A Message From the IFPA

Statement from IFPA President Josh Sharpe:

The IFPA stands together with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Our organization was created to promote the enjoyment of pinball throughout the world, and we cannot ignore the responsibility this platform now gives us to speak out against racism. We know that players have experienced racist comments and discriminatory treatment at IFPA-sanctioned events. We want to be clear: it is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it. People have been hurt by these comments and actions, and that is not ok. We will not allow the hurt to continue through events that our organization sanctions. Black Lives Matter. 

We are accelerating our work on initiatives to support organizers and players, with a focus on intentionally shaping a play environment where racism and other forms of discrimination are not tolerated. That includes resources for tournament and league organizers on how to deal with these issues and how to proactively shape a more inclusive community. Our goal is to make that available on the IFPA website in the coming weeks and to continue to add to it as an ongoing project. While we are creating and compiling these resources, we welcome anyone’s thoughts on policies and resources that would be beneficial for competitive pinball. Please reach out and share your insights and recommendations to help support this work.

Most importantly, please contact us if you experience or witness any form of racism at an IFPA-sanctioned event. The global growth of the hobby brings challenges around awareness and accountability that we need players and organizers to help us address. We need all players to be vigilant and hold one another–and us–accountable so that we are all better equipped to address discrimination at pinball events. This is the only way we can move forward from conversation to meaningful concrete actions for change.


Statement from the IFPA Women’s Advisory Board:

Black lives matter.

The Women’s Advisory Board was formed in part to bring a more diverse set of perspectives into the IFPA. It is an extension of the anti-sexism work that existed long before the Women’s Board was conceived. While women are more visible and a larger share of participants in competitive pinball events now than ever before, this community remains overwhelmingly white. Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are significantly underrepresented.

It is not enough to be “not racist” or “not sexist.” Anti-racism needs to be as much a part of the conversation as anti-sexism. Some tournament directors, organizers, and players are already doing the work of anti-racism within pinball. It’s time for the IFPA to join them. Being aware of and reacting in the moment to racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination is part of that work, but another part is being proactive.

We recognize that the work necessary to dismantle racism and sexism is ongoing. We are currently prioritizing making resources available, but we plan to expand and evolve them, as well as our anti-racist and anti-sexist initiatives, on an ongoing basis.

To that end, work has already started on the following initiatives:

  1. In October 2019, we revised the PAPA/IFPA Complete Competition Rules to specifically prohibit offensive comments and actions related to gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion. We commit to enforcing these rules as written, up to and including banning players for egregious conduct, and we unequivocally support event organizers in enforcing these rules as well.
    1. We encourage event organizers to modify our rules for their own use under the Creative Commons license. Please cite PAPA.org within your rulesheet in order to comply with this license.
    2. Organizers of IFPA-sanctioned events should strive to create an environment where players feel welcomed as well as supported in reporting any unwanted or inappropriate behavior.
  2. We are creating additional resources to support event organizers in all aspects of running IFPA-sanctioned events, from calendar and results submission and format selections to how to create codes of conduct and restorative processes to deal with issues of personal conduct within local communities.
  3. We are working with the Open Pinball Database (OPDB) to provide a resource relating to machine art. This involves compiling an easily identifiable list of machines with explicitly racist and/or sexist artwork that players and organizers may have questions about. We plan to create reference material that explains which aspects of the artwork are problematic, places them within historical context, and identifies concrete ways to make a difference regarding the issues depicted. Leveraging these resources, event organizers can avoid including offensive art in their line-ups or call attention to the art in order to initiate deeper engagement with issues of representation, racism, and sexism in our hobby’s history.

We welcome feedback and assistance from our community in creating and expanding these resources. While the focus of our organization is pinball, our commitment doesn’t stop there. We hope that you join us in supporting BIPOC in your local communities and commit to doing the work to dismantle racism and sexism more broadly. All of us must be each other’s allies. Intersectionality and collective liberation are the only path forward.

39 responses to “A Message From the IFPA”

  1. Hilton says:

    Just wanted to suggest that the IFPA also put some financial support behind the words. How about taking the $1 fee and donating it to the BLM movement each year going forward?
    “It’s only $1”
    That financial support could do much more to help.

  2. Greg Pitner says:

    Hilton, What 1$ fee are you suggesting ? If you are suggesting the 1$ thats goes to prize pool money then unfortunately you just dont see the value in competitive pinball.Or maybe your suggesting the few months put in this year and due to the canceled edvents it would be good to do something with the cash on hand ?

  3. Josh Sharpe Josh Sharpe says:

    I’m personally not in favor of taking the SCS endorsement fees and putting those funds towards causes.

    For the US/Canada I feel very strongly that we’ve established those dollars as the “players dollars”. I do not consider it “IFPA income” in any way. We’re simply holding that money until it’s distributed back to the players.

    We’re all for players deciding to donate those winnings to causes they believe in on their own terms, including this one.

  4. Per says:

    Hi there IFPA. I just had a few questions regarding the statement from the Advisory Board.

    1. Who will be responsible for deciding which the “machines with explicitly racist and/or sexist artwork” are?
    What are the criteria when determining this, as well as what is “offensive”, and to whom? Please be specific.

    3. Could you name a few machines with “offensive art”, so that the public can know what direction this is going?

    3. Will you in the future for example withhold wpprs, to pressure organizers into not using certain machines that have been deemed offensive by you?

    Thank you.

  5. Zoe Vrabel Zoe Vrabel says:

    Hey Per! You ask some good questions. We’re still in the very early stages of developing this initiative, but I hope I can offer some insight:

    1. Based on my initial research into the feasibility of developing something like this, it will require some level of crowdsourcing. There are so many pinball machines out there and it is unlikely that any one person, or even a small group, would be familiar with all of them. Prior to asking for input from the community, we’ll develop some sort of rubric to help make these determinations; that doesn’t exist yet but it will be made public in the interest of transparency.

    2. I’m happy to share some of the examples that spurred this initiative forward. Examples relating to race include Minstrel Man (Gottlieb, 1951), which depicts blackface on the backglass and the playfield, and Black Fever (Playmatic, 1980), which features hypersexualized and exoticized Black women, as well as the many stereotypical and inaccurate depictions of Native Americans (Big Indian, Gottlieb, 1974; Flip Flop, Bally, 1976; Totem, Gottlieb, 1979, to name just a few). Depictions of women as hypersexualized damsels in distress are commonplace in pinball artwork, but a few that specifically spring to mind are Strikes and Spares (Bally, 1978), where all women featured on the backglass are oversexualized as well as either objectified or depicted as a buzzkilling nag, and Whoa Nellie (Stern, 2015), where the backlash to the objectifying and hypersexualized art and theme were the subject of many critical comments on Stern’s social media.

    3. The IFPA has no plans to withhold sanctioning or require our sign-off on an event’s machine selection. These resources are intended to make it easier for event organizers and tournament directors to be aware of issues they might not otherwise consider in order to foster an inclusive environment, given that machine art is one factor that can alienate players from underrepresented groups. We recognize that the amount of control one has over which machines are available in a community varies widely, and we believe there are multiple ways to address alienating machine art beyond simply disallowing the use of certain machines.

    If you’d like to continue this conversation or collaborate on this project, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email.

  6. BAC says:

    So if machines that could be considered offensive are going to be put on a list what is going to be done about machines designed by people like John Trudeau? He was involved in the design of iconic machines as Bride, Congo, Cirqus and Dredd. He also went to jail for 2 counts of child pornography and sexual abuse of a female family member. Do we still play all those machines? Do they need a warning?

    I do think we need a deeper discussion on this since just going from memory I can think of large amount of popular machines that may have some form of “offensive” art. While I do think new machines should be more considerate I’m very worried that we’re approaching a burn the books scenario here.

  7. Norma Jennings says:

    Fiorello LaGuardia

  8. Per says:

    Hi Zoe,
    Your answers provided some insight, while they also provoked many more questions. I will not list all of them here, but will bring up a few thoughts.

    • Your original statement lists racism and sexism, while the example of Strikes and Spares deals with “oversexualization”. This is different from sexism. Please define what makes the art “oversexualized”, and why you think it’s a problem. For example, if a person came to a tournament dressed as the woman on the backglass that you deemed oversexualized, would you have words with her regarding her attire? If not, why is dressing a certain way OK, but a painting of the same not?

    • Attaching a warning label or blacklisting machines will of course stigmatize the use of a game, but let’s not forget the artist that created the art. How will your resource package affect them? Do you not think they will be dragged through the mud and made to apologize for their supposed transgressions?

    • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so it goes for art that offends some, but leave others unmoved. By labeling which art is offensive, and which is not, you will certainly stifle the artistic creativity that is one of the reasons why many people are drawn to pinball. Is this really something that the IFPA wants?

    • Returning to my original question, who gets to decide in the end? You? Josh? Will you put it to a vote among all players, or are you aiming for a more authoritarian way of deciding who’s will prevails?

    • “…identifies concrete ways to make a difference regarding the issues depicted.” What does this mean? Could you provide us examples?
    • Would offenses to all cultures and countries be considered when deciding which games are deemed wicked enough to be blacklisted, or only the groups you already mentioned? Watch out AFM!

    • What is the endgame for the IFPA regarding underrepresented groups of people? Will there be mandated quotas of certain people in IFPA-organized tournaments?

    • I am concerned about where this is leading, and I agree with BAC that it is going down the book burning path. To censor art serves only the purpose of people who want power over others, and it is nothing that I will have any part of. But thanks for asking.

  9. Mark says:

    I can’t agree with Per enough…. IMHO this is getting a tad out of hand, and quickly. . . Will we next ban machines based on rock groups when they take a political stance that doesn’t match up with a players beliefs?

  10. Ilya says:

    Pardon my skepticism, but will anti-racist and anti-sexist policies enforced on equal grounds ? Seeing the ”Intersectionality and collective liberation are the only path forward”, an ideology which largely accepts the notion that one from a ”minority” group cant possibly be sexist and racist towards a ”majority” group, therefore any such transgressions towards ”majority” go about ignored.

    And in regards to potentially offensive art, wont this create a massive slippery slope, as there will always be individuals and groups who will find something offensive ? Like for example, will SFW art with mildly sexy women now be considered offensive and therefore bannable if a certain individual finds it sexist out of a personal vendetta or something ?

  11. Anna says:

    So, Per, I’m curious. Would you rather:

    a) share information, provoke dialogue, enable education
    b) say nothing, do nothing, people play games with harmful art without a second thought

    I vote for Option A. That’s all that this initiative is about. Nobody suggested attaching a warning label to games or mandating that they are removed from tournament play, we are suggesting providing resources for people who want to access them. If one TD chooses to ban games because of it, that’s their choice. They had this choice before this IFPA statement.

    It seems everyone is so worried about this hypothetical “slippery slope” that they’d rather everyone just bury our heads in the sand…

  12. Lee Moscaritolo says:

    I would be very careful about blacklisting pinball machines. People have invested much time and money in all of the machines being discussed. It is not fair that a very small group of players feel as though they can step in and de-value someones personal investments based on the belief that pinball will be a better community without specific games.

    My suggestion to the Womens Advisory Board would be to concentrate on the most important agenda pinball is facing, which is to get pinball safely back up and running. Once that is accomplished, you may find that the Womens Advisory Board will be able to constructively work on agendas of a lesser priority.

    On a personal note…. I think that an attempt to push very personaal agendas during a time when pinball is suffering from unrelated circumstances, is very disrespectful to the great player base, owners of these blacklisted games and to all people of the pinball community around the world.

    As a member of the pinball community for over 40 years, I respectfully request that the Womens Advisory Board immediately cease all agendas that do not pertain to the re-starting of our great game of pinball and if individual board members would like to continue these discussions, Tilt Forums is a great outlet.

    Respectfully submitted.

    Lee Moscaritolo
    1987 #1 IFPA ranked player
    Over 40 years of pinball community service and sadly, grieving the passing of the great Steve Epstein.

  13. Matt says:

    Let’s get more white men in here to talk about race and gender concerns…..

  14. Josh Sharpe Josh Sharpe says:

    The IFPA is not interested in blacklisting or banning games.

    I’ll say this again as the comments up to this point keep mentioning this.

    The IFPA is not interested in blacklisting or banning games.

    Let me explain clearly what that means. IFPA sanctioned TD’s are free to use any pinball machine they want for sanctioned tournament and league play.

    There are resources online that talk about what games may not be best suitable for tournament play due to rules exploits. This list is by no means a banned game list. TD’s are free to use these games, and that resource is simply there to raise awareness of issues regarding the rules of the game in question.

    I would look at this campaign in a similar light which Zoe mentioned in her comment:

    “These resources are intended to make it easier for event organizers and tournament directors to be aware of issues they might not otherwise consider in order to foster an inclusive environment, given that machine art is one factor that can alienate players from underrepresented groups.”

  15. Denise says:

    Literally half the old white dudes on this thread:

    “Hi! I’m a white dude who likes to play devil’s advocate because other people’s struggles are theoretical to me. It’s fun to debate their right to equality. While we’re here, I would like to centre my voice and perspectives about a cause that means nothing to me! I’m here to take up all the oxygen in the room and exhaust people who are trying to fight against injustice so that we can maintain the status quo, which serves me. I have no interest in learning; your frustration is my ultimate goal. Let’s engage!”
    FACT: Women and people have colour have said that the images portrayed on some pinball “art” make them uncomfortable and less welcomed into the space. LITERALLY NO OTHER OPINIONS MATTER ON THIS TOPIC. So, sit down, shut up and stop trying to artificially force your voice into the centre of this argument. I realise it’s a foreign concept to you but not everything is about your feelings or your ideas.
    The end game at IFPA is and always has been to promote pinball as a sport. Old white dudes? You good! So, the next steps should be to listen continue to listen to the voices of marginalized people about how to reduce the micro aggressions (and actual aggressions!) they see and hear every time they walk into a pinball space.
    Now, let’s stop amplifying the voices of old white dudes on a topic they have nothing to add to and focus on the voices that matter here.

    TLDR: Sit down and shut the fuck up. Racists and misogynists bad. Making women and people of colour feel comfortable good. We got this.

  16. Greg Pitner says:

    The value of machines should be the last thing that should be considerd and the whole point of people protesting is to make the world a better place and more equal to all. Any efforts in putting race issues behind us is a positive thing and should be embraced by the pinball community. We all know pinball is mostly white men and women. However, if it helps to pull in all races and genders to be involved in the pinball hobby by pointing out some games that are made in bad taste, and this image is not what most players want to portray, then, why not. At the very least, the community is pointing out that some games were designed when people had a different viewpoint. People try to learn from history and mistakes to make things better. I do not feel pulling any games or backglass from any event is the right thing to do. I think, the right thing to do would be to display or highlight these games so people can talk and learn from history about this issue. It’s a fine line, as far as what is offense, and even that discussion is positive because people are talking about it. I hope that events get the games in question and set them up together so people can look for themselves and again talk about what is appropriate and what is not.

  17. Savii says:

    …Greg and a couple of other have good points…lots of good question…..not many good answers….Denise go back to childrens table until you learn to behave in public….

  18. Denise says:

    Well behaved women rarely defeat empires.

    Looking forward to further disappointing you!


  19. Jane says:

    Denise – you’re my hero.

    “Hi! I’m a white dude who likes to play devil’s advocate because other people’s struggles are theoretical to me.”


  20. Savii says:

    No, no, go for it. You are not dsappointing….just confirming what we already know…. Defeat empire…. LOL…..really though…shhhhhhhhh….adults are talking.

  21. Denise says:

    Jane, right?! Its every narcissistic white dude ever who stumbles across a conversation about race or gender and is like….”well honey, let me tell you what I think!” I know its a shock to the privilege, but nobody carea, dude. Not even a little bit.


  22. Matt says:

    Savii aint so savvy.

    There is an old christian proverb that goes something like this….

    Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it so.

    Keep fighting the good fight, ladies!!

    And thank you to the IFPA for taking a stance.

  23. Lazza says:

    So Denise. This a debate on sexism and racism and you’re wanting to exclude someone from commenting…based on the person’s gender and race. Contradiction much?

  24. Matt says:

    Lazza…. It’s not about you. It’s never, been about you.

    It will never be about you.

    The world does not revolve around you.

    You off all people, should know better!!

  25. Alisa says:

    Thank you IFPA. This means a lot to me. Of course there will be so much backlash, but please know there are many of us who are DELIGHTED to see this.

  26. Alisa says:

    Also, I’m sorry, did a man up there just tell the women what they should be prioritizing? UH THE REASON WE HAVE OUR OWN ADVISORY IS BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT YOUR OPINION.

  27. Alisa says:

    Denise, if we’re not already friends, I need more of you in my life. SHERO!

  28. DeniseTheHypocrite says:

    How typical some middle-aged white woman dominates the conversation and pretends to be a white savior.

    Get over yourself, Denise. Your narcissism doesn’t help anyone and your “White Man’s Burden” complex is laughable.
    Listen to POC voices for a change. We don’t need Karen’s like yourself thinking you’re the center of attention. Stop making this about you, clown.

    tl;dr Sit down and shut the f@$k up.

  29. Matt says:

    Haha.. Classic deflection.

  30. Michael says:

    What if the underrepresented people you mention are not interested in pinball? The black people I know think it’s a silly waste of time.

    I’ve loved my time playing pinball at league and at competitions. I enjoyed it because of the people and the focus on pinball. It is a true respite. Now you’ve dragged nasty politics into the mix.

  31. Matt says:

    Stop gaslighting.

    The three black people you talked to.. You do realize they don’t speak for all people?!?

  32. Michael says:

    I’m curious, Matt, how you know how many black people I spoke to?

    People are free to play in pinball competitions and leagues. You cannot force people to do something. How easy is it to get you to do something?

    Everyone I know who doesnt play pinball no matter what race laughs at me for wasting time and money. Especially the three black people I spoke to.

    You accuse me of gaslighting? Deflect much Matt?

  33. Michael says:

    A discussion consists of questions and answers. Points and counterpoints. Are you capable of debate?

  34. Matt says:

    I’m sure it’s countless, Mike.

  35. Savii says:

    Denise thinks that attacking peoples’s race, age and sex are good ways to fight racism…..hmmmmmmm.

    Matt….Only YOU can stop narcissism.

  36. Paul Bakker says:

    Hi IFPA, What are you doing to address the sexism that is clearly being display in most of these men’s replies? What warnings have you given same of these players? When will you banned them from being ranked players if they refuse to change their behaviour, and hopefully their views? Changing sexism in our hobby doesn’t seem so hopeful, when a simple initiative to provide a resource to help educate, discuss, and address issues of racism and sexism is met with sexism, and there is no recourse to address it. If your policy against sexist comments means anything, you’ll take action to address the sexism in this thread.

  37. Lester says:

    If Denise hasn’t been murdered yet for being an insufferable feminist piece of shit, then we as a species have failed immensely.

    Feminists are failed beings that don’t want to wake up and realize that they already have equal rights.

  38. Lester says:

    ” If your policy against sexist comments means anything, you’ll take action to address the sexism in this thread.”

    What the hell are you talking about? Maybe stop white knighting these stupid broads for a change and maybe kill yourself while you’re at it. 🙂

  39. The Unpacker says:

    “Hi! I’m a white dude who likes to play devil’s advocate because other people’s struggles are theoretical to me.”
    Hello, you bigoted racist and sexist, how nice of you to make these meaningless assumptions.

    “It’s fun to debate their right to equality.” – It’s not whether they have equality (which they fucking do) as much as it is how brainwashed they are about being oppressed. No one’s going after you being of gender or skin color, get your heads out of your asses.

    “While we’re here, I would like to centre my voice and perspectives about a cause that means nothing to me!” – as if uppity feminists don’t do that enough in the first place

    “I’m here to take up all the oxygen in the room and exhaust people who are trying to fight against injustice so that we can maintain the status quo, which serves me.” – You’re really speaking out of your ass. YOU. ARE. NOT. OPPRESSED. YOU. ARE. UNGRATEFUL. Try opening your eyes for a change instead of strawmanning.

    “I have no interest in learning; your frustration is my ultimate goal. Let’s engage!” – You’re right, what is there to learn about feminism? How men should throw their dignity away? How playing the victim can get you taken seriously if you check the right boxes? What is there to learn about this useless cause? Maybe getting you frustrated is the thing that’ll get you out of your feminist echo chamber and into the real world for once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *