While attending college in the late 70’s I was as big a pinball enthusiast as the die-hard collectors I enjoy meeting today. At that time the Internet was not being used to compile reference information and there was little other material available about my favorite passion. That is until I discovered a beautiful, colorful book at the Student Center bookstore in 1977. I read every page of ‘Pinball!’ and looked at every picture. Many times. What an amazing thing, that someone was able to interact with all of the industry design groups along with bringing us the history; someone who helped to overturn laws banning pinball (pinball was still illegal in my hometown of Chicago at that time).
In 3 short years I was working at Williams and my first assignment was to work on a game with Roger and Steve Epstein. The game was called “Las Vegas” and would be re-themed twice as “Jet Orbit” and “Barracora” before it was released. I remember being in awe of working with these pinball legends to such an extent that when we went out to play at Chicago Game Company on Western Avenue I couldn’t make a shot or run up any kind of a score even though I was normally an excellent player.
I worked with Roger for over a decade which included Williams/Bally’s great run in the 90’s. I regained the ability to play competently in his presence and over the years we have played competitively as well as collaboratively as partners on an IFPA team aptly named “Hittin’ Rubber”. Roger has been a major force in the advancement of competitive pinball including the formation of PAPA and IFPA and of leagues of various styles and flavors.
I got to work closely with Roger in his capacity of Director of Licensing on The Addams Family, Twilight Zone and World Cup ’94. It was a new concept for me to have Roger working on our design team and to be honest, it took some getting used to, having limitations from the brand, voiced through Roger. But I learned from Roger how the brand interaction is about people and relationships and always marveled at how he would resolve our issues and difficulties through his work with the licensors. And now that Roger was participating in the design process in the licensing arena he was able to contribute more directly in other areas of the design. I remember toward the end of the The Addams Family development we took a prototype game to LA for the movie premiere and party. Pat and I were really frustrated by Thing’s role in the game which at the time was too frequent and too disconnected from achievement. I vividly remember Roger working with us to ease some tension and help us to work through these issues. The results speak for themselves.
Over the years it has become clear what a faithful and untiring ambassador Roger has been for our profession and hobby. As a historian, writer, designer, licensor, regulator, promoter and competition advocate, Roger has always found a place to make pinball a major part of his life and has certainly done it all. We all have a much richer hobby thanks to Roger’s devotion.
In the full issue of Pinball Magazine you will find more ‘Others about Roger’ contributions by Ellen Sharpe, Josh Sharpe, Zach Sharpe, Steve Epstein, Greg Freres, Dennis Nordman, Dan Loosen, Mark Ritchie, Gary Flower, Seamus McLaughlin, Martin Wiest and Gary Stern