Famed pinball designer Dennis Nordman has joined Palatine-based pinball company American Pinball as their new Senior Game Designer.
Dennis has been working in pinball since he joined Bally in the early ’80s to develop new cabinet designs. He created the cabinet and tank moulds for the Rapid Fire ball shooter game before getting his first solo pinball design in 1986 with the game Special Force.
Since then he has either created or been involved with nearly two dozen pinball titles including classics such as Scared Stiff, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien, Lexy Lightspeed: Escape from Earth, Elvira’s House of Horrors and The Wizard of Oz for which Dennis designed the spinning house and the original melting witch mechanism.
Dennis has designed or contributed to games from Bally Midway, Williams, Stern Pinball, IGT, Jersey Jack Pinball, Whizbang Pinball, Multimorphic, Heighway Pinball, Spooky Pinball, Silver Castle Pinball, Valley Dynamo, Deeproot Pinball, Chicago Gaming, and is now, from 4th January 2021, employed full-time at American Pinball. In addition, he will still be able to complete his work on the in-development licensed game he was designing for Chicago Gaming prior to joining American Pinball.
While Dennis contributed to it, the main designer on The Wizard of Oz was Joe Balcer who subsequently signed for American Pinball and designed their first three releases – Houdini, Oktoberfest and Hot Wheels. Joe now becomes a contract designer who is no longer directly employed by American Pinball but is free to pitch his future game designs to them as well as other manufacturers.
Apart from creating new game designs of his own for American Pinball, Dennis will also be responsible for the development and training of several up-and-coming game designers at the company. American Pinball has ambitious plans to produce multiple new titles each year and has employed a number of game designers to work with Dennis to create a pipeline of future releases.
To find out more about his new position, Pinball News asked Dennis how the job offer happened.
He told us, “I’m working as a contractor for Chicago Gaming (CGC), designing a licensed game. I spoke with David Fix [American Pinball’s new Director of Operations and Marketing] about an opportunity to design games for American Pinball. Doug Duba [Corporate President of Chicago Gaming Company] generously allowed me to pursue an agreement with American while still developing a game for CGC. David agreed to allow me to finish my game with CGC while working at American Pinball. I feel very fortunate to be designing games for both of these companies. I love the game I’m working on for CGC and can’t wait to get started on a game for American Pinball.“
Describing the responsibilities of his new position, Dennis said, “I’ll be designing a new game, but I’m not sure yet whether it will be licensed or original. Each one presents its own set of unique problems to solve. I’ll also be working with and mentoring some new, young designers that will be creating games for American Pinball.“
Dennis also told us he will be working from home as much as possible until the COVID pandemic subsides and only visiting the American Pinball facility in Palatine when necessary.
With a new game only recently gone into development at Chicago Gaming, we asked Dennis if he had another design lined-up and ready to go for American Pinball. He said, “Nothing fully developed. I always have new ideas floating around in my head. I’ll be discussing ideas with David and the rest of the team to decide on a direction.“
Before he was contracted by Chicago Gaming, Dennis worked with the team at Deeproot to develop new games there. However he left the company at the end of 2019 and says he is not doing any more work for them. He told us, “I actually have three games that I designed for deeproot. The third one didn’t have a theme. It’s the first time I ever designed a game without having a theme in mind first. Unfortunately I’m no longer involved with my deeproot games.“
Since the release of his first title for American Pinball could conceivably coincide with the release of his games from Deeproot Pinball and/or Chicago Gaming, we asked Dennis how he would feel seeing his designs from different manufacturers potentially in competition against each other, and whether anything like that had happened before in his career.
Dennis said, “That hasn’t happened before as far as I can remember. I think it would be very exciting to have games enter the market at the same time!“
Here’s the official announcement from American Pinball:
It is our great honor to announce Dennis Nordman as a new Senior Game Designer at American Pinball.
Dennis will be assuming that role and will be able to mentor our young design staff. We are excited to have Dennis join our team and bring his design expertise to American Pinball.
Dennis is no stranger to this profession, having designed many pinball games for Bally, Williams, Stern, Multimorphic, and Highway Pinball. Dennis will also finish releasing in-progress games in the future that he’s been working on under contract with other manufacturers.
Dennis is an asset during our new reboot of American Pinball. We look forward to his creative style on both licensed and non-licensed games.