Date Night: Beat My High Score

Nerd Louisville Date Night

Date Night: Beat My High Score

Written by Brandon Stettenbenz; Featured artwork and photography by Mike Pfaff

Good ol’ arcade rivalry can spice up any romance. Just don’t gloat too much or you might lose that loving feeling. My wife and I have had more than one spat over who’s the better joystick jockey, but it’s our shared passion for all things nerdy and a playful, gamer rivalry that keeps our relationship strong and spicy, just the way we like it.

Inside Zanzabar in Germantown the nostalgia is as palpable as the smell of fries and burgers. Pinball machines ding and whoosh while the juke-box controlled ceiling speakers blare classic rock, punk, metal, and hip hop. It’s no Flynn’s Arcade in terms of scale, but there’s also no brats crowding the “Space Paranoids” machine. That’s the beauty of a “Barcade”: it’s not Chucky Cheese. When we’re on a date, we want to re-live the joys of our childhood and not hangout with children.

Pinball Zanzabar
Ariel scores a lot of points while Brandon looks on with concern.

If your date plans include dinner, Zanzabar’s diner faire is on par with the best greasy spoons I’ve ever had the guilty pleasure of gorging myself on. Sandwiches, pizza, and general American is what they do and they do it well. Start with the Pterodactyl wings (nerd for big chicken) and work your way up to Magic Galaxy Tacos, Fozzie Bear’s Kimchi Pie (a spicy pizza featuring locally made kimchi), or the Mata Hari Hot Brown. Top it all off with a cast-iron skillet Death Star Cookie.

Add a good selection of rotating drafts from lagers to stouts to hoppy IPAs, a fully stocked bar with a tasteful bourbon selection, and a respectable collection of arcade cabinets and pinball machines from the 70’s and 80’s (with a few outliers made in the 90’s), and you’ve got Louisville’s answer to the world-famous Barcade franchise, originated in New York. Dinner, drinks, and arcade games make for an awesome nerd date, especially if you throw in some friendly, flirty competition.

My specialties are Galaga and pinball machines that came out after 1980. There’s just something about destroying space bugs on a CRT screen that gets me pumped. In the past, I’ve dropped some serious coin on The Adams Family, The Who’s Pinball Wizard, and Star Wars pinball. Basically, if it was made in the era of “personal computers”, has a ton of lights (Ooooh shiny), and is based on a franchise I enjoy, I’m excited to play it. If you see RAD in the high scores, it’s probably me.

My wife enjoys Joust, the original Star Wars 6-axis stick, and The Machine [Bride of Pinbot]. The latter isn’t because she’s showing solidarity with lady bots – they just happen to have that machine and it’s way fun. We’re both Rogue Jedi’s at heart but she’s way better on the joystick than I am. Even with three attack phases (chances) and two decades of modern FPS, I’m just no threat to the original Death Star. I’m also a paltry squire of an ostrich knight, while she’s deadly with a lance in Joust.

Nerdy Date Night
Ariel with a little playful trash talk to Brandon during a game of Star Wars pinball.

You’ve probably assumed rightly, that she picks harder games because she’s a badass. Her timing is way better than mine at slow paced games. She’s patient and strategic, while I’m a button masher. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play nice. We just take turns burying each other’s high score, or slide over to the Rampage cabinet and take our frustrations out on an unsuspecting populace, cooperatively.

Although we have different tastes in games and styles of play, we enjoy challenging each other to adapt. Keeping in the service of romance, not ego, we keep those challenges light-hearted. Small jabs and light gloating keep us on our toes while we quote Star Wars, Star Trek, and other fandoms. If you like to talk nerdy to your man or lady, this is the place for it. Diner food, nostalgia, booze, and your best guy or gal; what more can you ask for?

Tips:

  • Keep your competition friendly. Passion is great for romantic connections but rage quitting makes for an awkward date.
  • Avoid going on Louisville Pinball League nights (Fridays)
  • Zanzabar is also a venue, so on many weekend nights there’s a cover, music, and half the games are obscured by the stage and crowd. However, they’re expanding soon to a second adjacent building that will house the venue biz.
  • Games rotate, so be open minded about trying new games.
  • This is a real arcade setup, so bring cash for the quarter machine!
Zanzabar Arcade
Brandon trying to beat Ariel's score on Ms. Pac Man.

Date Night is aimed at other nerdy couples who are looking for fun date ideas. We hope to have more articles like this in the future. Have an idea for a date night? Reach out to us. Also, Nerd Louisville thrives on donations to bring you this content. Please consider donating to our cause using the button below.

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Episode 9 – Louisville Pinball League [Explicit]

Louisville Pinball League

Episode 9 – Louisville Pinball League

Disclaimer: this podcast has some explicit language and you can probably hear a beer can opening in the background. You have been warned. 

In this episode, we talk with Janet Stevens, Antz Wettig, Jason Bradley, and Chris Renninger of the Louisville Pinball League. The Louisville Pinball League is an official PAPA sanctioned league that goes for 8 weeks.

Signups for the next pinball season begins April 8 (plus, there will be a tournament) and the games begin on April 15th. Games are played every Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Zanzabar

Antz: “If you mention this podcast walking in the door, introduce yourself to Antz, Jon, or Vern and I will buy you a beer.”

Highlights:

  • Introductions: Janet Stevens; Antz Wettig; Jason Bradley; Chris Renninger
  • The birth of the Louisville Pinball League in 2010
  • Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom and Pagans
  • Collecting pinball machines
  • “It’s where the fun’s at!”
  • Louisville Arcade Expo
  • The first board of Donkey Kong vs. starting at pinballs
  • Luck vs. Skill in pinball
  • The Chris vs. Janet rivalry begins
  • The Ted Nugent pinball machine
  • The social game of pinball and how it’s a great bar game
  • Tuesday night pinball tournaments and the over-30 and reasonable crowd
  • Rogue tournaments and Rogue League
  • Jason Bradley, the Pinball King of Louisville, and his mythology and trading card
  • Janet’s introduction to the league and her expansive pinball history
  • Janet’s story is interrupted with a brief explanation of how the tournaments work
  • Scheduling of the tournaments
  • Louisville Arcade Expo and how amazing that convention is
  • How handsome Antz is for his age
  • International Flipper Association
  • Billy Mitchell and the King of Kong
  • The rivalry between Janet and Chris heats up!
  • Drew, aka Booski, a member of the league and savant, the flying red tomato and the Vegas National Tournaments
  • Getting robbed in Vegas
  • Transitioning the Kentucky tournaments to Louisville from Cincinnati
  • How players are split up in a tournament
  • Janet meets Richard Shapiro and he gets her into some tournaments, she wins a bunch of them
  • The Outlook Inn’s pinball machines
  • Jason makes the point Antz couldn’t make earlier; beginners can win with some luck against better players
  • The ability to drop out of two games in the league
  • “You can know zero about pinball and still have fun.”
  • Janet invites women to come out to join the pinball league so Team “V” has more support
  • The Team “V” shirt
Antz and his brother.
If you were curious about that Team V shirt.
  • Professional naked photo shoots
  • What someone, particularly women, should do to join the league
  • Antz explains how Zanzabar rolls out the red carpet for pinball players
  • Young folks who want to play should come with a guardian and before 8 p.m.
  • Jason explains some other game types played between league seasons, like pinball golf
  • There is sometimes a 50/50 male to female ratio at tournaments
  • Jason plugs pinballmap.com – if you see a pinball machine somewhere, tell him about it
  • Chris plugs LouisvillePinball.com
  • We discuss drinking beer not drinking beer
  • Janet vouches for the safety of Zbar for women
  • Zbar listed as one of the top 10 arcade bars
  • The growth of pinball bars, the passion behind the pinball machines at Zbar and how it wasn’t the business plan
  • April 8th at 7 p.m. is League Signup; April 15th if the first week of the league
  • The Nerd Louisville bump
  • Listen to the very end to find out who is better, Janet or Chris

The Crew:

  • Mike Pfaff

Intro / Outro music is The White of Noon by STRFKR, graciously provided with permission by Polyvinyl Records.