Austin’s pinball wizard keeps popular arcade game alive

Pinball

AUSTIN – For a game that has been around for over 80 years, it sure can be frustrating. Now, the game of pinball is seeing something of a resurgence.

“In the past four years since I’ve been collecting prices have gone up 30 to 50 percent ,” said Darren Spohn, who opened his Austin arcade five years ago. He now has two locations and 130 pinball games.

That’s 130 games, and they all break down, a lot.

“He’s the best in the industry now,” Spohn said of Billy Renken. “That’s why he’s working on my games.”

There are hundreds and hundreds of parts in your average pinball game. Renken knows how to fix them all.

“Finding people that can do this is kind of a rare thing,” Renken said. “People tell me I have a unique skill.”

A skill mixed with a passion that keeps him coming in to work seven days a week.

“Only about five days a year I miss,” he added. Christmas, Thanksgiving. I go to my mom’s house a few times.”

And that is where it all began. A dumpster-diving kid who loved junk and fixing things fell hard for pinball at his local 7-Eleven.

“Nothing beats a real game. You feel it, hear it, see it. It’s real,” said Renken.

His love of all things pinball does have its limits, but despite the screams from the games and players alike, Renken isn’t going to stop repairing, and mending and adjusting these cranky machines anytime soon.

“I’m assuming they will bury me in one these,” he said with a laugh.

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