Presenting Pinball as a "talent" to a non-pinball audience

So completely on his own, Escher submitted a “try out” video of him playing pinball to a popular twitch streamer who runs talent contests on his stream, and out of thousands of submissions, Escher was picked to be one of the 20 (?) or so contestants on the show.

Escher thought a lot about how best to present pinball as a “talent” to a non-pinball viewing audience and judges, and he had lots of different ideas, but we recognized from the start is was going to be a really tough sell. He narrowed it down to either playing an Escape Nublar speed run (since “speed running” is a recognized “thing” on the internet), or collecting a billion hurry-up on Attack From Mars one handed - one handed, because we thought that even if the judges couldn’t appreciate the standard pinball skills, the one handed nature of the task would seem more impressive ? It was a tough choice, too, because JP probably would have presented a lot “cooler” for it’s LCD display instead of the old DMD, but AFM affords many opportunities to demonstrate pinball skills with drop catches out of the scoop, live catches from the orbits and loop passing, too. The contest was also going to have multiple rounds, so if Escher made it though, he would need a different “trick” the second time, so he decided to start with the one-handed, AFM bil hurry up.

The show streamed yesterday and here is the link to Escher’s turn (he went 6th out of no-idea-i-stopped-watching-after-eschers-turn).

I, of course, had never heard of this streamer, but he had over 100,000 people watching the thing live, and all of his past streams have over 1.5 million views, which is just crazy. For the record, Escher did manage to do the bil hurry-up one handed on his first try, but he was pretty nervous at the start and it took him a bit to settle down… There were some technical issues with the stream, too, such that he couldn’t talk to the judges as he was playing, which was going to be part of “the thing” - since he’s used to playing and answering questions as he goes when he normally streams pinball… So the judges never got it. He also had bad luck in that the first five contestants were all voted through and just before he went on, all the judges were kidding that they hadn’t rejected anyone yet, lol, so they were primed to say to no to someone, lol… One of the women judges streams chess normally and is a very high ranked chess player and we hoped she might get it because it’s such a specialized skill, but she was the one who best articulated why she didn’t get it - she knew it was probably amazing what he did, but she just couldn’t see it in the presentation.

I know that Daniele made it pretty far on Italy’s Got Talent a few years ago playing pinball, and I couldn’t find any video of what he did there to impress the judges (knowing Daniele, he probably hit the ramps on Iron Man 1,000 times in a row or something, lol), but other than the huge #DadHumbleBrag here (that I’m sure @pinwizj will definitely call me out on), I would pose the question here:

If you had 5 minutes in an internet talent show to demonstrate pinball, what game would you choose and how would you demonstrate your talent ?


Escher’s Dad

p.s. Immediately after Escher didn’t make it through, he had over 3,000+ viewers turn up to his twitch streaming channel and it was CRAZY. The majority of comments were all super positive and nice and supportive and a LOT of interest in pinball. Escher went on to play a 100 billion, 3 RTE game on AFM to over 1,000 viewers, lol, and told them all about IFPA, and PAPA, and WPPRs and all the things we love! Escher’s sister, Ainsley, had to read the questions out to him because the chat was scrolling by WAY to fast to keep up… YMMV


Tap pass for 5 minutes straight on a Frontier . . . maybe mix in a post pass or two while you’re at it :slight_smile:

I think for it to be an impressive thing for viewers who know nothing about pinball, you probably have to go “Full Roger” and call every shot as you make them in the game.

Imagine the billion hurry up on AFM, but having the ball cradled on the right flipper and explaining how I’m going to hit this left ramp which is ‘right here’, and then I’m going to bump the ball over back to a cradle on the right flipper. [Shoot ramp, make shot, pass over, back to cradle]

Then continue to engage the audience as you tackle shot after shot after shot with surgical precision while calling all of those moves in advance.


While those of us with experience can appreciate the one-handed play, I don’t think it added any value for the judges. Actually it probably took away from the opportunity to put on more of a show. Playing normally would have allowed for cleaner technique and more deliberate control to wow them. In my experience, outsiders don’t really get their minds blown until some multiball skills are displayed. Calling your cradle separations, over/unders and things like that tend to impress people much more than completing game objectives that they don’t know anything about.

Nice work @Steveo just getting out there to a wider audience and great play, of course, for those of us who can appreciate the nuance!


I bet doing a death save would have really blown their minds.


Good timing on this thread, as I’m currently signed up to do a virtual talent show at work in a few weeks! I have a total of three minutes. My original thinking was to focus on flipper skills – drop catches, loop passes, post passes etc., and have my stream deck set up to do slowed down replays along with some of the dead flip gifs as illustration. I was originally going to do this on Maiden (which lends itself well to loop passes and whatnot), but at this point, my rig is set up on JP and I don’t really feel like moving it. So now i’m thinking to set a few objectives to try and accomplish in the 3 minutes , feed t-rex, capture a dino, start chaos multiball, and try and set up some drama and fan fare when I accomplish each.

@jdelz and @brian totally agree. I might play a few seconds of MB just to demo some of those skills. And If the opportunity to death save pops up, I’m definitely taking it!


While i’m sure it was a well-thought-out decision with solid reasoning, and i’m sure Escher did a great job, i think playing with one hand behind his back takes away from showing off the full experience of what pinball skill looks like. I also think there’s probably a lot more to talk about when you are using both flippers together to control a ball, and a lot more opportunity to impress when you’re able to use the full range of one’s skill.

Getting through hardcore pinball in-game achievements might not be the best approach. Most of them involve a lot of “wood chopping” and an element of luck, and more important, are confusing for the layman to understand exactly what you’re building towards. It might be more effective to just show off a variety of flipper skills, stacking a mode with a multiball, cradle all three balls, and make a super jackpot on a called shot. I think that would be a LOT more comprehensible and therefore impressive to a layman, even if pros know it’s way, way easier than a one-handed billion point shot on AFM.


I think the key to this is to slow it down and slow it down a lot. IMO modern pinball is way too fast and appears too chaotic for people that haven’t ever played the game to understand the nuance. Streaming exacerbates this as well.


I love everything about this. Education is such an important part of getting people outside of pinball to “get it”. Well done Team Lefkoff!

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I think the one handed TA was a good idea, but as soon as I saw the judges talking about it (I watched live), I realized (as some others have said) that showing and describing flipper skills slowly, or calling shots may have had a better wow factor. Honestly, shooting the center ramp on GOT 20+ times might have been more impressive to them, sadly.

All that said, I’m not sure if there is anything he could have done to advance. Everyone listens to music, so it’s easy to judge for a talent show. None of them play pinball so…? What he did was wildly impressive to 99% of the hardcore pinball people (I mean, during practice immediately before going live he was at 7b one handed on ball 1)…but for people who don’t play it’s a whole different thing.

This was excellent exposure for pinball (he has thousands of new subscribers, people who probably knew nothing about it previously), but definitely showcased the struggles we have getting pinball to a wider audience.

Honestly, I think our best bet is with people who have played pinball enough times to “know” how hard and luck based it is, and then show them the light with skillful and slowly explained demonstration…and I have no answers for wooing the people who have never played pinball before.


Big props to Escher for putting himself out there like that!

We all know he did something extraordinary, but the judges weren’t able to comprehend his greatness in this format.

And to answer the question of what I’d show to people who don’t know the game, I’d play a 13-ball multiball on Apollo 13.


Top work Escher, you came across really well, very composed and likeable.

Really tricky thing to do. What you did was clearly for us incredibly skillful.

I would agree with a few of the comments. I’m a teacher and have put a machine at school for the pupils to use. I run a pinball club and demonstrate some skills to them pretty regularly. I would say they are always most impressed when you call your shot and hit it, or just repeat the same shot over and over.

How about something like the first ball on this video I filmed on Skateball over the weekend. I convinced my wife to film me on my phone (as long as it was only one game and less than 10 minutes :joy:)

It’s pretty crappy quality, but my wife did comment afterwards ‘yeah, I can see there is skill involved’ :joy:. Saying that though, she did say ‘if you had shot that hole one more time, I was going to give up’, so maybe I’m completely wrong and it’s just really boring!

As it was Skateball, I had to mention you @Steveo

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Mostly unrelated, but pinball is a nice thing to bring up in corporate “tell me a little about yourself” situations, especially job interviews. My other hobbies are drinking, pen and paper RPGs, and seeing live music which are perhaps more relatable but less interesting. If it comes up, people are uninterested in the specific details of how games are won, how tournaments work, strategy, etc, but the idea that there are people out there who win even a vanishingly small amount of money on average seems to impress them. It’s also a good segue into talking about a bit of how you approach other parts of life.

The only way it’s true is if you only count inexpensive buy-in Seattle events and don’t factor in transportation, coin drop, and beer. I definitely make money in the “win more than I pay in entry fees” sense. Looking at the entire picture it’s just a relatively cheap hobby.

Agree that playing one handed won’t sell that well to an inexperienced audience because they don’t have a proper concept of playing two handed (and how much harder it would be). Playing blindfolded, however, would be more likely to wow them (and is also a speed run thing).

I wonder what a pinball skills “performance” would be like. If you look at gymnastics, skating, freestyle skiing skateboarding, etc, they are judged on having a planned demonstration of skills, each with a difficulty and then judged on executing it.

Could a routine in pinball be interesting. Live catch, post pass, post pass, ramp, orbit, loop pass, scoop, drop catch, ramp, post catch, victory stance.

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Great job by Escher! But yeah, I can see where they just don’t get it. Rules they have no idea of. One handed doesn’t mean anything to them. I would just demonstrate flipper skills and call them out before doing them. Then maybe call your shots/repeated shots.

These are the same limitations that pinball in general has to a wider audience. When game rules are involved they just won’t get it.

I hadn’t thought of this! A few times I’ve done side tournaments where the flippers and lower part of the inlanes are completely covered with cardboard. I once had a 250m game of TZ playing this way, because I knew the feeds and timing so well. THAT would have impressed the judges. I think most of them would have insisted it was a magic trick and that there was some sort of mirror or other cheat involved.

IMO Definitely through!!! Throw in a bang back and you’re going to Hollywood!!!

for anyone dropping in now and wanting to see Escher’s performance, the Twitch link is dead.

You can see the performance here at 1:21:05

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When I was on Nickelodeon’s Figure it Out, I played a Comet machine and had less than 5 minutes to explain my strategies when approaching a game. If I recall, I focused on flipper skills, cradling (subsequently holding the ball, calling a shot, and then making it), and plunging.

I guess discussing those things helps disprove certain perceptions of pinball, and help others realize that it’s a game of skill. Seeing somebody execute those things and get a good score should deliver the message, in my opinion.

I think an older EM or something simple would work well with the limited time. Just in terms of faster games I guess, and a simpler ruleset that’s easy to explain to beginners.