily basis.

A local barcade has given the selfie yet another purpose: to claim bragging rights and, possibly, a cash prize in a pinball competition.

The Button Mash Pinball League is an epic throwdown between pinball hobbyists and pros that takes place strictly via selfie. Players pay $10 to join the league (the money goes toward the grand prize); then they just have to play, do really well and snap a photo posing triumphantly alongside their highest scores.

“I decided to try a selfie pinball league after reading about the selfie leagues at Modern Pinball in New York and Namco's Level 257 outside of Chicago,” said Button Mash co-owner and league creator Gabriel Fowlkes in a recent email interview. “The appeal is that, unlike a regular league that requires you to meet once every week for a number of months, the selfie leagues allow players to show up and play whenever they like, so not only are they not constrained by schedule but they also get the excitement of 'competing' every time they come in to play.” 

Kids at play
Kids at play
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Fowlkes

Fowlkes assures die-hard pinball players that this system is totally legit. In fact, it’s “recognized by the IFPA," or International Flipper Pinball Association, which means players can even “achieve World Pinball Player Ranking Points” and rank against the best pinball wizards in the world. Pinball playing is a serious business, and the selfie league is all about honoring the game while offering a new way to keep track of scores and interact with other players.

Button Mash is totally receptive to players of all skill levels, though. Anyone who can stand at a pinball machine can play the game — there are no age restrictions or real physical restraints. The collection of machines at Button Mash, which range from classic (The Addams Family) to modern themes (Game of Thrones), is designed to appeal to all ages. Lined up against two walls, they gleam and buzz with an energy that's unique to the game.

So far, it seems the barcade's regulars have been the most active in the selfie pinball league. But if new visitors to Button Mash want to try their hand, a sign on the wall offers instructions on how to join the league. Fowlkes estimates that “just under 20 players” have signed up and competed up until now. 

Is the Selfie Pinball League the Future of Arcade Tournament Play?
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Fowlkes

This month, Button Mash selected four main pinball machines for the league: Game of Thrones, Tron: Legacy, Iron Man and The Addams Family. Fowlkes explains that the “highest score on each of the four games is compiled to determine the final standings.” So that means players should try their hand at all four pinball machines at least one time.

You can submit as many times as you want — you just need to take a selfie with your score to prove your standing. You then email your photos over, join the league discussion groups and watch everyone else’s high scores roll in.

Interested players can join the selfie league anytime throughout the month. Fowlkes plans on keeping the league going each month and continuing to get more players involved. Each time a player takes part, they can continue racking up those precious WPPR points to claim their place in world rankings. The qualifying round takes place until June 24, with finals going on June 25 at 4 p.m.

Time to start working on those reflexes.


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