May 14 through June 6

Most of this will be photos without commentary as I am once again running behind on updates.

May 14 Little Dipper:

This, unfortunately, will be the last appearance of Terminator 2, as shortly after it developed an issue rendering it unplayable, and it was replaced with Indianapolis 500 by the operator.

May 19 Einstein’s Katy:

May 28 8th Wonder Brewing and Little Dipper:

June 4 Little Dipper:

Not bad for my first few games on Indy 500 in a long time.

June 6 Cellar Bar:

Standing up for my personal boundaries and attacks against my good name

(TL;DR: Rusty Key made an unwarranted attack against my good name and in light of the lack of retraction and apology, I am asking for a boycott of his businesses including but by no means limited to The Game Preserve.)

My apologies if this seems long but I feel like it needs to be said. While a lot of this occurred last (2023) August, making it a few months old by now, I have never received an apology for what has been directed at me.

Anyway, back in 2023 August, the Space City Pinball League was gifted a pinball machine by the family of Tyler Hunter who had, at that time, just recently passed away from an illness. The idea was that those in charge of Space City Pinball would find a new home for the game and raise money for the family.

So far, so good. This is great and I have no objection to either of these in principle. There are a number of ways to accomplish the goals of both finding a new home for a pinball machine and raising funds, while remaining within the boundaries of state law.

One way would be a silent auction. While Texas does require an auctioneer’s license for live auctions, there is no such requirement for silent auctions, sealed bid sales, and the like. Individuals and for-profit corporations have free reign to run a silent auction. There is no requirement to be a non-profit or charity for silent auctions.

A second way would be to give the machine away as a prize in a fundraiser pinball tournament. Price entries at, say, $20 each (maybe even offer 3 for $50, etc) and do something like the qualifying at TPF or PAPA, with the final 4 players playing in perhaps the highest-stakes group matchplay playoff in greater Houston pinball history. A bona fide contest of skill if there ever was one, so completely legal.

A third way would be to involve a qualified organization (QO) under the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act (Texas Occupations Code § 2002.003) and run a raffle. This would require re-gifting the machine to that QO with the understanding that QO would award the raffle proceeds as a grant to the family (presumably, pursuant to its mission).

So given these choices, what did Space City Pinball choose to do?

Apparently, they chose to cut corners. Space City Pinball held a so-called “raffle” without the QO. Unfortunately, no QO means no legal raffle, and instead it’s an illegal lottery, which is a big problem. Everyone involved in selling tickets committed a class A misdemeanor (Texas Penal Code §47.03, Gambling Promotion). Anyone who allowed tickets to be sold on premises likely committed a class A misdemeanor (Texas Penal Code §47.04, Keeping A Gambling Place). Finally, anyone who bought tickets likely committed a class C misdemeanor (Texas Penal Code §47.02, Gambling).

Flaunting the law like this is completely unfair to the organizations that go out of their way to comply with the law and hold legal raffles. This is also a slap in the face to those who go out of the way to act as ambassadors of pinball and reassure new players that it’s a game for law-abiding citizens. It devalues moments like Roger Sharpe’s plunger skill shot for the ages in a Manhattan City Council meeting. It’s a giant “**** you” to those who care about morals, ethics, citizenship, and decency.

Rusty Key took the side of Space City Pinball, both when he allowed tickets to be sold at The Game Preserve and when he attacked my good name without justification. Presumably, he’s the one that spread a rumor that I objected to raising money for the Hunter family–a gross misrepresentation of the facts and circumstances.

What I did do was ask who the QO was for the raffle. I wanted to confirm this before I bought a ticket. I also felt was a legitimate question everyone should be willing to ask, especially when the answer means the difference between a legal fundraising raffle and an illegal lottery. The former of these, we as a community should be proud to support; the latter, we should reject.

No QO means it’s an illegal lottery. The only winning move when it comes to illegal lotteries is not to play.

I asked for an apology and retraction from Mr. Key. So far my response has been radio silence.

I have no issue with people doing good things and having fun within the boundaries of applicable laws, reasonable moral and ethical standards, and a careful regard for the reputation of the classic arcade and pinball communities as well as the reputation of competitive/tournament pinball scene. This is completely the opposite of what Mr. Key said.

I have boundaries and I have standards. Mr. Key has violated both. This is unacceptable. I have not visited The Game Preserve since this has happened nor have I done business with either of his other two companies, Key Arcades or Adaptive Game Products. And until I get my apology and retraction, that’s the way it’s going to stay. I’m calling for a boycott of all three companies.

I realize Mr. Key is only a part owner of The Game Preserve. However, there’s no way around him getting a cut of the $15 per visit I would pay to play there. It is unfortunate that this also negatively affects the other owners for the moment. I have nothing against them, but it is what it is. Should Mr. Key sell or be bought out of his share of The Game Preserve, I’m willing to end that portion of the boycott (to be announced here). And while I hope this doesn’t happen anytime soon, should Mr. Key expire, the boycott will expire too.

(Just so we are clear: The boycott of Adaptive Game Products does not mean I am against people with physical issues being able to enjoy pinball. There is at least one other company making a similar alternative product, Inclusive Gamewerks, which I highly recommend.)

I didn’t really want to do this but the alternative was to let a violation of my boundaries and standards and an attack on my good name go unchallenged. I can’t do that. Not anymore.

Why I am no longer recommending participation in Space City Pinball League tournaments, and other related notes

So, you may have noticed small “advisory” boxes I have added to all previous posts mentioning Space City Pinball League (SCPL) events where I have played in the past. They have been there for a while (since late 2022) without a full explanation.

I regret that it was necessary to add these. However, after some careful deliberation, it was the most reasonable choice to protect my interests. Alternatives included deleting the posts in full (which would leave big huge gaps in the blog), massive edits to prior posts (“butchering”, really) to the point where their historical value becomes rather dubious, or taking down the blog in its entirety (not happening). So, that left preserving the posts as they were with the advisory note added.

These were necessary after it became obvious to me that the board of SCPL intended, from the beginning, to ban me from their events permanently at some point. That point finally came sometime in the last few months. This includes all tournaments at The Game Preserve (despite a previous conversation with Rusty Key indicating that SCPL did not have a monopoly on events at The Game Preserve), all tournaments at the Wormhole, and just about every other pinball tournament that a reasonable number of people show up to in the Houston area.

Whatever ban there was should have been revisited and lifted by now. That it still exists, and has been referred to as a permanent ban as of the last event I tried to pre-register for, can be interpreted in one of two ways.

The first, the way SCPL’s board intends it, is as a commentary on me. SCPL is saying I do not belong near (at least SCPL’s) pinball tournaments and, likely, should also not be allowed to organize or direct tournaments. It could be interpreted to say anything that it’s simply the preference of the few people that comprise SCPL’s board that I am not present at SCPL events, to SCPL’s board speaking on behalf of everyone that has ever played in an SCPL event that I have done things which are unacceptable and my standing cannot be redeemed. The reality is that most people, by continuing to play in SCPL events, are endorsing this permanent ban, even if it’s just because they don’t know about it.

And then there is the other way it can be interpreted: as a commentary on the kind of people in charge of SCPL now. I certainly think those evaluating the situation should look at the totality of the circumstances. The first time I was refused entry to an SCPL tournament came right after I won a non-SCPL tournament at EightyTwo. Prior to that it was well known I was a skilled player (and I still am).

The more recent commentary came after I asked a simple question about a raffle SCPL was having. Specifically, I asked the identity of the qualified organization (QO). Not getting an answer, having David Pollock say “You’re overthinking it”, some messages on Facebook from Marc Gammons which were unnecessarily abrasive and rude,  and Rusty Key’s insults (see previous post) pretty much gave me the answer. Unfortunately, that answer was that SCPL’s board was violating Texas law and didn’t care, and apparently took great offense that anyone dare ask such a question. This, despite it being a legitimate inquiry to determine whether or not I might be supporting illegal activity (or even breaking the law myself) by buying a ticket.

Basically my inquiry unintentionally exposed unlawful conduct by SCPL’s board, and at least one other person in the Houston area pinball scene viewed it as in poor taste. I was told I should have inquired in private. Given what’s at stake, I cannot consider that an acceptable course of action.

What should have happened: SCPL’s board members should have taken a look at the law and/or asked an attorney, then after realizing this “raffle” was an illegal lottery, canceled it and made alternative arrangements to raise funds for Tyler Hunter’s family (including the sale or auction of the pinball machine that formerly belonged to him) inside the boundaries of Texas law.

Obviously that did not happen. Instead, SCPL’s board chose to ban me from their events permanently, summarily dismiss or trashcan any pending requests that I be reinstated, and plow ahead with what they now knew was a lottery being held outside the boundaries of Texas law. I consider this abominable and abhorrent, not only as a Houstonian and competitive pinball player, but also as a law-abiding citizen.

Those who work in certain professions, most notably including the field of security and private investigations, any profession involving education (teachers, school librarians, school counselors, etc, as well as research scientists), any medical-related profession, those employed by a government agency like NASA, and those who hold themselves out to be ambassadors of pinball have no business getting anywhere near an illegal lottery. Really, nobody does, but I consider it particularly egregious for those in the named professions/groups to run illegal lotteries and otherwise support illegal gambling.

As previously mentioned, I have chosen not to give up on competitive pinball. That remains my course of action despite this obstacle thrown in my path.

I do plan to grow the Bayou City Pinball League (BCPL) into a reasonable alternative. That has taken much longer than expected, unfortunately. I was finally in a position to start getting things rolling in early 2020 and had the first tournament lined up and ready to go. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, pushing things back a year. In early 2021 things finally got to a point where I could try to run tournaments and leagues.

Here we are in 2024 and attendance has been spotty at best. I have canceled many more events than I have directed to completion; that is not how it should be.

Given some people involved with SCPL have accused me of sabotage, unfortunately, I suspect at least one person involved with SCPL in some capacity (tournament/league director, board member, etc) to have been sabotaging my events in some form. I rarely, if ever, get a reply to anything I email to SCPL’s shared email account, but some time ago, someone did make edits to the website implying that their calendar includes all Houston area pinball events.

(In the same email where I pointed out that verbiage, I sent them info on a BCPL weekly league which they would have needed to add to truthfully keep that verbiage. I did not expect them to actually list the event. Reading between the lines, I was asserting it was time for them to “**** or get off the pot”.)

In addition to organizing/directing, I plan to keep playing in pinball tournaments as circumstances allow. Right now I cannot travel as much as I would like, due to many factors. It is a minor miracle that I actually attended the Texas Pinball Festival last year and played in tournaments there. Given my performance in the Wizards tournament in 2024, I certainly feel the risks I took to get to Frisco were at least somewhat worth it.

I think the Houston area should have a competitive pinball scene, and I feel I should be part of the competitive pinball scene, both in the Houston area and beyond. Also, I feel those who are in a leadership role have a duty to comply with the law both as part of basic citizenship and as those responsible for the reputation of competitive pinball, the reputation of residents of the Houston area, and the reputation of the competitive pinball scene specific to the Houston area.

Of note, I practice what I preach and the tournaments and leagues I run uphold the highest standards of citizenship and good character. It is difficult to accurately interpret the lack of attendance and support of pinball tournaments and leagues I have tried to organize in light of this.

Yes, there will be a little overlap between this post and the next one, though they do cover two quite different things.