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Style · November 14, 2018

Pinball wizard fulfills kid’s dream in Bealeton home

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“There were three arcades in that tiny town, and video game culture was everywhere,” Scott Schreiber says of growing up in Oxford, Miss.
I don’t think there are a lot of collections like his. I think someone willing to share them is pretty neat.
— Kevin Powers, farm brewery owner
Scott Schreiber
• Age: 45

• Home: Bealeton

• Family: Wife, Samantha.

• Work: Space vehicle engineer, Iridium Satellite, 2016 to present; Boeing, 1999-2016; Inmarsat American Mobile Satellite, 1996-99; U.S. Army, 1991-96.

• Education: Master’s degree, 2009, and bachelor’s degree, 2004, aerospace engineering and operations, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona, Fla.; Oxford High School, Miss., 1990.

• Hobbies: Collecting and restoring retro arcade games and pinball machines; flying airplanes; working on cars, motorcycles and models; creating podcasts about retro games; beer brewing; ski flying and using ham radios.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Bathed in black lights and decorated with cosmic carpet, his Bealeton home has the look of a 1980s game arcade.

Scott Schreiber’s cave of 65 retro games — ranging from classics Pong and Revenge from Mars to a newer Kiss-themed pinball machine — encompasses most of the first floor and the basement of his house.

He has in storage about 35 more machines that need repairs.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to live in an arcade,” says Mr. Schreiber, 45.

The serious collector’s fascination with arcade games and pinball machines started during his childhood in Oxford, Miss.

“There were three arcades in that tiny town, and video game culture was everywhere,” he says.

Growing up in the golden era of arcade gaming from the mid-1970s to the mid-80s, Mr. Schreiber often spent his lunch money in arcades.

“The first one I remember was Pac-Man, and it was outside a retail store. I remember playing it and saying, ‘This is what I want to do the rest of my life’,” Mr. Schreiber says.

“It was something about the technology, the sounds the lights, interaction. I was always obsessed with electronics and computers . . . . I think I was asking for a soldering iron in elementary school.”

> Video at bottom of story

A space vehicle engineer, Mr. Schreiber has a long-held fascination with the technology and inner workings of retro games.

“They were an untouchable fantasy world that you could engage in on a limited basis . . . the bits behind the glass . . . to master that stuff and repair it, and preserve a moment in time” motivated him.

After five years in the U.S. Army, Mr. Schreiber got involved in the niche hobby of collecting arcade games and pinball machines in 1996.

His first collectable game, Asteroids Deluxe, “seemed like an iconic one to start with,” he says.

He finds games at auctions, online or from other collectors and usually restores them for his personal use.

“I’ve never bought a game with the intent of selling it,” he says.

Several years ago, he purchased his “holy grail” arcade game, Computer Space — the first mass-produced, coin-operated arcade game, created in 1971.

An expert in the retro gaming and pinball world, Mr. Schreiber says collectors find flexible prices.

“A new production pinball might cost $6,000 to $8,000,” he says. “But, something like a common early 1980s mass production game, (could cost) $300 for a great working game.”

Collectors don’t need any previous technical knowledge to repair the games, Mr. Schreiber says, but it helps to know how to read technical manuals and schematics.

“A beginning collector will find a pretty warm welcome and a lot of help from other collectors,” he says.

Each pinball machine tells a story and incorporates lots of art, according to Mr. Schreiber.

For a time in the late 1980s, pinball machines started to disappear, he says.

But, a pinball renaissance has begun.

“In the last 10 years, it’s exploded,” Mr. Schreiber says.

He collects the games for many reasons, including nostalgia and the preservation of history and art.

“Sometimes it’s the hunt and the kill . . . . I wanted that game bad and I got it. Other times, it’s the reward of working on them, defeating a problem,” he says.

“Video games are something you do for amusement, but I have put tremendous amounts of time and effort into a restoration, played it a little bit and gone to work on the next thing. And then there’s sharing it . . . .”

The first weekend of October, Mr. Schreiber took a dozen of his games to Powers Farm & Brewery near Casanova to share with patrons.

“There were definitely kid in a candy store expressions . . . . childish excitement,” says brewery owner Kevin Powers. “You can tell he’s very energetic and passionate about it.”

Mr. Powers hopes to host another game weekend soon.

“I think Scott enjoyed sharing his passion for it and that’s always neat. To have something like this locally is pretty cool,” Mr. Powers says. “I don’t think there are a lot of collections like his. I think someone willing to share them is pretty neat.”

Mr. Schreiber inspires gamers at expos around the country. He also shares knowledge and history of pinball and arcade games through a podcast, Retro Gaming Roundup, which he has hosted with friends for nine years.

“I’m not just collecting the games. I’m creating the environment that was so cool then and now . . . and sharing it with others,” Mr. Schreiber says.

Contact Cassandra Brown at CBrown@FauquierNow.com or 540-878-6007.

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