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    Nowadays it’s becoming a rarity to find an arcade, especially in the Louisville area (with the exception of a few special places like Z-Bar, of course).  Sure, you’ll find arcade cabinets and pinball machines at movie theatres, bars, and family-friendly pizzerias, but the ever-growing giant of mobile and digital gaming has really done a number on this classic pastime.  Fortunately for us all, three Louisvillians have noticed this trend and vowed to uplift arcade games once more to their place of deserved status, if only for a few days.

    “We’re passionate about games,” says Louisville Arcade Expo co-founder Jeremy Fleitz.  “We’re trying to recapture that feeling that arcades gave.  Arcades provided a place to get together.” 

    Jeremy and his brother, Matt, have actively stayed in touch with the pinball scene as far back as the late ‘90s, even going as far as traveling to Chicago.  Together with Joe Stith, the three men thought up an ambitious project.

    “Joe has like every console ever,” says Jeremy.  “It made sense to bring in [arcade] cabinets, too.  It was like the middle ground.”

    And so, Louisville Arcade Expo was born.  Started in 2011, this six year-old annual event, held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, is definitely more than meets the eye.

    “I love looking at the reaction some of these people have for the first time,” Jeremy says.  “When they first walk in, they see a bunch of vendors, and they’ll wonder where the games are.  Then they turn to their right, and see hundreds.”

    The event welcomes pinball wizards, fighting game competitors, the Nintendo faithful, and new blood from all over – even internationally.  “We even had a guy from Sweden come out last year,” says Jeremy.  “We get people all the way from Europe.”

    The show honors its philosophy to bring Louisville a true arcade experience: some of the youngest games that you’ll find at the event are from 1999.  The expo doesn’t just feed your nostalgia, though: a new Hobbit-themed pinball machine from Jersey Jack Pinball will make an exclusive appearance (not to mention that it will be a free-play machine!), as well as two machines from overseas produced by Heighway Pinball.

    The expo doesn’t just end with games, however.  Featuring cosplay panels, a pinball tournament hosted with the world-renowned Professional & Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA), and a concert from DJ Rockman and DJ Link, the Louisville Arcade Expo goes out of its way to bring a memorable experience to the community.  Notable guest speakers include arcade legends such as Walter Day, Joel West, Steve “the King of Flow” Ritchie, and Billie “the King of Kong” Mitchell (yes, you will be in the company of arcade royalty). 

    We are not responsible for rogue plumbers.

    If this wasn’t enough to convince you, they’re also holding a raffle, the grand prize being a pinball machine (each chance to win costs either $2 or two canned goods, with all proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital and Dare to Care Food Bank, respectively).  The amount of work, passion, and integrity put into this event is more than impressive, and these guys don’t do it for the money or the recognition.

    “We literally start planning for next year the night of [the expo]. Every year, we mean to get better and better and better,” says Jeremy.  “We’re starting to max [the Ramada Plaza] out.  We don’t want to make it like a huge flea market, though.  It might be nostalgia, but we want to keep that [arcade] feeling.”

    The Louisville Arcade Expo will be taking place from Friday, March 4 – Sunday, March 6.  Tickets range from $25 for a day pass to $55 for a weekend pass (two children 10 years of age and younger get in free with the purchase of one adult admission – additional children are $5 each).  To check out times, events offered, or a list of available games, please, check out their website, or keep up with them on Facebook

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice losing at Street Fighter.

    Images: Louisville Arcade Expo

    Brett Gordon's picture

    About Brett Gordon

    I'm a writer, a musician, and an almost-graduate from the University of Louisville. I currently live in Shelbyville, but please, don't hold that against me.

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