Free Game

For a lot of people, pinball defines the '70s the way that Atari will always be tied to the '80s. And while videogames got their own definitive place in pop culture history (what with War Games and other countless feature film adaptations), nothing has ever been immortalized to the same effect that pinball was in Tommy. Part acid-flashback, part mystical epiphany, this "rock opera" used pinball as a plot point in a whacked-out Pete Townshend-penned pop culture megalith that not only spawned brisk box-office sales, top-selling soundtracks and a successful Broadway run, but also catapulted a bar game into a national obsession and full-time hobby for damn near every male of a certain age in the mid-'70s. Today's push-button controllers and digital screens are a poor substitute for the complex gangways of ramps, bumpers and targets that make a game of pinball a defiance of physics. You can almost see how Townshend was so inspired by the complexity of the game, and if you don't understand now, you will after seeing more than 150 of the machines together with all their brilliant, tacky back-glass at the Texas Pinball Festival, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 Highway 26 East in Grapevine. Weekend passes are $30 for adults, $20 for kids, and individual passes range from $5 to $15. Visit texaspinball.com for more information.
Fri., March 13, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat., March 14, 10-2 a.m.; Sun., March 15, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 2009
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Jennifer Elaine-Davis