APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Many of us have probably tested our skills on a pinball machine inside an arcade, but for one Appleton teenager, the game of pinball means so much more.
With around 40 pinball machines squeezed into a basement on Appleton’s northside, the best way to describe Neil Graf’s house is a pinball paradise.
“They are always shocked, they always freak out, especially when it goes on from room to room,” said Graf when asked how people react when they see his basement for the first time.
Graf is the fifth-ranked pinball player in the entire world. He’s been a competitive player since he was about 14 years old.
“The competition part of it, that has really made me fall in love with it,” said Graf.
Graf is a senior at Appleton North High School, and despite all his other extracurriculars, he finds time to come down to his basement each week to practice.
Neil said his dad is also a top-ranked pinball player, ranked top 50 in the world, and that was a big reason why he got into pinball. It quickly turned from a fun way to pass the time to a passion.
“After COVID-19, actually when everybody started things back up, I started winning more tournaments, and that’s when I found out that I have a hidden talent,” said Graf.
It’s a big week for Neil because PinClash is this weekend. It’s a major tournament with the best players all around the world competing.
Each player has a live stream or webcam to record themselves playing the ‘Godzilla’ pinball game.
“You’re always going to get nervous playing against good players, but once you get in the groove, it goes away,” said Graf.