Jeremy Hanaford
The Cascade

Creative Commons – Photo Courtesy of Hey Rocker/Flickr

Abbotsford (CUP) — The thrill of pinball is the lack of routine. The ball is always wild, and you can never be certain what will happen. That’s why I love pinball, and also why I suck at it. But as I sat in a small garage listening to the sounds and watching the lights constantly blaring out from the various machines, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to play.

John Kremmer is just a regular guy at first glance. He is a trained graphic designer, and used to have his own printing press back in the day. He was vice president of B.C. Christian News, and helped publish a youth magazine across Canada. He is also one of the best pinball players in the world.

After being invited into his garage, I was in awe of the machines, awards, and fan memorabilia neatly organized throughout the small space. Star Wars, The Simpsons, Black Knight, F-14 Tomcat, and more—Kremmer has collected classic pinball machines over the course of his life and replaced the ink and oil from his old printing press with clean and exciting machines.

As a kid, he went to local arcades with a quarter and played on a machine until he won 10-15 free games and would then sell them to people for a dollar. Kremmer was able to roll the machines, which involved restarting the scoreboard with ease, and it helped him win his first tournament.

A new arcade had opened up, and on the first day Kremmer came in and rolled the machine. A month later, he came to collect his trophy and saw that no one had placed on a massive scoreboard set up for the tournament because of his score.

But there was a time when he stopped playing pinball. For 20 years, he rarely ever played unless he came across one in a hotel. But during a weekend in Pittsburgh, he entered a tournament in the B class with more experienced players and ended up finishing eighth out of over 100 players.

Since then, he has returned to the game and won tournaments all over the world. Kremmer loves to compete—from Denver, where he placed first above both the number one player in Canada and the number one in the world, to the Flipper Freaks tournament held at Castle Fun Park a few weeks ago.

The recent tournament had a great turnout. Though being sick hampered his final day performance, Kremmer’s 11th place finish wasn’t the whole story. Kremmer says he enjoys the social interaction just as much as competing.

Kremmer remarks upon how the lack of human interaction from texting or Facebook has made some people long for social interaction. The principle of getting together and having fun has helped build the reputation for the pinball league. After going from 10,000 official pinball players to 20,000 in just three years, it is certain pinball is on the rise.

Later on, when he and I played a game on his new Demolition Man machine, I was amazed as he casually got over a billion points. When he realized how late it was, he finished the game by letting seven extra balls he had won go down the machine.

Alongside pinball and graphic design, Kremmer also collects various items, including comic books, record albums, and pinball posters. He has stories of finding and selling so many rare items that his wife never knows what he will bring back.

Kremmer speaks about his good friend, Robert Gagno, Canada’s number one player, and how their pinball connections have accommodated meeting with former NFL superstars and playing pinball in their homes.

Kremmer isn’t a retro guy. He enjoys current video games and  has owned every major Nintendo system. He says he enjoys video games and commends them on the advancements they have made, but he still prefers a regular game of pinball because of the constant challenge.

The discovery that The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” was the first song Kremmer learned to play on the drums really provided an insight into Kremmer’s life. He may be a great pinball player, but he is also a man of other hobbies, a man of many talents and fascinations, and is one of the most interesting people I have ever met.