It’s time for another fork in the road to take a look at a hobby that’s often adjacent to handhelds in the hearts of hobbyists, pinball! After reading Jalanimal’s adventure to the Wizarding World of Fort Wayne Pinball, I thought it could be fun to take a look at my local flipper hangout too. Pinball is in the middle of a massive resurgence in popularity, and there are some fantastic venues to explore popping up all over the country.

"Pinball Alley" at Enterrium

“Pinball Alley” at Enterrium

My Pinhistory

I was a child of the late 80s and 90s arcades so I very much grew up playing pinball. I am most partial to the orange DMD’d machines of the 90s as they were what I played the most of as a kid, but the industry-wide bounce back of pinball in the last 10 years or so has ushered in a new era of tables and producers alike for all eras and tastes.

Poster for the meetup at Enterrium during Pinball Expo

Poster for the meetup at Enterrium during Pinball Expo

If I were attending a retro game con, the majority of my time was always spent in the pinball area of the arcade, even if I was less than stellar at any of the games. While living in San Diego in more recent years, a friend invited me out to a league tournament night. I explained that despite any enthusiasm I had for the hobby, I was terrible at pinball.

I was assured that this didn’t matter and I should come check it out anyway. What I found was a community of folks that are welcoming to any skill level and often just excited that you’re also getting into this thing that they love themselves. I continued going to monthly tournaments for the rest of my time in the city. I was hooked.

In January of 2023, my family and I packed up and moved to the Chicago area for a job transfer. I know that Chicago was the epicenter of pinball historically, but Stern, American, CGC, and Jersey Jack are current manufacturers all located in the area. If you’re a fan of the game, there are certainly advantages to visiting here. Pulling up the PinMap app provides a deluge of options in the area. The justifiably famous Galloping Ghost and Logan Arcade are both hot spots for silverball fun, but today I wanted to take a look at a local spot whose clear passion for the game extends beyond the normal slot-trainer ticket machines of a mall-attached family fun center.


This place was known for a few things before my time, and I assume it has changed hands a bit, but I have only known it in my time in the city as Enterrium. The venue is D&Besque in that it’s attached to the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL. They have the credit munching redemption games if you want them, but there’s a very well-maintained classic arcade and pinball collection to go with those offerings. It’s great for me as the parent of a young child, offering something that I appreciate from my own arcade experiences as a kid. Someone cares.

Having a large chunk of modern pinball production taking place a few miles away means that they generally will get games on the floor at or very close to release. With the annual Pinball Expo trade show and tournament being held in a convention center down the street, Enterrium even serves as the Friday night welcome party to kick off the whole event.

League Night

League Night

The venue currently offers 35 machines that are regularly rotated in and out. The selection is a mix of new and classic, with brand-new machines showing up from manufacturers all the time. I’ve been regularly attending their monthly tournaments, which often see attendance in the 75-100 player range. Considering I was used to a player field of about 10, it was really a demonstration of how strong a hold pinball has kept on the Chicago-land area as well as the moment in the sun the hobby is currently having.

One advantage they have here vs a more traditional arcade location is space. They have a whole bunch of it. Machines have room to breathe, and the entire pinball area is even moved on the fly for tournaments. It makes for a more pleasant playing experience whether the venue is half-empty or packed to the brim. In addition to the traditional arcade, they also offer a full kitchen multiple bars, and bowling. I’ve spent my last two Easters having a delightful seafood and brunch buffet followed by pinball!

Current Loves

I still don’t consider myself to be anything special at the game, but following the classic flipper hobby right now is the most exciting the hobby has been in terms of new productions since the market boomed in the 1970s and 80s. There is a new release now which feels like almost every month. Jaws is still only getting its release parties at venues across the country and Stern has already announced a John Wick table. In short, it’s a good time to be a fan.

Three new games have largely captured my focus and play time lately. Venom and Jaws from Stern, and Pulp Fiction from the Chicago Gaming Company.

Venom is a more open play field with a ton of long ramp shots that are very much in line with my play style. I often describe that there are pinball machines that I “get along with” and ones I don’t. For some reason, some games I can just never get a good rhythm going. Venom is certainly an example of a table that I do get along with, and it “just feels right”.

Venom by Stern

Venom by Stern

Pulp Fiction takes what Chicago Gaming Company presumably already knows making more modern 1.5 versions of classic tables, and combined that with an original take on the 1994 Tarantino classic. The table is simple in appearance, having only traditional LCD score readouts and no video display as seen in most modern machines. What was clearly the main focus of this table was play.

Everything about this table feels great to me and the longer and deeper you go with it, the more you realize that while it’s appearance might be deceptively simple, the table is plenty deep. The presentation CGC has achieved without the use of video clips to lean on should be absolutely applauded. If you can find one near you, go seek it out.

Pulp Fiction by Chicago Gaming Company

Pulp Fiction by Chicago Gaming Company

Jaws is the latest Stern entry and I have yet to talk to anyone who has played the Pro or Premium editions of the game without singing its praises. It’s an iconic IP shown the respect it deserves with a fitting pinball tribute. Every aspect of detail on the table immerses the player into Amnity Island and the hungry hungry people muncher circling it. Combine this with enough depth and modes for even the most seasoned players, and regular updates courtesy of Stern, and you have what could be a very popular table for years to come.

Jaws by Stern

Jaws by Stern


So that’s just a quick view into one corner of my little pinball world. If you’ve never played much, I’d encourage you to go check out a local venue and see how you get along with certain tables. The pinball community has been exceptionally welcoming in my experience. If you’re intimidated about showing up to a local tournament, just show up once, and I’ll bet you’ll be excited to go back again. Get out there and flip some silver!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check when they’re going to be getting a John Wick

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