Saturday, March 05, 2005

why do people love pong?

Game design is still being theorised by the experts. I was impressed by the simplicity and parsimony of this explanation of why people love pong by two such experts, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, authors of Rules of Play:

It is simple to play. The one-line instructions and intuitive knob interface makes Pong approachable and easy to understand. There are no hidden features to unlock or special moves to learn.

Every game is unique. Because the ball can travel anywhere on the screen. Pong is an open ended game with endless possibilities. Pong rewards dedicated play: it is easy to learn but difficult to master.

It is an elegant representation. Pong is, after all, a depiction of another game: Table Tennis. The abstracted nature of Pong, where your avatar is reduced to a single white line, creates an immediately satisfying physical and perceptual relationship to the game.

It is social. It takes two to play Pong. Through playing the game, you interact with another human being. Pong's social circle also extends beyong two players: it makes a great spectator sport.

It is fun. Simple though it may seem, it is genuinely fun to interact with Pong. Players derive pleasure from the game for many different reasons, from the pleasure of competition and winning to the satisfying tactile manipulations of the knob.

It is cool. As a cultural artifact, Pong is a poster child for the hip, low-fi graphics of the classic arcade game. It evokes nostalgia for afternoons spent in the living room with friends, huddled around the TV playing video games, eating Cheetos and swigging Mountain Dew.
Go here to see the full outline of the contents of Rules of Play and some sample pdf chapters.

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