Plinko first debuted on the cult television show The Price Is Right in 1983. In more recent years, interactive design artists Peiqi Su, Deqing Sun, and Inessah Selditz’s have added their own literary twist to the game by combining it with a “black-out” style of poetry.
Headlines pulled from newspaper Twitter feeds stream across the large face of the Plinko board. The combination of the pegs and the moving text randomizes the route the Plinko chip falls and which words it crosses. Reacting in real-time, the Plinko chip is tracked via webcam and an openFrameworks program stops the scrolling text and blacks out all the words except for the ones that were selected by the random movements of the chip. The result is a randomized poem.“By creating Plinko Poetry we wanted to de-contextualize these headlines from their known format and humorously highlight the sensational, inflammatory and absurd language used by media.” Selditz says, explaining their original intention.
For most people, it was a new experience. In response to some of the reactions that the piece has gotten, Sun said, “People read poems with a smile on their face and they [try] hard to dig meaning from those poems.”
Children especially are enthusiastic to make poems this way. Su adds, “[Many] children played again and again, excitedly waiting for their poem to be printed out, and proudly read aloud. When they were not sure about a word, their parents always explained it and corrected the pronunciation. We were delighted to see these little curious minds. We were more than happy to see that Plinko Poetry created a learning opportunity filled with fun.”