A Cardboard Pinball Machine? My interview with Pinbox 3000’s Ben T. Matchstick

6a0133ec87bd6d970b01bb08fe52c6970d Ben_and_pete_cropped

I was fascinated to learn that a group calling itself the Cardboard Teck Instantute (that's actually the way its spelled) had created the Pinbox 3000, a DIY pinball machine. Its made out of heavy corrugated cardboard, and ready to be built and decorated by a child or adult who can who can add ramps, black holes, a castle and more.

Who are the brains behind the Cardboard Teck Instantute? Why its two gentlemen by the name of Pete Talbot and Ben T. Matchstick. I wanted to learn more so I reached out and Mr. Matchstick agreed to an interview. Below is what he had to say:

Richard:    

Pinbox is making a very interesting product, a pinball machine, made out of a surprising material, heavy corrugated cardboard. Can you tell us the origin of the idea and how you turned it into a reality.

BEN:

Pete and I have been messing around with cardboard as artists for over 10 years.  We’ve made giant puppet shows, samurai costumes, and pinball machines. We also worked together at teaching artists. As educators, using cardboard was our way of introducing kids to the prospect of making.  The PinBox 3000 truly got its start at the Generator Maker Space in Burlington Vermont in the winter of 2016.  After a two month residency, we launched our prototype onto Kickstarter in the spring, raising $14,900. We manufactured and assembled 2000 kits locally. Our next crowdfunding campaign, for our more optimized edition, activated an international maker and gamer community as well as local investors, who helped to raise over $100,000. This production run in Philadelphia yielded 7000 units.  Our inventory and development shop now resides in our new co-working accelerator space, the Alternator, in the heart of the South Side Arts District in Burlington VT, and we couldn’t be happier, being surrounded by innovative makers, crafters, artists, and tons of cardboard.  

FuntimesPinBox3000

Richard:
One of your stated goals is to get people more hands on when it comes to play. In fact, an end user gets to put the pinball machine together and also to design the playboard itself. Who is the ideal consumer; a pinball fanatic, a hobbyist, a dyi person?

BEN:

The ideal consumer is not a consumer at all.  It’s the maker of any age.  We’d like to help move toys and games beyond the idea that the product comes out of the box, gets played with, and is discarded (consumed).  What we invite is a hackable process.  Once you’ve built the PinBox 3000 with your hands, you’ve intimately mastered its design. From there, you’ll begin to see the bits and pieces all around you as potential obstacles or ornaments for your customized theme. Of course, we offer printed parts, shapes, and suggestions included in the box, but the real fun is in the evolution of the game. It’s a commemoration of the moment of making. The idea is that cardboard is not so precious as to prohibit punching a few holes in your game.  You can always fix it later. Pinball fanatics will dig it for the way it emulates traditional pinball on a microscale.  You can add motors, LED, Arduino, broken plastic toys, collectables, recycled bits, whatever.  Hobbyists will tune in to the craft of the game and make an interactive diorama. DIY families will enjoy the process, testing different ideas on the two interchangeable playboards that are included. The gamer will have a blast with the head-to-head challenge of BattleMode. Two games can connect  together, to allow players to pass marbles between. The PinBox 3000 has proven itself in classrooms and maker spaces around the country as a go-to platform that allows experimentation in physics, design, craft, game design and fun. We could use a little more tactile fun. No screens or batteries required (unless you decide to include them).

Richard:

All for an MSRP of $49.95 and…its made in America. How did you do it?

BEN:

We enjoy working closely with our manufacturer to make this quality product. It’s a blessing to get to know the people who design and build cardboard products, and to work through the process intimately with them. All the corrugated companies we meet take great pride in their work and it is exciting to be made in the US when so many toys are made overseas. We’re excited to propose the idea that we can actually manufacture quality products here in the US and challenge the norm. We are aware that making the PinBox 3000 in China would make things cheaper, but we’re committed to our working partners, and want only the best for our customers.

Richard:

Do you have more games and toys on the way?

BEN:

Of course! We have an exciting book in the works that will allow us to really share our skills and spirit. Recently, an 8 year old reached out to us with a toy/game idea he’d like to develop. People are starting to understand the spirit of our message: build, design, play and Tilt the Future! This conversation with our audience is special and we hope that our PinBox 3000 community will grow with us, and reminds us how meaningful it is to have two dopey, creative, kind guys as role-models. It’s such an honor.

Richard:

Which of you is better at pinball?

BEN:

Pete is better. But we love it for different reasons. I’m not interested in high scores.  I love the mixture of mechanical puppetry, edgy artwork, and game design. We love the pinball community and hope that they will see the PinBox 3000 as a gateway for more players, designers, experimenters and fans of the game. At the pinball conventions we’ve received wonderful compliments from the top brass of the industry. At first, folks were resistant, maybe even threatened by the PinBox 3000. But gradually, players and designers and hardcore pinballers have come around to embrace our DIY ethos. We need to get pinball out of the basements and the bars and into more living rooms.  The family that makes together and plays together, stays together.  

Leave a Reply