California Extreme 2017: A Nostalgic Wonderland

This past weekend, my husband and I journeyed forth to Northern California for the annual arcade and pinball show known as California Extreme. This was not our first show – we’ve been several times over the past ten years or so. Little has changed in that time, but why fix what’s not broken? CAX (as it’s affectionately known) is a solid arcade experience thanks to the hard work of its organizers and many volunteers.

This post is not so much a review as a travelogue. Join me on a trip to a magical place where the quarters never run out and the games never end (at least not until 2am).

CAX has a variety of arcade and pinball machines set to free play, brought by collectors who willingly share their precious games. Many of these are rarities you’ll never get a chance to play anywhere else, like The Act. The Act is a 2007 game featuring hand drawn animation from former Disney artists. The company that made it went out of business shortly after its release and the few remaining units are in the hands of private collectors.

This is an original Pong machine, signed by Al Alcorn and Nolan Bushnell:

Death Race is an infamous game, because when it was released, people were shocked that a video game allowed kids to kill people with cars. Of course, the people were stick figures, but won’t somebody think of the children?

Panic Park is a Japanese game that I have no idea how to play, but it seems to involve a lot of flailing around and general hilarity.

Speaking of Japanese games, CAX had a nice Street Fighter section in the candy cabs that are the norm in Japan.

They also had a Lupin the Third game I’d never seen:

These machines may not look unusual but they are actually cabaret cabs, smaller than normal arcades, usually of popular games. A great choice for a home collector if space is an issue!

In addition to arcades, CAX has a lot of pinball. Ranging from old EMs:

To the latest and greatest:

Released last month, the new Star Wars pinball machine was the star of the show, with lots of opportunities to play it. Marco Specialties, a pinball vendor, had their booth built around it: 

The game covers the original trilogy and has lots of bells and whistles for pinheads and Star Wars fans alike. I had fun playing it!

The pinballs are always popular and it can be hard to get on the machines (especially newer ones). 

This year, CAX was broken into multiple rooms. This was a welcome change. The live music was away from the already noisy main room. There was a second smaller room of games and pins that was a little quieter but full of great stuff.

The grand prize in the raffle this year was one of those nice new Star Wars pinball machines. Needless to say, the raffle was well attended:

Of course, all good things must come to an end. As people start to collect their machines and crowds dwindle, gaps start appearing in the rows of games.

There’s always next year! Maybe I’ll see you there!

For more photos of the show, visit my Instagram page!


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