Austinite sure plays a mean pinball

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It’s pretty obvious that Nick Taseris is into pinball — even if his four-month-old high score on the Twilight Zone pinball machine at The Parlor is replaced one day, the dual pinball flipper tattoos he has on his hands won’t ever go away.

“They were my first pinball tattoos. And then I got [pinballs] from The Twilight Zone machine right there,” said Taseris, pointing to his left bicep. “And I got that one [pinball bumper cap] two nights ago.”

Taseris has been playing pinball for about five years, but he said his dedication to the game really took off two years ago. “The nerd side” of the game, as Taseris put it, has introduced him to a world of pinball game designers, the various games they create, the inner-workings of pinball machines and of course, playing a lot of pinball.

For some, pinball is a fun arcade game at best — a quick way to go through a pocket’s worth of quarters. For Taseris, however, it’s the chase of that next high score that keeps him coming back.

“Every time you have the best game of your life going, you mess up in some stupid way and it’s all over,” Taseris said. “And then you think, ‘next time.’ You can correct that and do it better and you’re not going to mess up. And then you think, ‘it’s over,’ and then — whoosh — you have the best game of your life again. The ups and downs keep it going.”

These days, he visits every one of the 38 pinball machine locations in Austin at least once a week. That kind of frequency is necessary for learning each game’s rules, Taseris said, which differ from machine to machine. The game rules, which are usually found on the bottom left corner of a machine, instruct players in the objective of the different games and provide tips like how to get an extra ball. Once players get used to the rules, Taseris said that they’ll begin “knowing the shots” — an important skill to which he credits much of his pinball talent.

“Just knowing allows you to be able to make the points and rack up your scores, which is the most important thing,” Taseris said. “I’ve been playing Twilight Zone for two years now, and in the last six months I’ve finally learned everything there is to know about that game — every rule, every shot, every inside and out piece of that game.”

Pinball’s unique game play, which Taseris said is sometimes lacking in modern video games, makes pinball an appealing challenge.

“If someone gets super good at Mario or whatever, they can play it the exact same way every time,” Taseris said. “But with pinball, no matter how good you are, no matter how many shots you know, how many games you know, you’re going to mess up, you’re going to lose, you’re going to drain a ball.”

Taseris’ passion for the game led him to start a pinball-focused blog, pinballer.org, about three weeks ago. On the blog, he maintains an up-to-date list of pinball locations in Austin and accounts for his latest pinball exploits, including updates regarding the pinball collection he hopes to start soon and also recent pinball tournament happenings.

In April, he entered in The Parlor’s annual April Fool’s Day Twilight Zone tournament. Taseris ended up beating about 25 other pinball players, some of whom had been playing in the tournament since it started. Taseris, who considered himself an underdog going in, said the victory was a surprise for him. Now he plans on taking his pinball talent to more tournaments, including the Houston Arcade Expo in November.

Meanwhile, Taseris practices his game on machines around town. He said he plays four or five rounds of pinball everyday and on Mondays and Tuesdays, his days off, he’ll play pinball with a friend from the early afternoon “until the bars close.”

For Taseris, who said his free time mostly revolves around pinball, there’s no such thing as too much pinball. But he acknowledged that others might not agree.

“Maybe people who don’t like pinball might,” Taseris said. “Or my girlfriend — she would think so.”