The Enlightened Nerd: Kyler Seller, Pinball Machine Collector

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The Enlightened Nerd is a column designed to enlighten the inner nerd in all of us through local whimsical and intellectual events, people, and places. Know a nerdy person, event, place, or thing in Vancouver? Send it in here or tweet it to @karolinakay_ (#theenlightenednerd)!

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Photo by Philip Moussavi (@phil.mou)

I recently visited the Museum of Vancouver’s current exhibit “All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds” where I stumbled upon the intrinsic lives of twenty unique individuals. Each individual was so deeply and explicitly passionate about their collected item, whether it be chairs, corsets, or circus toys, that it made them a professional in that area, or, an enlightened nerd.

One of these enlightened nerds is Kyle Seller, pinball machine and arcade game enthusiast. At forty-one years old, he has over seventy-five pinball machines, having purchased his first machine at eighteen years old. Seller formerly worked as a game designer for Electronic Arts (better known as EA Games) for ten years before going all out with pinball through his company East Van Amusements.

Seller shares his love for the 80s retro arcade era and the stress-relieving strategy-based game by renting out his machines to Vancouverites for events of all kinds. These machines are also contained across the city in bars and pop-up spaces (like at Canada Place on Canada Day, the mecca for pinball champs Pub 340, and the children-friendly Landyatchz). I spoke with Kyle a little more about how he had found himself between the bumpers.

Kyler Seller. Courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver.
Kyler Seller. Courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver.

Q: When did you first start collecting pinball machines and arcade games?
A: I bought my first machine when I was 17 or 18 years old from an arcade called “Pie in the Sky” in Burnaby. I bought a Bubble Bobble.

Q: What drew you to buying a pinball machine and this piece specifically?
A: I was just a crazy addict when it came to games. When I was a kid my parents bought me a Nintendo and I was totally hooked. After that, I had to have every system. My pals and I used to go to 7/11 and play pinball, which is totally weird because there’s nothing like that anymore. We used to skip school and hang out at arcades. I don’t know, there was just something about it. I really felt that I needed to get an arcade machine.

Q: How on earth do you find all your machines?
A: It’s totally crazy. When I first started collecting, no one really bought this stuff. You would find them in the newspaper – again, weird. Now pinball and arcade game collecting is almost mainstream and they’re so expensive. Ten years ago I could buy a certain game for $2,000 and now it’s like $7,000. A lot of collectors buy them and just keep them in their basements. So there’s none available anywhere unless you know the sources and are willing to pay the price. Otherwise, they’re all dried up.

Q: Have you met anyone with a larger collection than yours?
A: Oh yeah. My best friend has over 100. He’s a certified hoarder though.

Q: What is your most rare and/or most favourite piece?
A: My favourite pinball game is probably Fun House. I have a rare version of it called the sample machine that they used to test during production, so it’s different from the end product. I have a few sample machines like that and they’re definitely rare. A lot of the games at the Museum of the Vancouver’s exhibit are my favourite and it has a lot to do with the art, theme, music, and sound effects.

Q: Do you have any tips for pinball newbies?
A: Don’t hit both flipper buttons at the same time and don’t get discouraged, there are lot of cool tutorials online for basic skills.

Seller can be spotted at the Museum of Vancouver performing weekly maintenance on his cherished apparatuses and he will also be hosting two events at the MOV related to his exhibit: a Happy Hour Pinball Tournament (pinball games with booze!) and a high-scoring Pinball Q&A with himself and Robert Gagno, International Pinball Champion. If pinball fanatics feel like throwing themselves into the pinball lane further, there are public pinball tournaments at Pub 340 and Landyatchz throughout the year, for both pinball newbies and wizards.

Me and My Collection: Between the Bumpers
Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
Thursday October 6th at 7PM

Happy Hour: TILT! Public Pinball Tournament
Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver
Thursday October 13th at 6PM