John Popadiuk Jr. is an American designer of arcade pinball machines
, a self-proclaimed "game artist" dedicated to keeping the spirit of pinball alive. Though he is a relative latecomer to the industry, John makes up for it with his passion and drive, which is reflected in his games and his projects.
John started creating pinball tables at the early age of six, using wooden boards, nails, and rubberbands to design games for the kids in his neighborhood. He joined Bally
's pinball division in 1980, working on and off as a lab technician in the whitewood lab. During that time he developed several prototype ideas, but none of his games made it into production, partially due to the buyout by Williams Electronics
in the late eighties.
He left arcade gaming for a while, but rejoined Williams in 1993. John's first commercial pinball was the acclaimed World Cup Soccer
, which he followed with a short but outstanding series of hits: Theatre of Magic, Tales of the Arabian Nights,
and Cirqus Voltaire
. His last Williams pin was Star Wars Episode I
, released before the company closed their pinball division.
John Popadiuk returned to pinball in 2006 by designing consumer pinball machines for Zizzle toy company. Standing at four-and-a-half feet tall, Zizzle Pinballs were half the size of an arcade pinball machine, could be assembled in minutes, and cost only $300. Unfortunately, though the games were respectably challenging, Zizzle did not sell enough for it to be a sustainable product line.
Today, John teaches Interactive Toy Design at the Columbia College of Art & Design in Chicago. He is also the head of Zidware Pinball USA,
a studio that creates custom boutique pinball tables for collectors and teaches pinball design. John is also an active member of the Pinside pinball forums.
John Popadiuk's pinography:
Tropes frequently appearing in John Popadiuk's works include:
- Doing It for the Art: How else can one describe a person who has created an entire private studio which takes years to make hand-crafted pinball games with production runs in the dozens, only for the truly devout collectors and aficionados?
- Promoted Fanboy
- Signature Style: John Popadiuk's games tend to have:
- A theme based on magic or mysticism (Theater of Magic, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Magic Girl).
- A unique or original playfield toy.
- A reduced emphasis on pop bumpers.
- At least one captive ball target, positioned asymmetrically on the field.
- Magnets to catch the ball, send it in unexpected directions, or both.