In pinball — the classic arcade game that enjoyed its heyday in the 1970s and ’80s, with a recent resurgence among retro arcade enthusiasts — players press a button or flip a lever to launch a stainless steel ball. The ball whizzes through ramps and ricochets off bumpers, the game kept alive only by the focused eye of the player in control of the flippers.
It’s an apt metaphor for the life of Ashley Abigail Resurreccion ’16 (Psychology) after CSUN. In just a few years since completing her bachelor’s degree, Resurreccion has followed a path full of twists and turns. In addition to arcade-game points, she has collected a unique arsenal of skills along the way, as a marathon runner, traveling artist, Peace Corps volunteer — and professional pinball player. It’s a world she found by chance, after graduation.
In 2017, Resurreccion and her older brother, Marcus Amith, were watching a live online broadcast of “Games Done Quick” — a semiannual video game marathon in which games are played through as quickly as possible — featuring pinball. The siblings were curious and inspired to look for a local league where they could try their hand at the game.
As fate would have it, they found one just down the street from their home in Van Nuys. Located inside the Korean barbecue restaurant Ayce Gogi on Van Nuys Boulevard, On Tilt is the only pinball league in the San Fernando Valley. The league offered open tournaments, but Resurreccion, busy with marathon and yoga training, asked her brother to join on his own. At the end of the season, however, she decided to jump into the league’s consolation tournament for new players and those who hadn’t captured a top prize.
As it turns out, she was a natural.
“I went in, not expecting anything,” Resurreccion said. “But then, I ended up beating every single person until the finals for that tournament, and I took second place. Even then, we were tied, two games out of three. Everyone was super surprised.”
Inspired, Resurreccion didn’t wait long before traveling to different states to compete in a string of tournaments. Because pinball wasn’t technically her profession, she still considers herself an amateur. “But I was playing in the professional ranks every time,” she said.
In just a few months, she added to her first win and racked up more trophies and cash prizes, networked with players and met pro pinball player “Dead Flip,” a pinball celebrity known for streaming his gameplay on the platform Twitch.
There’s more to pinball than most people think, Resurreccion said, and training for leagues can involve extensive practice on arcade machines or their computer simulation counterparts, to learn rules and techniques.
“Pinball is a sport,” Resurreccion said. “It’s not random. It’s not luck — it’s all physics. You have to know — where am I going to hit this shot? At what angle? Do I have to hit this shot? What speed is my ball going at? How do I respond when the ball refreshes back?”
With her skill level, Resurreccion said, even playing casually has been more fun. “When [my brother and I] got good enough, $5 would get [us] hours and hours of gameplay,” she said, “whereas when we were just newbies, we would use that up within 10 minutes.”
Thailand: A Whole New Ball Game
In 2018, she hit pause on her pinball career to pursue another passion abroad: making a difference through education. For two years, she has been serving as a volunteer English teacher trainer for the Peace Corps in Thailand. Her job entails supporting local teachers and school administrators through English curriculum camps, and working with multiple co-teachers to map out lesson plans and create classroom materials, such as flashcards and worksheets, and heading community outreach development programs with other volunteers.
In Thailand, access to pinball machines and pinball competitions is limited. But the move hasn’t stopped her from doing exciting things with her time.
Beyond her Peace Corps work, Resurreccion said, she has embraced Thai culture and explored the sights, while continuing to build on her passion for fitness and art.
As a native Californian and lifelong runner, Resurreccion has run routes in Malibu, Yosemite, and Los Angeles’ Fryman Canyon and Runyon Canyon, but she’d never competed until she moved to Thailand. In her spare time outside of her volunteer duties, she has been competing in — and winning — races of 10, 21 and even 42 kilometers.
Running marathons has been satiating her wanderlust, she said. Competitions have taken her to almost 20 different Thai provinces and cities, including Bangkok, Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai, where she took second place in a race on Doi Suthep, one of the tallest mountains in Thailand.
Whether she’s running around Thailand or flying around the U.S. to compete in pinball leagues, traveling has positively influenced her art side as well, Resurreccion said.
“[Thailand’s] native tongue, native land, native peoples, native craft — all of that is inspiring my current work,” Resurreccion said. An illustrator who uses watercolor as her main medium, she is working on a 31-illustration series that draws references from Thai fashion, nature and people.
Traveling after her undergraduate years has given her a unique perspective on exploring her artistry and her own identity, Resurreccion said.
“A lot of times, we don’t even recognize ourselves — what we’re doing that’s interesting or different,” she said. “Every time I move, I have the privilege of identifying that, learning about it and understanding it.”
Keeping the Ball Rolling
In February, when she concludes her Peace Corps service and returns to the U.S., Resurreccion plans to get back into pinball — getting in some good practice before jumping into competition again.
Beyond the arcade, she plans to apply for art therapy graduate programs, blending her artistic side and her educational background in psychology. Among her wide set of skills and interests, Resurreccion said she chose to major in psychology after tough childhood experiences with her mother’s chronic depression. That background led her to choose a field in which she can assist individuals with special needs, she said.
She also plans to pursue an art residency in Spain to learn about Spanish culture and showcase her first watercolor exhibit, and she hopes to reach wider audiences through summer art events and conventions.
Even with her plans laid out for 2020, however, Resurreccion said she’s open to changes as they come. It’s the same mentality that led her to uncover her hidden pinball talent and to travel the world — a mindset she learned at CSUN.
Resurreccion said her CSUN academic advisor, Kevin Zemlicka, helped her navigate her myriad interests during college and encouraged her to continuously welcome new opportunities and passions.
“[Zemlicka] told me, ‘Your plan is fluid,'” she said. “‘It’s as fluid as your life. It’s as fluid as your interests. It’s as fluid as your heart.'”