PELHAM — There are “603 Reasons” people say New Hampshire is special, but only one that lets them combine hours of Pac-Man and Skeeball with images of Star Trek, Fenway Park and the orchestral sounds that are the neighborhood arcade.
Step inside The Pinball Wizard on Bridge Street and listen to the ding, ding, ding that comes with a metal ball rocketing around a glass-enclosed box, as points accumulate on a mechanical scoreboard.
“Usually Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday, this place is crazy,” said owner Sarah St. John, showing off the 337 games that occupy the arcade.
St. John opened the business three years ago to share her collection of arcade games and never expected the crowd who followed.
“We have over 1,200 people through the doors on a weekend,” she said.
Some players come every day.
Jeff LaPointe of Manchester is at The Pinball Wizard on a weekday afternoon playing the pinball version of Monopoly and other games.
“Too often,” is how much he admits to visiting the place, as frequently as a couple of times a week.
He’s admiring the newest arrival, Star Trek.
“Star Trek is amazing,” LaPoint said. “Bright, fast, loud.”
He’s not surprised people say this arcade makes New Hampshire special.
“It’s always different,” LaPointe said of pinball. “The board can change.”
St. John paused to consider what makes a good pinball player.
“I think it’s determination, skill and love of the game,” she said.
David Kubasiak of Manchester is in the house.
“Someone who understands physics and geometry,” would be attracted to pinball, he said.
“Someone who can see the shots before taking them,” Kubasiak said.
This is a place where kids and parents keep coming back.
“Parents come with their kids. Then the parent will come back the next week,” St. John said. “It’s so neat to watch parents show the next generation, their children, what they played as kids.”
There’s a reason adults enjoy the games so much.
“It brings them back to their childhood and a simpler time,” St. John said.
People play alone, but also together.
“It’s competitive,” St. John said. “Four people together can play.”
The Star Trek game is popular right now, 1,563 plays in the first two weeks.
The oldest games, dating to the 1960s, are rebuilt Red Sox and Bruins games.
Cirqus Voltaire is St. John’s favorite.
“I hold the world record,” she said.
The point tally is 175,130,580.
“Just over an hour” is how long it took, St. John said.
Some games have autographs of other record-holders or designers.
Lighted messages constantly flash through the building, such as “game over.”
There’s something for every interest.
“Riverboat Gambler,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Doctor Who” and “Who Dunnit,” are some of the games.
The arcade includes “Medieval Madness,” which St. John said is highly sought after by collectors.
There are lessons in history and culture along the aisles.
There is “Space Shuttle” and games named for bands, like “Guns N’ Roses.”
An image of Alec Baldwin adorns “The Shadow,” one of Harrison Ford is upon “Indiana Jones.”
“Pinball tends to follow what’s going on in the real world,” St. John said.
What makes The Pinball Wizard special, from St. John’s view, is the variety of entertainment that includes classic video games like Pac-Man and traditional arcade games like Skeeball.
That collection has drawn visitors from down the block and overseas, including a record holder from England.
“There are no real big classic arcades that offer games that work the way we do,” she said. “These places don’t exist any more.”
One room can be reserved for events like birthday parties or company team-building exercises.
For people who can’t get enough of the arcade experience, St. John is hoping to expand on site by fall.
She thinks additional games will please the players.
“I don’t think people can get enough of pinball,” St. John said.