Interview | Jen Ruper – Pinball competitor and content creator

Jen Ruper is a pinball competitor, and one of the most active player on social media. We are few to produce content, so we are always happy when we meet each other !

We know you through your instagram account, so we call you Jay, is it OK or do you prefer Jen ?

I prefer Jen. « J. Rupe » is my nickname I had growing up because of my name (Jen Ruper). It stuck with me through college so that’s when I adopted it as my username when I started my Instagram in 2012. Been using that as my username ever since !

What is your first memory about pinball ? What was your age ?

3D Pinball Space Cadet

Oh wow ! So, my first memory of playing pinball is no super exciting and kinda embarassing because I never played actually machines growing up. I remember when I was like 8 or 9 and my mom’s computer has Space Cadet 3D pinball and I would always be trying to beat my brother’s high score. I didn’t play a real machine until later in my 20s.

On which pinball machine did you start playing ?

F-14 Tomcat - Williams pinball
F-14 Tomcat by Williams

My first machine I ever played was F-14 Tomcat. I went on a date with someone who played pinball growing up and he heard about a place that had one, amongst others. He took me there to play it. I think there was also a Ripley’s and I can’t remember anything other ones, maybe Demo Man ?

Is it a family thing ?

Nope ! Wait. Like now ? So my sister-in-laws parents have a few machines in their basement and my nephews LOVE playing them. My oldest nephew is 6 going on 7, so my goal is to get him playing more so when he gets older he be really into it !

In your videos, we see that you own an Iron Maiden pinball. Why did you choose this machine ?

It was tough ! So, I was debating on getting a machine for a while, but was always so busy with leagues and traveling it wasn’t at the top of my list since I was going out and playing.

When the pandemic hit, that idea quickly moved to the top of my list. I was really debating between Iron Maiden and Jurassic Park – both themes I love and wanted to really learn the rules.

I decided to go with Iron Maiden because I love the music, I love the shots, the flow and was really my white whale of wizards modes. I’ve come close but still haven’t gotten it yet !

Jen Ruper - Iron Maiden Pinball
Jen and her Iron Maiden machine

Have you owned other machines before ?

Nope ! This is my first one 😊

You are a registered member of the IFPA, when did you start competition ?

I started competing I believe in 2016. At that time, I was just playing in leagues. I hadn’t yet learned about tournaments. The first trophy I ever won was for the first league I ever played in 2016. To this day, it’s my favorite, not because it was my first but because « champion » is spelled wrong !

Champion is spelled wrong ! Collector.

Do you have a goal you want to achieve in competition ?

Yes ! I set goals every year for pinball and my 2020 goals was to make top 20 for woman’s only events (currently 35), but we all know how that went. I’m excited for sanctioned events to start back up in August !

What is your best memory in competition ?

Probably Woman’s Royal Rumble at the Cleveland Pinball Show in 2019. The way the finals worked was based on seeding from qualifying. The bottom four seeds of the 16 that qualified played a four player game chosen by the top seed. Whoever placed fourth in the game, was out. Then the next seed came in and chose the game, and so on.

I think I was 7th seed ? I can’t remember but I know I had made it to top four of the finals. On that game, to make it to the top three, we were playing Ripley’s, I was player four and I went into ball three in last place score wise. I had to get at least 3 million more points in order to take third.

Now, Ripley’s is not my strongest game, meaning I know nothing about it other than how to start multiball. I had lock’s lit but no balls locked. I knew what I needed to do but also had to remain calm under pressure.

Long story short, I was able to start multiball and came back to get third place by 250,000 pts. I got knocked out the next round, but still took third overall which I am super proud of !

Pinburgh WIPT Tournament 2019 Photo Credit Joe Ciravino

Is there pinball competitors that inspire you ? Or that you admire ?

This one is tough ! I admire any player that can stay calm under pressure ! I understand that it’s just pinball and we are all here to have fun, but nerves definitely get the best of me sometimes when I’m competing.

I see so many players who look calm, cool, and collected and think « WOW ! Please, show me your ways !! How do you remain so zen ?? » I really admire that.

You also make videos about pinball, is it something you want to develop ?

Yes !! So the initial idea for my channel came about in early 2020, before the pandemic. I traveled a lot for pinball and visited some really awesome places. I wanted to share and spread the word !

I actually traveled to Michigan for work the first week in March 2020 and filmed at a location called Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum. I got home, edited, and posted the video and had already started to make a list of the next locations I wanted to visit and film.

Video - No coin drop required
Jen’s show

One week later, the world shut down. So I adapted and started interviewing players and creating fun content that I thought fellow players would enjoy to help them smile or laugh to get them through this tough time.

Now that the world is opening back up again, I’ve started filming out on locations more to showcase different arcades, pinball business, and just the sport in general. My list has grown substansially during the last year because I found so many more places and pinball players I want to meet, including this magazine, while being at home.

Which platform do you prefer to publish your content ?

So, I personally prefer YouTube and Instagram. I started a TikTok a few months ago, but three platform is hard to keep up with on your own !

What part of your life is dedicated to pinball ?

Quite a bit !! I do also enjoy playing video games and usually if I’m not working, creating content, or playing pinball, you can probably find me playing video games.

How do you make a living ? What is your profession ?

I am an education training specialist in insurance. A lot my skills from what I do for a living bleeds over into my pinball content. I assist in creating training content, facilitating for new hires, and organizing training schedules.

I’m a big advocate for personal development and have always wanted to be in learning and development. I’ve been doing some form of training or mentoring for most of my professional career. I love what I do !  When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work !

Jen Ruper
Jen Ruper

How did the pinball community welcome you when you published your first contents about pinball ?

Oh gosh, you would have to ask them ! LOL ! I received, and still receive, a lot of positive responses and support from those fellow enthusiats that I know that know me.

I’ve received some constructive feedback from fellow content creators, but it’s nothing that I didn’t ask for. Like I mentioned earlier, I believe in personal development. I’m always looking to improve and create better content. I can’t do that if I don’t receive feedback !

Class of 1812 pinball - Gottlieb
Class of 1812 – Jen’s favorite pinball machine

What are your favorite machines ? And why ?

So, I will always have a special place in my heart for the Class of 1812. It’s such a fun game and the theme cracks me up. I will always remember hearing « MILLIONS !! » from across the convention center in Pittsburgh. I would own that game in a heart beat.

If you could create the pinball machine of your dream, what would it look like ?

I would love to create a Frozen 2 themed machine. Not Frozen, specially Frozen 2. I’ve thought about the rules and the artwork, but I know NOTHING about creating a layout. I would definitely need help with that if I ever decide to make a home brew !

Are you planning to visit France ?

There are no plans in the near future but it doesn’t mean that won’t change ! After this past year, like I said, I’ve meet so many awesome people that my travel list has grown and France is definitely on it !

Do you know people from the French pinball Community ?

I actually met Guillaume aka Paris_pinball_addict (and I’m sorry, I can never say his name right !!) in 2019 at Chicago Pinball Expo. We talked for a bit, but I was so busy I didn’t get to spend a lot of time talking with him ! We talk ocassionally and he would be for sure one of the French community enthusiasts I would like to visit !

Jen Ruper - Creature from the Black Lagoon
Jen playing on the creature from the black lagoon pinball

Thanks for the interview ! Anything you want to tell us before we say goodbye ?

Thank you so much for having me !! I appreciate all that you do as a creator and spreading the word about pinball ! I can’t wait to see what’s in store next !!

Collector of friends who have pinball collections.

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