It's mesmerizing and more interactive than you'd think

My obsession with pinball has lasted a full five years now. It all started when I was tasked with writing a story about the new "Killer Queen" cabinet that had been acquired by Arcade Super Awesome founder John Geiger, in the new space he had helped build and design above the original Yellow Brick Pizza. While I was intrigued by the prospect of "Killer Queen" and a league sport of five-person teams blossoming in the city, the attraction came mostly via Geiger’s pristinely curated collection of vintage arcade games and, most importantly, pinball.

Though that establishment is now long gone, my pinball addiction has only become more nuanced and unwieldy. The great thing about pinball is that the sport is very social, which is a total bummer now. I deeply miss my league brethren, who normally congregate at a second Arcade Super Awesome location inside Sideswipe Brewery; we were about to start what would be the 21st season of the ASA tradition. Thursdays were devoted to foursomes of similar-skilled players duking it out on the playfield — casually competitive, but always engaged in the mighty quest for multiballs, high scores and the coveted replay.

That’s gone for now. But pinball can, in turn, be just as entertainingly transformative alone. Signs point to a rise in home sales (what better way to spend that stimulus money?), and in some cities across the U.S., arcades have started to rent out machines to lucky shut-ins.

The idea of isolation pinball is especially true for world-ranked Columbus enthusiast Carlos DeLaSerda, whom Alive has already featured as one of the city’s reigning wizards. While sheltering in place, he’s taken to Twitch to share his expertise and continuous pinball training via the streaming gaming platform.

Twitch has exploded since the global lockdown, and though the most-viewed channels follow millennials playing "Fortnite," "Call of Duty" and "Mario Maker," there’s a sizable community of pinball streams emerging. From an undisclosed bunker in the Hilltop full of new and rare machines, Laser Los has built a following for his late-night runs through the complex rule sheets of "Iron Maiden" and "Jurassic Park," but also in dissecting the infinite layers of an underrated title like "Popeye Saves the Earth" (the rabbit hole is deep on this one) or a classic like "Xenon."

Contrary to assumptions and stereotypes about pinball and the sport’s feverish following, watching Laser Los is engaging and interactive. While DeLaSerda takes song requests and chats up his audience, he’s also upping the production values, adding multiple views and stopping mid-ball to explain a certain shot or strategy. For that, there are many points of entry into the world of Laser Los — whether you are just beginning and interested in the rudimentary skills needed in the sport, a casual player looking to keep fresh, or one of DeLaSerda’s nemeses observing the competition, it’s become a mesmerizing distraction to watch him play. 

DeLaSerda’s Twitch schedule, though regular, is random, so be sure to catch his pinball prowess on twitch.tv/laser_los and subscribe to notifications to see when he’s next online.