VIP Guests (2018)

We were proud to welcome the following VIPs to the Midwest Gaming Classic in 2018! Click on an industry below to filter by industry, and click on the VIPs themselves to learn more about who you might meet at the show!

Follow our Facebook page for guest announcements for 2019! We are expecting over 100 industry VIPs again this year, and will update this page to our 2019 list after we have announced our first 20 guests!

 

Joe Balcer

Joe Balcer

Sega Pinball, Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, American Pinball*

Director of Operations / Game Design

Joe is a pinball designer with a ton of unique titles under his belt dating back more than 20 years! Today, he is working with American Pinball as their director of operations, helping to bring games like Houdini: Master of Mystery to life!

Rob Blakeman

Rob Blakeman

Stern Pinball*

Mechanical Engineer

Rob is a mechanical engineer for Stern Pinball to ensure that all of the moving parts within the games work as intended to keep the games fun! Some of the games he has worked on are Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones! Photo courtesy of the Pingame Journal.

Chuck Bleich

Chuck Bleich

Williams Pinball, Midway Games, Stern Pinball*

Electrical Engineer

Chuck presently oversees all electronic development at Stern Pinball. This encompasses system design, vendor interface, proto-type coordination and regulatory compliance. In short, all aspects related to electronics from concept, into production are within Chuck’s domain!

John Borg

John Borg

Data East Pinball, Sega Pinball, Stern Pinball*

Pinball Game Designer

Pinball designer John Borg has created more than 25 iconic titles including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Tales From the Crypt, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Man, Metallica, Tron, Aerosmith and the latest Stern Pinball machine Guardians of the Galaxy!

John Buscaglia

John Buscaglia

Stern Pinball*

Chief Revenue Officer, VP of Sales and Marketing at Stern Pinball, Inc.

John is the Chief Revenue Officer and VP of Sales and Marketing at Stern Pinball, Inc. Before pinball, he had experience in leadership with many other Fortune 500 companies. Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Jeff Busch

Jeff Busch

Gottlieb, Sega Pinball, American Pinball*

Artist, Art Director

Jeff first ventured into the pinball industry in 1987 with the backglass for Gottlieb’s Arena. In 1993 he joined the Capcom and created the art package for Pinball Magic. Next, he moved to Sega Pinball as Art Director, creating art and overseeing production on many of their games. Today, Jeff most recently did Houdini for American Pinball and is currently in the preproduction stage for their next game.

Don Caldwell

Don Caldwell

Independent

Historian

Don is a pinball historian that has been studying, writing about and hosting seminars on the industry for more than 15 years. Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Waison Cheng

Waison Cheng

Neopong Software, inXile Entertainment, Incredible Technologies, Stern Pinball*

Software Engineer

Waison is not a game designer for Stern Pinball, having worked on games like Aerosmith, Star Trek, KISS, Game of Thrones and Avengers to name a few. Before that, he worked on the Golden Tee series for Incredible Technologies, and before that on programming games for the Nintendo DS!

Dave Christensen

Dave Christensen

Bally Pinball

Artist

One of the most prolific pinball designers of all time, Dave’s work dates all the way back to 1969. He did a bunch of work for Bally, including the iconic Fireball, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Mata Hari, Nitro Ground Shaker and Bobby Orr’s Power Play, among many incredible designs!

Joshua Clay

Joshua Clay

Stern Pinball*

Technical artist

Josh is a commercial artist who has created art for bands like Linkin Park, Gym Class Heroes, Nine Inch Nails, Head from KoRn, All Time Low and Fall Out Boy. He has been a full time tattoo artist in Chicago and has won several awards at tattoo conventions for his tattoo designs and application. Since that isn’t enough, he has been teaching himself robotics to integrate sensors and vision systems into his creations. Today, he is utilizing all of these skill sets at Stern Pinball!

Scott Danesi

Scott Danesi

Spooky Pinball*

Pinball Designer, Pinball Software

Pinball designer, mechanical engineer, sound and music programmer and software engineer… Scott did it all on Total Nuclear Annihilation pinball! Scott built Total Nuclear Annihilation just to create a semi-simple custom machine. The result was so good, Spooky Pinball worked with Scott to start production of the machine in 2017!

Jody Dankburg

Jody Dankburg

Stern Pinball*

Senior Director of Licensing and New Business

Jody is the Senior Director of Licensing and New Business at Stern Pinball.

Larry Demar

Larry Demar

Larry Demar worked with Eugene Jarvis to design games like Defender and Robotron 2084 before moving into pinball where he credited on the design and / or software team for many of the most successful pinball machines ever including the Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Fun House, High Speed, Space Shuttle, Black Knight and World Cup Soccer!

Harrison Drake

Harrison Drake

Stern Pinball*

Mechanical Engineer

Harrison is an experienced mechanical engineer who works with Stern Pinball to develop their titles. Before Stern pinball, he worked in other industrial jobs and on the popular HEXBUG toys!

Brian Eddy

Brian Eddy

Williams, Stern Pinball*

Senior Game Designer

Brian Eddy started in pinball doing effects, moved on to software and then got the chance to design games, and… wow! Brian designed both Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness, two of the best rated pinball machines ever! Recently, it was announced that Brian has returned to pinball with Stern pinball as Senior Game Designer!

Keith Elwin

Keith Elwin

Stern Pinball*

Game designer

Keith is Stern Pinball’s latest new designer who is bringing his first design, Iron Maiden, to the Midwest Gaming Classic this year! We’re excited to host the World Premier for this incredible game!

Bug Emery

Bug Emery

Spooky Pinball

Podcaster

The son of Charlie Emery, Bug was a regular contributor to the Spooky Pinball Podcast before his father started making pinball machines. Now, with Spooky Pinball – the pinball manufacturing company – taking over a lot of his father’s time, Bug is the main voice behind the podcast and an important helper in the manufacturing company too!

Charlie Emery

Charlie Emery

Spooky Pinball*

President, Game Designer

We first met Charlie at the Midwest Gaming Classic when he was starting the Spooky Pinball Podcast about his love of things spooky and his love of things pinball. After running the podcast for a time, Charlie decided he wanted to start his own pinball company, and Spooky Pinball was born! Charlie is the president and game designer of some of Spooky Pinball’s titles!

Kayte Emery

Kayte Emery

Spooky Pinball*

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Kayte Emery is a critical part of Wisconsin based pinball manufacturer Spooky Pinball! As Spooky Pinball’s Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Kayte ensures that incredible games get made.

Chuck Ernst

Chuck Ernst

Atari Video Games, Midway Games, Warner Brother's Interactive NetherRealm Studios, Stern Pinball*

CG art director

Chuck has had more than 28 years programming and has more than 40 titles that he did! He is currently the CG art director at Stern Pinball, but his lengthy resume includes stints with Warner Brothers Interactive, Midway Games and Atari Video Games!

Gary Flower

Gary Flower

Independent*

Writer, Historian

Gary is an author and historian for the hobby of pinball, perhaps most well known for his outstanding book “The Lure of the Silver Ball.” Gary has also done countless presentations and seminars to help share his knowledge and keep the history of pinball alive, including helping to invite many of our pinball VIPs to the show this year!

Greg Freres

Greg Freres

Bally Pinball, Williams Pinball, Whizbang Pinball*, Jersey Jack Pinball, Stern Pinball*

Artist and Art Director

Greg has created iconic work for games like Fathom, Strange Science, Elvira and the Party Monsters, Scared Stiff, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Smash TV, Cruis’n USA, Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons and many more! Today, he serves as Stern Pinball’s art director.

Mark Galvez

Mark Galvez

Stern Pinball*

Animation

Mark is a dot animator that has worked on a TON of Stern Pinball machines! We could only dig up this picture of him for this year, so we’re hoping to catch him with a better picture for the future!

Dirty Donny Gillies

Dirty Donny Gillies

Top Fuels, Snap-On, Vans, AMT, Fender, Dunlop, Stern Pinball, Midwest Gaming Classic

Artist

Deemed to be one of the most influential artists to invade the pop culture scenes of the punk, rock and metal underground, Dirty Donny has been spreading his art across all mediums for decades. First hired by Metallica, in the more than decade since he began he has designing art for Top Fuels Funny cars, skateboard shoes, guitars and guitar accessories, model kits and pinball machines for the likes of Snap-on, Vans, AMT, Fender, Dunlop, Stern Pinball, and now, the Midwest Gaming Classic!

Erik Gilly

Erik Gilly

Bally Namco Amusement America, Stern Pinball*

Director of Consumer Sales

Erik is the main person at Stern pinball who helps to manage and grow the Stern distribution chain, helping to get the machines that Stern is building into people’s hands to play! Before working at Stern, Erik played a similar role for Bandai Namco.

George Gomez

George Gomez

Bally, Williams, Stern Pinball*

Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer

George got his start in video games helping to design both Tron and Spy Hunter. During the video game crash, he left arcade video to design toys, but returned in 1993 to Williams Electronics, designing games like Monster Bash was a critical part of the Pinball 2000 design team. When Williams closed, George went to Stern, first as a designer who designed games including the landmark Lord of the Rings, and has now become the Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer at Stern Pinball! Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Bill Grupp

Bill Grupp

Williams

Software Design

Bill worked on the software for some incredible Williams pinball titles, Congo, Corvette and Demolition Man!

Jared Guynes

Jared Guynes

Stern Pinball*

Social Media Manager

Jared is known for running awesome events and doing awesome things, and that’s why he is the person who spreads the word about the awesome things that Stern Pinball does on social media!

Ben Heck

Ben Heck

The Ben Heck Show*, Spooky Pinball*

Video Game Hacker, Pinball Designer, Pinball Software

Ben is a master hacker, engineer and tech hobbyist who has done things that touch nearly every aspect of the show… including naming it in 2002! Ben has hacked consoles to create portable versions of them, created pinball machines that were then manufactured by Spooky Pinball, talked with Dan and Terry Diebold to help fix the Nintendo Playstation Prototype and runs a popular online show, the Ben Heck Show, while he’s at it all!

Eugene Jarvis

Eugene Jarvis

Atari Pinball, Williams Electronics, Vid Kidz, Midway, Raw Thrills*, Play Mechanix*

Video Game Programmer, Pinball Programmer, Co-Founder of Vid-Kidz, Owner of Raw Thrillz

Eugene designed many landmark arcade video games including Defender, Robotron 2084, Narc, Smash TV, and the Cruis’n series. He also worked in pinball, helping to bring designs like Firepower, Pinbot, Space Shuttle, High Speed and F-14 Tomcat to life. If that isn’t enough, he owns Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix, the premier modern arcade developer with hits such as the Walking Dead, Jurassic Park, Injustice Arcade, the Big Buck Hunter series, and more!

Tanio Klyce

Tanio Klyce

Backbone Entertainment, Valve Corporation, Stern Pinball*

Senior Software Engineer

Tanio is the Senior Software Engineer at Stern Pinball, which means that he writes the code for some of your favorite Stern games like The Walking Dead and Star Trek! Before working at Stern, he was a Developer at both Valve and Backbone Entertainment working in the video game field.

Josh Kugler

Josh Kugler

American Pinball*

Director of Software Engineering

Josh has been a pinball enthusiast since he was 9 years old when he built his first pinball machine out of nails and rubber bands. He is known to many in the pinball community as a leader in the custom pinball machine arena and as had multiple machines exhibited at Expo the last few years. Before deciding to jump into pinball full time, Josh spent the last 15 years with highly successful start-up companies and brings that expertise to American Pinball as well as his love of pinball.

Mike Kyzivat

Mike Kyzivat

Stern Pinball*

Software Designer

Mike is a programmer for Stern Pinball having worked on titles like KISS, WWE and Game of Thrones!

Tom Kyzivat

Tom Kyzivat

Stern Pinball*

Animator

Tom is one of the dots animators for Stern Pinball, having worked on tons of games for the company like Ghostbusters, ACDC, Metallica, Avengers, X-Men, Star Trek and many more!

Jeff Lee

Jeff Lee

Gottlieb

Arcade Video Concept and Design

@!#?@! Perhaps best known as the creator of Q*Bert, Jeff Lee is an artist who created great work for many of Gottlieb’s video arcade games, as well as games on the Macintosh and Genesis. Jeff will be hanging out in the Galloping Ghost Arcade room (3 on the map) throughout the weekend!

Steven Martin

Steven Martin

Stern Pinball*

Production Art Manager

Steven is responsible for preparing, troubleshooting, and correcting files for output from a staff of designers and illustrators for production on Stern Pinball machines! Photo courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Eric Meunier

Eric Meunier

Jersey Jack Pinball*

Pinball Game Designer

The new Jersey Jack Pinball machine, the Pirates of the Caribbean, was the first design of Eric Meunier! Featuring lots of innovative new ideas, it looks like Jersey Jack has found a winner.

Robert J. Mueller

Robert J. Mueller

deeproot*

Principal Investor

Robert is the principal investor in a new pinball venture by the name of deeproot that has attracted many veteran pinball designers!

Rick Naegele

Rick Naegele

Rick is a software engineer who is now a programmer for Stern Pinball, and his first title is the new Iron Maiden machine! Before Stern, Rick worked for WMS Gaming on slot machines, Jardvark Studios for iOS, Chewy Software on Direct 3D games and as a software engineer for EA working on the Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3!

Dennis Nordman

Dennis Nordman

Bally, Williams, Stern Pinball, Whizbang Pinball, Spooky Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, Heighway Pinball, Gizmo Games*, deeproot pinball*

Game designer

Dennis has designed machines for nearly every pinball company ever. His work includes credited machines by Bally, Williams, Stern, Whizbang Pinball, Spooky Pinball, and Gizmo Games. He has also worked with Jersey Jack Pinball, Heighway Pinball and is now working with deeproot pinball! Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Lloyd Olson

Lloyd Olson

SS Billiards*, Chicago Gaming Company*

Operator, Support

Lloyd is well known in the pinball community as the operator behind SS Billiards, a wonderful pinball and pool hall in the Twin Cities who is always willing to help solve problems. His willingness to help has landed him a number of support roles for various pinball companies, including Chicago Gaming Company!

Jeremy Packer

Jeremy Packer

Jeremy, better known as “ZombieYeti” in the pinball world, is an artist working with Stern Pinball. His designs include the brand new Iron Maiden pinball machine, as well as the stunning Ghostbusters Pinball machines! Thanks to the PinGame Journal for the use of this photo!

Steve Ritchie

Steve Ritchie

Atari Pinball, Williams Pinball, Stern Pinball*

Pinball Game Designer

Steve started by designing pinball machines for Atari before moving to Williams, creating hugely successful machines like Firepower, High Speed, Terminator 2, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also worked on arcade video games, and is the voice of Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat. Recently, he has been working for Stern Pinball, designing hits like Spider-Man, AC/DC, Star Trek and Star Wars!

Lonnie Ropp

Lonnie Ropp

Data East Pinball, Sega Pinball, Stern Pinball*

Software design

Lonnie has been working in pinball software since 1987 with Data East! His credits include Jurassic Park, Guns N’ Roses, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, just to name a few! Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Brett Rubin

Brett Rubin

Stern Pinball*

Tools development

Brettbrings two decades of experience as a software engineer in the video game industry working in tools development, graphical user interface design, and workflow streamlining.

Jim Schelberg

Jim Schelberg

PinGame Journal*

Writer, Photographer, Editor

As the owner and creator of the PinGame Journal, Jim Schelberg has been documenting the pinball hobby for more than 150 issues! With information that no one else gets and great photos, the PinGame Journal is a must for anyone who is a fan of the silver ball!

Tim Seckel

Tim Seckel

Data East, Gottlieb

Game Design, Mechanical Engineer

Tim was a mechanical engineer and game designer for Data East pinball in the mid-90s, credited with the design of games like Hook, WWF Royal Rumble and the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. He later moved to Gottlieb, and was working on designing the Brooks & Dunn pinball machine when Gottlieb shut down. Picture courtesy of the PinGame Journal.

Tim Sexton

Tim Sexton

Stern Pinball*

Software engineer

Tim was a competitive pinball player who decided to join the team at Stern just a few months ago! As a relatively new hire, we don’t have much to report on Tim yet, but we expect big, awesome things from him in the future in his role as software engineer!

Lyman Sheats

Lyman Sheats

Data East, Williams, Stern Pinball*

Software Design

Lyman Sheats is a great pinball player, and an incredible pinball programmer. He has been programming pinball machines since the 1990s with Data East, moving to Williams and then heading to Stern Pinball. Among his many credits are Medieval Madness, ACDC, Metallica, Tron, and Monster Bash.

Jim Shird

Jim Shird

Stern Pinball*

Regulatory Compliance Manager, Senior Cable Designer

Jim is the person who makes sure all games are in regulatory compliance (UL, FCC, RoHS, etc), and also maps where all coils, switches, lamps and other electrically controlled devices are located. He spends his time optimizing node board configurations and designing cables to ensure that Stern Pinball machines are as reliable as can be!

Doug Skor

Doug Skor

Chicago Gaming Company*

Vice President

Doug is Chicago Gaming Company’s Vice President, working on all of their new and exciting projects like the pinball remakes of Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness and arcade videos like the Class of ’81.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern

Stern Electronics, Data East, Sega Pinball, Stern Pinball*

President*

Gary Stern has been in the pinball industry his entire life, starting by working with Stern Electronics, then moving to Pinstar, Data East, Sega Pinball, and then eventually in 1999 purchasing the company from Sega and renaming it Stern Pinball. Since 1999, Stern Pinball has been the largest pinball manufacturer in the United States, producing multiple incredible machines each year!

Dwight Sullivan

Dwight Sullivan

Williams Electronics, Stern Pinball*

Senior game developer

Dwight is currently a senior game designer with Stern Pinball, and has worked on lots of different games for Stern, including being the team leader for games like Pirates of the Caribbean and more! Before that, he worked for Williams Electronics.

Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan

Stern Pinball*

General manager

Mark Sullivan is the general manager for Stern Pinball!

Ray Tanzer

Ray Tanzer

Gottlieb, Stern Pinball

Mechanical Engineer

Ray has worked on the mechanics of many machines, starting with Gottlieb in the late 80s and then doing a little work for Stern, including on the landmark Lord of the Rings game. Photo courtesy of PinGame Journal.

 Taro

Taro

Pinball Classics*

Customer Support, General Awesomeness

Taro is part of Pinball Classics, Rob Anthony’s pinball repair service that has over 30 years of experience and has been coming to the Midwest Gaming Classic since he was just a puppy. Unfortunately, Taro passed away suddenly before this year’s show, but he will still be with in spirit. Special events celebrating Taro and raising money and awareness for issues that affect dogs will be done in his place. Make sure to stop by Rob Anthony to share your memories of Taro.

Jerry Thompson

Jerry Thompson

Stern Pinball*

Sound designer

Jerry is a sound designer working on some of Stern’s best titles recently including Iron Maiden, Star Wars, Batman ‘66, Ghostbusters and Whoa Nellie: Big Juicy Melons!

James Thornton

James Thornton

American Pinball*

Director of Product Development

Jim has over 20 years of experience in Pinball industry form sales – service to product development. He has a very extensive knowledge about pinball electrical system and the engineering aspect of games.

Dhaval Vasani

Dhaval Vasani

American Pinball*

President

Dhaval has held a number of prior senior management level positions in a wide variety of industries. In addition, he has established an excellent record of performance in business management, marketing, and public relations. his educational background includes a Master of Business Administration.

Mike Vinikour

Mike Vinikour

Stern Pinball*

Software and Field Testing, Rule Design

Mike does software testing, helps with rule design, and runs the Stern Pinball field test program to ensure that the Stern Pinball machines are the most fun they can be!