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Minecraft Pinball Machine—Out of This World!

Joe Hills

What if you could merge your favorite arcade game and video game?

Dedicated pinball player and Minecraft streamer, Joe Hills, saw an opportunity to combine his two passions and create a massive space telescope-themed pinball machine in Minecraft—live in front of his audience.

“One of the best parts of being someone who makes Minecraft videos is that when I have a weird idea that I don’t have the money or space to execute on, I can always add ‘in Minecraft’ to it,” Hills said. ”For years I always thought it would be cool to make a pinball machine. But how am I going to make a pinball machine? I can make a pinball machine in Minecraft.”

“Webb”ed Flippers

With around 160K YouTube subscribers and more than 80,000 Twitch followers, Hills has built a community around his art. These followers are coming along with him on the journey of creating the pinball machine. Hills wanted to pick a theme for the machine that he knew this author would find joy in researching. Growing up reading many books about space at his local library and with a grandma who loved Star Trek, space has always had a place of interest in his heart.

“I appreciate the space scientists and engineers just embracing human curiosity and the desire to push farther that I’ve always really enjoyed and something I wanted to share with other people, too.”

The focus of the pinball machine is NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Launched in 2021, the telescope is made up of many big gold mirrors. These mirrors help scientists look far into our universe and study everything from stars to galaxies. JWST has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Hills had the idea to build this pinball machine before the JWST was even launched but waited until now to build it.

“The JWST is a very elaborate machine that they launched into space, and a lot of things can go sideways in that process,” he said. “I was overjoyed to see that everything went well.”

As soon as he saw the beautiful images that the telescope was sending back, Hills began making his space pinball dream a reality.

Big Build

Hills started by clearing the massive Minecraft area that will hold the machine, figuring out the dimensions of the creation, and building the framework. He selected a massive scale for the machine, reaching the vertical build limit for Minecraft. For perspective, the game’s pinball will be about 6 blocks wide. He then moved on to the side of the machine which will display one of JWST’s images, which Hills is creating manually through Minecraft pixel art. The machine is rising out of the ocean off the shore of the server’s shopping district.

Working on this project gave Hills the chance to dive deep into the workings of the telescope and stay up to date with all the latest colorful pictures the JWST is sending back to Earth.

“I could have made a pinball machine themed after Minecraft in Minecraft but that’s not really as much of a joy for me,” Hills said. “Part of the goal of building something in Minecraft, especially a model of something somewhere else, is that you get to take the time to learn about that thing.”

While Hills has a professional programmer background, he is an entertainer and artist first. Minecraft blocks just happen to be his favorite thing with which to create works of art.

“One of the great things about Minecraft is it’s basically like having infinite Lego where you don’t have to worry about the cost of your materials and you don’t have to be tidy,” Hills said. “Minecraft gave me the most accessible opportunity to express myself.”

Hills expects to work on this pinball machine for 3-5 hours a day for around a year and a half on the server known as Hermitcraft which he shares with several other artists. He estimates that he will finish construction on the project in December 2023. If you want to tune in and see the latest you can find him at JoeHillsTSD on YouTube and Joe Hills on Twitch.