Trading Card Spotlight - Zach Sharpe

Our next Trading Card Spotlight features Zach Sharpe, who is displayed on card number 341, from the Superstars of 2012 Collection.  Zach has had a major impact in the world of pinball as a player, writer and as an organizer.  Zach was at one time in charge of the Illini Pinball Association and still helps out with the IPA when he can.  As a major contributor to Play Meter Magazine, Zach has major pinball world championships to his name.  Zach has finished first place in Gameworks Chicago, PinWars Tournament and the Southern Pinball festival.  Zach is ranked 14th in the world on the IFPA (International Flipper Pinball Association).  Currently Zach is the Director of Marketing for Stern Pinball in Chicago, Illinois.  

What are your opinions about today’s generation of Pinball?  How do you compare them to older, classic machines?

At the end of the day, it’s still pinball regardless of generation.  While a lot of older machines have less “stuff” in it, at the end of the day as a player, you are battling gravity, defying physics, and ultimately trying to get 1 point higher than your opponent while playing.  It is incredible though to see the advancement of technology and how much more robust the “world under glass” continues to improve.

What’s your opinion of the Console Pinball games (Xbox, PlayStation) that recreate the original machines onto the TV screen? 

I think it’s fantastic.  While nothing will ever eclipse or replicate the true physically interactive entertainment the real machines offer, for those who have limited or no access it’s a great gateway for many to get into pinball so I’m all for it.

Did you agree on the pinball ban in New York City on the 1970s?  What is your opinion on this topic?

While I don’t agree on the pinball ban, I’d be lying to say it isn’t cool to say your father helped save/legalize pinball!  I think it’s been proven time and time again that pinball is a game of skill, so I don’t think there should ever be a doubt on this topic.

Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a Video game Trading card? 

I’d be lying if I said yes!

When did you first meet Walter day and where was it at?

I honestly can’t remember and the only reason I say that, is because I met a lot of people growing up as “Roger’s kids”, so I’m sure I met Walter before I could even say “Walter Day”.

What was the best era for Pinball gaming in your opinion?

Being at the ground floor of what’s going on here at Stern Pinball I’d have to say without a doubt, now! (zero bias in this answer, I promise!)

In your opinion, are there enough or too little Pinball Expos and conferences held each year?  

Just like I say about anything pinball…. there’s never too much pinball!  The more the merrier.

Do you remember your first pinball machine you played and what do you remember about it?

There are far too many pictures of myself (and my brother) perched up on top of games before we could walk, crawl, talk, etc.  So needless to say, I have no idea.  Apparently, the blinking lights and buzzing sounds helped with fussy baby Zach so that has to count for something!

If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?

Iconic because all you have to say is “Walter Day” and everyone in the gaming community instantly knows/recognizes who you are talking about.  Close second would be “Legend”, but I’ll save that for someone else to use.

Which company makes/made the best pinball machines and why?

I’d be doing a terrible job as Director of Marketing for Stern Pinball if I didn’t say Stern!  But having witnessed everything that took place at the Williams/Bally factory as a kid up to my adult years here at Stern, the advancements in technology, the sheer global team involved in creating these works of art, it’s no doubt that Stern is the true global leader for everything pinball.

What is your favorite pinball machine past and present and why?

It really depends on what mood you are in similar to a restaurant (Italian, Mexican?).  But my completely non-biased answer is a game my father designed, Cyclopes.  If I had to pick one game to have in my collection, it would be that machine not only because he designed it, but the artwork is incredible (outside of seeing our mother half naked on the backglass), and the ruleset and sounds of the game were way ahead of its time.  If I had to pick a most recent machine though, it would undoubtedly be Stern’s Iron Maiden, designed by the greatest pinball player of all time, Keith Elwin.

What would your design and theme of the perfect pinball machine be and why?

This is where I casually have to say #NDA because you never know what the future has in store!

Are you fan of the new digital pinball machines and what makes them better or worse than the standard machines?

I honestly don’t have much time on the new digital pinball machines, but what I’ve played of them they definitely help scratch the itch of playing pinball if you don’t have means to the real thing.  But I’ll always default to NOTHING compares to the real thing.

If you could only own one pinball machine, what would it be and why? 

Looks like I jumped ahead of myself earlier, but Cyclopes!

What does it take to be a Pinball Journalist?

Not sure I qualify to answer what it necessarily takes, but if you derive happiness on “reporting” or talking about pinball, more power to you!

 Are pinball machines aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?

All of the above!  Using the film industry as an example, a studio releases many different genres of film (action, romance, adventure, comedy) and it’s no different than with pinball.  There’s Iron Maiden, Walking Dead, but also The Munsters and Star Wars!  There’s literally a title/machine for everyone out there.

Do you prefer playing pinball alone or against someone and why?

Without hesitation it’s always more fun to compete!  I personally love competition and competing, always have, always will and it’s no different with pinball.  While it’s still fun to play alone or casually, I get the most enjoyment out of playing high-level stakes competitive pinball.

Do you learn anything from playing pinball?

Patience and not allowing things that are out of my control affect me. 

Are pinball machines good for relieving stress?

Without a doubt…. even if that stress can come about from competitively playing, it’s still an amazing outlet.  There’s nothing quite like being “in the zone” to completely forget about everything that is going on outside in the world and being in that moment, transported inside the universe which you are playing.

Where do you see the pinball world in the next 20 years?

Bigger and better than ever!