A call to solidarity: how can pinball help

This virus is essentially a hyper-variant of the Hurricane dilemma we see in Florida every season.

You see it out there, you know the probable forecast track, but right now it’s sunny and beautiful outside. Do I really need to take time off from work, put up the shutters and bring in all the furniture and make sure I have fuel and supplies if we lose power, and make sure my extended family and employees are taken care of? It’s a lot of work and annoying.

What if it turns? The model obviously becomes more accurate the closer it is. But even then, it can wobble and be nothing or wobble and be a steamroller.

So people wait and see. If it turns away, then you hear “I told you it was nothing”, if it comes directly at you, preparing or trying to evacuate while the storm bands are rolling in and is imminent is terrible.

A lot of this philosophy is akin to preparing for the virus. Substitute a few words, it’s a natural disaster mad lib.

It’s there, we really just don’t know the full impact. (Hopefully we look back one day and say it was not a big deal)

The safe play for hurricanes is to prepare ahead of time when the storm is there, but not imminently upon you (or in this case don’t wait until all of your co-workers, friends and relatives are sick, and the government shuts down everything to figure out what to do.)

Prepare now while it is still sunny outside, so to speak.

We see it coming and what is happening, and things are being cancelled from bigger to smaller. People are stockpiling just like in hurricanes. Some of it might be panic driven, but the systematic shutdown of things for the short term is reality. We are not at full quarantine house confinement yet, but nobody can be certain that’s not a possibility.

I’m treating this as my shot to get ready while the storm is still out in the middle of the Atlantic 3-5 days away and keep hoping it veers north away from land.

And personally, every storm that heads toward Florida, I’d rather look the fool by being overly cautious, and it never comes, than to have had ample chance to prepare, but had done nothing and regret it.

I prefer to be cautious, but I don’t know the right answer and am not telling anyone what they should do. I am not going to cite statistics or links or talk politics.

I am just doing what I think is best for my family and employees.

Lastly, as a Florida player, while I really would love to see the IFPA worlds occur and have a chance to play with the best in the side events, I’m not overly optimistic about it happening in May.


San Francisco Department of Public Health is recommending canceling any event (regardless of size) that cannot provide a 6 feet buffer distance between people. All pinball events in the Bay Area have been cancelled.

It’s going to be two weeks until you know who’s infected and who’s not. Any gathering right now is irresponsible.


You sure do put a lot of faith in your “local officials”.

As for tournaments I run, WE WILL PLAY ON until ordered otherwise by local, state or national officials (which could happen) or so many people are sick that we can’t play (which won’t happen).

Our players are already hypersensitive to the risks, and their behavior has shifted noticeably in recent events.

There are new, strict rules for entry: Are you sick? Then you’re banned; go home. You want to take an extra minute to sanitize yourself or the game before playing? Go right ahead. And don’t stand too close to anyone.

There will never be a loud siren declaring “All Clear” of the virus, so when would the tournament ban be lifted? When numbers decline? If so, for how long? What if they announce infections are down, people let their guard down and start infecting everyone all over again?

No tournaments until there’s a vaccine? What about all the other contagious diseases without vaccines? Do we have to wait for those, too? It’s not viable.

When there are physical or legal barriers to playing, of course we will obey fhem. But you might have more unexpected personal encounters at the supermarket or the gas station than at most small tournaments. We cannot police everybody.

Maybe limit tournament sizes in the short term to mitigate the risk. That’s fine. But at least in America we are going to have a difficult time enforcing restrictions on small assemblies. Americans don’t like being cooped up for too long

Can we have large trade shows open to the public right now? No, because the public can’t prepare for their anticipated risk. But at your average neighborhood tournament you CAN anticipate risk. You know who shows up regularly, and you can screen who enters.

Depriving everyone of every type of contact is not going to solve this. Better hygiene and common sense will. Let’s enforce what we should have been doing all along.

Completely agree. But it will help stop the spread until all those involved in solving it can get a handle of what they are actually dealing with. Easy for me to stop competing in pinball for a few weeks to a month. Just laying low until the experts have time to catch up.

Hopefully it doesn’t take long especially for the small businesses that need to remain open during this time and most likely will see a big hit in patronage.

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My wife and I work in separate hospitals here in Syracuse. No positive tests here, but they are coming (Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Hudson Valley all have them)
As of friday morning, we have voluntarily stopped going everywhere besides work, the grocery store, and daycare (will be open tomorrow, after that who knows)
I miss pinball, but its not worth risking others health.
We live in a free country, but I suggest you all do the same.
Go and buy something from a local business and play pinball one more time if you must.


You hit a couple key points that I think are both important. The first one ‘help stop the spread’ isn’t supported by the data. Go up to the article @Adam posted. There is a Google sheet linked near the end you can use to assess the risk using your own parameters. You may not be helping slow the spread in any discernible way.

The second is the economic impact. Everyone staying home is contributing to that harm.

Assess the data, reassess as the situation evolves. There is no 100% right answer for every situation.

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I’ve read everything. Trust me. Haha. I’m choosing to be extra safe because I can. If others can’t, I totally understand that. I just hope they are being careful and taking the precautions that the experts are telling us to take.


100% agree. It will be hard for a lot of people. But it will also bounce back. Ike the economy always does.

Combination of reduced number of cases, several weeks of no new cases, plus more confidence in treating existing cases.

New bug. Docs still need more data… the more we delay its spread, the more data docs can use to develop treatment regimes and save lives.


An interesting article with live simulation showing the effects of different levels of social distancing… pretty fascinating.


So I hope IFPA and @pinwizj will share some thoughts or decisions regarding this, this coming week.

IMO, IFPA should stop sanctioning for the next several weeks at minimum, then reevaluate. Not an easy call to make, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to be encouraging nonessential gatherings.


I disagree with that. As an organization with international influence, a global “stop sanctioning” would cater to the lowest common denominator, and that’s probably not helpful… the spread patterns of this are going to vary significantly from city to city, state to state, country to country. Once the worst is over, everyone’s going to want to get back to normality ASAP – this will be very important to help businesses recover, too. Maybe in a month, things are fine in Podunk but still problematic in NYC… let Podunk play. Let’s have some faith in collective intelligence: trust in TDs to get things rolling again when it’s appropriate, and trust in players to not attend if it’s not wise to do so.


Main problem with that is if Podunk is in NY state all the NY city guys will have no choice but to travel there to get WPPRs for State Championships and WPPRs for the World Championships. (If everything in New York city is shut down.)

So even if person x has the sniffles they may think that “I have to go to stay in the race.” So people in the danger areas have to travel to low risk areas and take the risk with them.

(New York used because it’s the first city I could think of in the US.)


I highly doubt that a brief local outage in NYC with regards to tournaments is going to significantly impact an entire year of collecting points, to use your New York example.

I’ve been wondering about this angle for a while now. How many people are calling for IFPA suspension from a public health perspective, and how many are worried about other people collecting WPPRs?

I’m in an odd position. I’ve been advocating for weeks that people in the pinball community pay attention to the coming of Covid-19. But now I feel that people have swung from not paying much attention to overreacting to it.

My opinion is that the decision of whether a pinball tournament continues or not is a decision that should be made by local public health departments, not by an international sports/hobby association. First of all, the IFPA has no expertise in the area of public health. (Nor, I would respectfully add, do most of us on Tilt Forums.)

Secondly, the pandemic will hit different localities with different intensities at different times. The reason I just cancelled my tournaments here in San Francisco is because the San Francisco Department of Health recommended cancelling non-essential events. The World Health Organization made no such recommendation. Nor would it be in a position to. The epidemic may burn out next month in one place but just be getting started in another.

One thing I think the IFPA could do is to direct local tournament directors to ensure that their events are compliant with all existing local regulations and local public health recommendations (which is a good blanket rule to have anyway). If you want to put teeth into it, you could stipulate that WPPRs could be removed from any tournament that violates local regulations or local public health recommendations.

None of this is to say that I don’t think the discussion is warranted. In fact, I find it laudable that so many people have opinions on such an important topic. But I feel that following the recommendations of local public health officials is wiser than having the IFPA making these decisions.


AMEN!! and well said!!


Some good points. I just don’t see how an organization the size of IFPA could keep track of “local regulations or local public health recommendations” in a thousand tournaments all over the world. How do you suppose they would manage all of that?

To be fair, a two week moratorium to see how things are proceeding seems sound and reasonable.


Since many local authorities’ recommendations are still voluntary guidelines at this point, it may still be better to remove the incentive for tournament directors to violate those guidelines. Yes, you can say that’s on the TDs to be responsible and play nice, but in the real world providing incentives for bad behavior is something to avoid when possible.