Pinball Fanatics: Smelly Pirate

We asked a huge pinball fanatic a few questions about the gaming genre he loves. Introducing Smelly Pirate, a Staff member at and one of the famous (if not infamous) hosts of the fantastic podcast: Big Red Barrel Boom. Smelly Pirate is a self-confessed pinball fanatic who happily talks about it when ever he can so we took the chance to ask him a few questions so he could share his knowledge with the world.

Welcome To JoypadAndMe Smelly Pirate

Jedi Junkie) What started your love of pinball?

Smelly Pirate) My earliest memory of playing pinball was the original Pinball on NES. My first Brick and Mortar pinball machine was Earthshaker at a bowling alley in Santa Barbara, CA where I grew up. My buddies and I (including Yoshifett from BRB) incited a five man pinball renaissance in high school, and it was a fun, clean, and relatively cheap way for us to have a good time. At that point none of us partied or got any chicks, so pinball felt like a suitably counter-culture version of hanging out and playing video games.

Jedi Junkie) How long had you been playing pinball before you realised your skills were above average?

Smelly Pirate) I think as we played for hours in high school we all thought that we were better than average, just because of the sheer time we put into it. I never felt that I was any better than any of my buddies, but Yoshi has since told me that he always thought that I was. I don’t really buy it.

Jedi junkie) Do you prefer digital or ‘real’ pinball?

Smelly Pirate) Real pinball, without question, for three main reasons: 1) each table has its own physical quirks, even if you play two identical Star Wars tables, they will each play differently; this one will have a weak left flipper, that one will have a bump on the ramp, this one will have an unusually loud replay “pop.” This variability is very alluring to me, for some reason. 2) There’s a physicality to playing brick and mortar pinball that you can’t recreate digitally. Your stance, how hard you press the flippers, your plunger technique, the sexiness of your hip thrusting when you realllllllly want to hit that shot…priceless. 3) Risk. You have a finite amount of money, and when your quarters are gone, you’re done, so it’s important that you do well so that you can replay and earn a free game.

Jedi Junkie) What do you consider to be the best console for digital pinball games in regards to the feel of the table and your control of the ball?

Smelly Pirate) The Zen Pinball (PS3) and Pinball FX (360) engines are the best available. They come very close to replicating the ball speed, physics, and sound effects of actual tables. As far as I can tell they are identical, and they are both made by Zen Studios and based on the same engine. I prefer the triggers on the 360 controller, so that would have to be my answer. I never cared for keyboard controls on PC games.

Jedi Junkie) Which game do you consider to have the most realistic physics?

Smelly Pirate) See above.

Jedi Junkie) What makes a good pinball table in your opinion? Features, theme etc?

Smelly Pirate) Variety of shots, I like having a third flipper on the upper half of the field, and coherent modes and goals. Ramps should be smooth, but not too easy to hit. I like a challenge. Cheesy video modes are a plus, and the sound effects are key, especially if it is a licensed property, such as Star Wars or Jurassic Park.

Jedi Junkie) Do you prefer high scoring tables or the much tougher but lower scoring tables?

Smelly Pirate) I like a tougher table, one that forces me to learn it to succeed. Score inflation was rampant when pinball got big in the late 80s and early 90s, and that doesn’t really matter. I couldn’t care less about scoring 100,000 vs 1,000,000,000, as long as I have to actually be skilled and understand the table to get there.

Jedi Junkie) When you play, do you use a particular setup ie personalised control layouts, camera view etc?

Smelly Pirate) In Pinball FX I use camera 5. In Pinball Arcade on the Vita I use camera 3. They are both set lower to the table, with a sort of dynamic camera pan upward when you shoot the ball up the field. It feels the best for me, even though the static bird’s-eye view might be more realistic to my real life perspective (I”m 6’9″, after all).

Jedi Junkie) Do you see digital pinball games taking advantage of motion controls or touch controls?

Smelly Pirate) I’ve laughed about this, trying to use kinect to play Pinball FX. Like I could have my wife stand in front of me and use her hips as virtual flipper buttons. Yeah, that would be awkward, and she would never consent to it. I hope they don’t. I have played some with my touchscreen phone and tablet, but it just doesn’t feel right using your thumbs instead of your index fingers. BTW, the back touchscreen on the Vita just flat-out sucks in Pinball Arcade, as I have inadvertently tiled my machine several times and lost the ball as a result. Lame.

Jedi Junkie) If you could only play one table from now on, which would it be and why?

Smelly Pirate) Virtual: Iron Man from the Marvel Pinball pack in PFX. It’s such a challenging table, but it’s very clearly labeled and easy to know what you have to do. I have reached the final boss just once, and he seemed impossible, so I am challenged by that. Brick and Mortar: Geez, that’s impossible. I’ll say a table called The Black Rose, which is not a popular choice, in pinball circles. It was just the right mixture of camp/action/oddball humor, and it had a freaking cannon that physically shot the ball at a target, one of the first games I am aware of that had that function.

Jedi Junkie) If you were to design your own table, what would be the three most important aspects you would add?

Smelly Pirate) A third flipper in the upper half of the field, multiple ramps, and discernible modes and mini-games.

Jedi Junkie) Are you excited for Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2?

Smelly Pirate) Absolutely. Technically PFX2 is the version they’re on now, I believe, but I am excited to see what they do with the update. They are such a great company, and clearly have a lot of respect for the game. I can’t wait for the Vita version to come out, it’s the main reason I campaigned for my wife to get it for me for my birthday last week.

Jedi Junkie) When you play, do you react to what transpires on the table or do you see whats going to happen before it actually happens?

Smelly Pirate) Both. I’m not too scientific about my shots. I do stall the ball a lot and aim for specific shots, but I also choose to let it bounce around and try to use instincts as much as geometry.

Jedi Junkie) Last question, do you know who Tommy is? 🙂

Smelly Pirate) See me, feeeeeeeeel me…

Well there you go, in-depth questions answered by one of the most enthusiastic pinball fans I’ve ever heard of.  Thank you to Smelly Pirate for taking part in this interview and chatting about a genre he takes great interest in.

Smelly Pirate can be found at and podcasts on the Boom show every week.

Jedi Junkie

Photos courtesy of Google Images.


One response to “Pinball Fanatics: Smelly Pirate

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