VIDEOS: Free Play Florida Brings Retro Arcade Games, Pinball Machines, and More Fun to Central Florida

Shannen Ace

VIDEOS: Free Play Florida Brings Retro Arcade Games, Pinball Machines, and More Fun to Central Florida

WDWNT Play was at Free Play Florida at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland this November 17 – 19 and now we’re bringing you a recap of our experience of the event.

free play florida 2023

Overview

Free Play Florida is hosted by Byte Amusement Group, Inc., a 501c3 organization “with the objective to produce educational, family-oriented events whose proceeds provide charitable assistance to local non-profit organizations and people in need.”

In line with the goals of Byte Amusement Group, Free Play Florida features gaming, music, and education. It’s their main fundraising event and Florida’s largest arcade, pinball, and console show, but Byte also makes an effort to bring card games, board games, roleplaying games, and more around the state to teach about the history, art, and engineering of gaming.

President Leon Essex says, “Our goal is to find creative ways to educate the community about the rich history of classic and modern gaming and its influence on art, science, and technology.”

Sponsors of Free Play Florida include places like The Pinball Lounge, Leaderboard Arcade, and Echo Base Collectibles, locations which fans can visit year-round. Check out the full list of Free Play Florida sponsors.

Free Play Florida Expo Floor

free play florida arcade games

Retro arcade games from the past century are available to play on the expo floor during Free Play Florida. That’s right, you can actually play games dating back to the 1930s, something virtually impossible elsewhere. These games are brought in by vendors and private collectors volunteering their time and machines for the event.

Standard nerdy collectibles are available for purchase, but vendors also have machines for sale. You can test out a game and then potentially order one for your home.

free play florida prewar pinball machine

Private collector Jeffrey Smith provided prewar pinball machines for guests to play at the Prewar Playground. Other vintage machines included an original NABU, an Apple II computer (with Oregon Trail), and Atari products. These things are usually behind glass in a museum but can be experienced during Free Play Florida, providing a rare look at the rich history of gaming.

In our video below, Miss Alison takes us on a walkthrough of the expo floor, showing off some of the wares that were available to purchase and play this year.

See more of the games in our WDWNT Play Instagram video.

Voice of the Wild: Joe Hernandez and His Career in Video Game Voicework

We attended and filmed a panel about voice work with prolific video game and TV voice actor Joe Hernandez. Among Hernandez’s credits are “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “Fire Emblem: Engage,” “Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity,” “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” and “Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures.” Hernandez has also been one of the voices of Crush at Turtle Talk with Crush for almost 20 years and was a voice for Stitch’s Picture Phone, a defunct Innoventions offering.

Watch the full hour-long panel below.

Interview With Michael of IONOX

Miss Alison sat down with Michael, the owner of IONOX. Michael creates laser-cut art of theme park maps, famous signs, and more. Watch our interview with Michael below.

Interview With Tim Striggow of Mold-A-Matic

Have you ever gotten one of those fun Mold-A-Rama figures from Universal Orlando Resort or anywhere else in Florida? If so, the machines in this video will look familiar to you. Tim Striggow is the owner and operator of the Mold-A-Matic (branded Mold-A-Rama) machines by Unique Souvenirs, Inc., which has been a family business since the 1960s. Check out some of the Mold-A-Rama machines and figures in this video with Miss Alison and Striggow.

Review

We spent two days at Free Play Florida and had a great time. It’s a family-friendly environment, with games ranging from classic 1980s arcade consoles to vintage 1930s games, so there’s something for everyone.

If you happen to be in the Central Florida area during Free Play Florida, it makes a great day (or night) break from the busy theme parks. Also make sure to look up other Byte Amusement Group, Inc. events that take place throughout the year.

For more gaming news, reviews, and events, follow WDWNT Play on Instagram, TikTok, X, and YouTube. For Disney news from around the world, visit WDWNT.com.

Author

  • Shannen Ace

    Shannen has been a Disney Parks fan and lover of dogs since childhood, despite Pluto's attempt to eat Shannen's Minnie Mouse doll the first time they met. They've made up now. You can email Shannen at shannen@wdwnt.com.