A Raw Deal for Women in Pinball

(I want to thank the Colorado Pinball Collective for streaming the WWC and NACS. I appreciate your hard work. This rant is about the systemic difficulties for women’s pinball, not a critique of your coverage).

(After writing this I found out there was an additional six hours of early coverage. I did see that there were some WWC games broadcast during this time, but I did not parse out 10 minute intervals).

So the 2020 IFPA Women’s World Pinball Championship (WWC) was yesterday. Congratulations to everyone that played and big congratulations to the top four winners: 4th Louise Wagensonner, 3rd Leslie Ruckman, 2nd Helena Walter Higgins, and 1st Sunshine Bon!

I am sure you all played amazing, but my complaint is that I got to see almost none of it!

Before my rant I want to acknowledge that putting on major pinball events is complicated. You have all kind of logistics to deal with. Getting and setting up the machines. Finding a venue. Finding a time to have the event. Making sure the event isn’t too short (so no one will want to travel just for that) but not too long (so no one can take that much time off from work). And I am sure many many more things. Complicated!

But do you have to have the most prestigious women’s event at the same time as the North American Championship Series (NACS)?!?!?

If you want to grow women’s pinball, you have to let people see women’s pinball!

The WWC and the NACS shared a stream for the day. And almost every time I checked the stream it was an NACS game, not a WWC game. I decided I could have been unlucky, so I checked the stream recording every 10 minutes, and here are WWC games I found:

  • 0:50-0:60 Louise vs Hannah
  • 2:10 Keri vs Helena
  • 2:30-2:40 Keri vs Helena
  • 3:50 Louise vs Snow
  • 6:08-7:34 The final match starting with game 2!

Then the stream continues for another 3+ hours of NACS coverage!

So in eleven hours of coverage, the WWC got four games covered in the first six hours and the finals match missing the first game. And just in case you think the hour and a half finals match looks like juicy coverage, that time included some “bonus” NACS coverage when the finalists had to wait for their chosen machines to get open for play.

Basically, if I didn’t log into the stream during the final match, I had very little chance of seeing a woman playing pinball.

I had a friend competing in the WWC, and I was excited to watch the stream in order to see her play. All of that excitement was lost as soon as I watched part of the stream and realized there was a huge chance I would never get to see her. She took third overall, and I don’t think she ever played on the broadcast! (There is a slight chance the 10 minute intervals could have missed one of her games)

You make it into the Women’s World Championship! You travel across the country. Your friends and family are excited to see you play. And nothing! How much does that suck?!?!

Here are my specific gripes:

  1. Why does the WWC share time with the NACS? It is appropriate for the two tournaments to use the same games with the same settings. They are all the best players. But sharing time means that the neither get the full spot light. Both deserve it!
  2. If they share time, they both need to get broadcast fully! This isn’t just a women/open tournament thing. Any two major events at the same time should each get full coverage. I know this poses logistical problems, but it sucks that neither event has a full broadcast video.
  3. In all things pinball, women have to have the same importance as men. In this situation none of the women’s semifinal matches made it on the broadcast! Game choices to cover were made on the fly, and somehow priority was not given to the WWC semifinals. Since the NACS format guaranteed that it would run longer than the WCC, the semifinals could have been prioritized knowing that the later rounds of the NACS would be covered. I don’t believe this was done on purpose. I just wonder if a non-women’s semifinal (and one game of the finals) would have been overlooked.

Now I don’t have a solution to this problem. Like I said above, putting on these events is complicated. Pinball broadcasting is done by the community as volunteers. But I think there needs to be an attitude shift in the pinball establishment to take women’s events seriously. I know that the women playing in them do!

About David Lee

I play in the East Bay, mostly in Alameda, Oakland and Emeryville. Oakland Pinball Warriors is my main monthly tournament, and only occasionally make it to San Francisco for tournaments. My IFPA ranking bounces around 500, depending on how many tournaments I get to. I am DavidLee on Pindigo and LEE on scoreboards

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