How to find and encourage new players?

The majority of people I talk to are shocked that competitive pinball is even a thing and not just based on luck (those that I call The Non-Believers.) Then there’s a minority of people who think it’s cool and might have a passing interest. But it’s hard to get that small set of people to attend a tournament or league night for several hours. Not to mention that pinball can be extremely frustrating for newcomers.

The best way seems to be posting flyers or chatting people up at bars with pinball. But I’m wondering if there are specific sub-communities that would be good to advertise to.

In short, what’s the most successful way to get new players to pinball events?

EXTRA BONUS POINTS for ways to find women interested in pinball events.

Best way to get more women involved, no question, is to offer women-only pinball events. Get some women’s tournaments going, or better yet - a women’s league.

For general recruitment, I’ve had success with the following:

  • Invite people you see playing pinball to events! I maintain an online calendar of local tournaments and got business cards printed up with the address. If I’m out and see someone playing who seems really into it, I ask them if they’ve ever thought about trying a tournament and give them a card.

  • Events specifically targeted towards beginners. Lots of casual players I talk to like the idea of a tournament but are worried about embarrassing themselves. I ran a couple of novice-only tournaments last year and people loved them! Several of the new players from those have now become regulars at open tournaments. We also have a beginner-oriented league, which has been a huge success and attracts people who would never think of coming to a normal tournament.

  • Make event information clear for people who aren’t already involved in competitive pinball. I see so many tournaments where the only information available online is like a one or two sentence format description written entirely in pinball jargon (or there is simply no information online at all). That may be all most competitive players need, but it is incredibly unfriendly to somebody new who is trying to decide if this is something they want to give up an afternoon or evening for.


Before you get them into league or a tourney (competitive events), show them pinball is fun even if you don’t keep track of scores. Preferably on location. A neutral location puts everyone on level ground. No writing down scores, no hosts, no guests and the game owner isn’t anywhere near the place (nudge all you want!). Zero pressure. Nothing more fun in the hobby than playing on location with friends.

Once you show them the ropes, they’ll be all in for league or a tourney. Echa’s tips above are all solid, but she doesn’t mention that she plays on location regularly. No doubt one her best recruiting tools.

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So you mean I can’t recruit people by siting in a corner and silently judging them?

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New York’s bar league has introduced a lot of people to competitive pinball. We have a B league and an A league. As one might expect, B league is a lot more casual, but after a bit teams often move up into A.

I know Seattle has a similar league and Dave Stewart has made a point to make attendance a part of the scoring. I think this is a great method to ensure that newer players want to participate. Just by showing up, even if they lose their game, they have helped out their team. Takes a lot of the pressure off of them to perform since they’ve already helped the team.

Finally, a quick shout out to the Pin Babes in NYC; a woman’s team in the bar league. Having an all female team as part of the league is great and I hope we see more women’s teams.

You can lead a horse to water, but I’d rather ride it to the bar to play Future Spa with all my friends. The horse can get a drink later.