SAN FRANCISCO -- When people come to San Francisco, it's not uncommon for them to visit Haight Street, a stretch of road lined with bars, tattoo parlors, and shops galore. Wander one block up to Waller Street and you'll discover Free Gold Watch, a pinball palace tucked away in an unassuming neighborhood.
"We have the most pinball machines in San Francisco," owner Matthew Henri states.
"You walk in and there's an atmosphere; the lights going off, the sounds, this whole amusement park under the glass," 2011 World Pinball Champion Andrei Massenkoff reveals.
"It's like, almost like a kid in a candy shop," regular player Robert adds.
Free Gold Watch started as a screen print shop and remains one today. Over the years, it has also become a gathering place for pinball players of all ages.
"I just had an idea at one point," Henri explains, "You know what? We should get some pinball machines in here. When people see pinball machines or arcade games, it just screams, basically, 'Hey, come play me.'"
Pinball challenges players with a unique blend of skill and chance. According to regulars, that's the ultimate attraction.
"When you play a video game, it's not real," enthusiast Fernando Silva declares. "The steel ball is real. You can shake it. You can influence the game. You are part of the game. That's pinball."
"Sometimes the ball just has a mind of its own," Robert explains. "A little element of chaos, randomness, it pulls me in every time."
Whether you've played the game before or not, a visit to Free Gold Watch is worth the trip.
"Everyone can have fun no matter how good or bad they might be on it," Massenkoff says.
"I haven't met a single person that hasn't gotten hooked," Robert adds, "They always ask me, 'Dude, let's go back again. Let's go back again.'"
The space is also available for event rentals. For more information, visit here.