John Popadiuk Jr. is an American designer of arcade pinball machines, a self-proclaimed "game artist" dedicated to keeping the spirit of pinball alive. Despite being a relative latecomer to the industry, his passion and drive are reflected in his games and projects.
At six years old, Popadiuk created pinball tables with wooden boards, nails, and rubber bands for the kids in his neighborhood. He joined Bally's pinball division in 1980, working on and off as a whitewood lab technician. His prototype ideas never came to fruition, partially due to the buyout by Williams Electronics in the late eighties.
After an absence from the industry, Popadiuk rejoined Williams in 1993. His first commercially-sold design 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 design for Williams was Star Wars Episode I, released before the company closed their pinball division.
In 2006, Popadiuk designed consumer pinball machines for toy company Zizzle. Said machines stood at four-and-a-half feet tallnote , could be assembled in minutes, and cost only $300. Zizzle ultimately discontinued them due to poor sales.
In 2011, Popadiuk founded his own company, Zidware Pinball, and announced three expensive, custom-built, limited edition games: Magic Girl, Alice in Wonderland, and Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland. After four years of secrecy, Popadiuk ran out of money and halted production of the games; angry customers threatened Zidware with a lawsuit. Magic Girl languished in Development Hell until a new start-up, American Pinball, built and shipped the incomplete machines in 2017. Zidware's other projects have yet to be released.
John currently teaches Interactive Toy Design at the Columbia College of Art & Design in Chicago.
John Popadiuk's pinography:
- World Cup Soccer (Bally, 1994)
- Theatre of Magic (Bally, 1995)
- Tales of the Arabian Nights (Williams, 1996)
- Cirqus Voltaire (Bally, 1997)
- Star Wars Episode I (Williams, 1999)
- Marvel Heroes vs. Villains (Zizzle, 2006)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Zizzle, 2006)
- Magic Girl (Zidware Pinball, 2015)
- Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (Zidware Pinball, under development)
- Alice in Wonderland (Zidware Pinball, under development)
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?
- 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.