Pong Rocks! – A Retro Review
Reviewed by Joseph Avery-North
A Brief History:
Most of you probably think that your Xbox 360 is teh uber phat r0x0rs shiznaz, that any pc game that doesn’t require at least 1 GB of RAM, a 512 MB 3D video card and a cybernetic implant isn’t worth playing and that anything that came before the year 2001 is some kind of myth told to you by your parents (who, when they were your age, walked 10 miles to and from school, in snowshoes, through blizzards, up hill, both ways). You might think that… but two things: 1) You were probably born some time around 1989 and 2) You are way wrong.
Video games have been around for uncounted eons, or at least since 1947.
The very first ever video game was played on something that historians call a Cathode Ray Tube. You fired a missile at a target. You used things called “knobs” to control your missile. Legends say that it was something that the Germans were working on near the end of the Second World War. When the war ended and the Russians and the Americans captured all the German engineers and scientists, this was what they really wanted: Hardcore Gaming. The so called “Space Race” was just a ruse. Nothing would have ever come of the “Space Race” if a UFO hadn’t crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, giving the Americans the advanced technology needed to develop their game first. Russia responded by saying “Screw this!” and launched a dog, whose name translated as “Capitalist”, into space.
Skip ahead a few decades, to a period known as the 70s and you arrive at what is arguably the Best Ever Video Game Ever: PONG!
Pong used only two colours: black and white. Do you really need more? Nope. That was proved when coloured versions of Pong appeared and all failed miserably. Nothing beats basic black and white. (NOTE: There have been reports of slight variations to the basic black and white colour scheme but those claims appear to be based on the quality of the individual’s TV set and/or the types of drugs people were using back in the 70s and, thus, remain unsubstantiated.)
The auditory experience that comes with playing Pong is simply amazing. This game featured the “realistic” sound of a ball bouncing AND paddle striking. I mean, you’ve got both ball bouncing and paddle striking. Couple that with the black and white graphics and you’ve achieved a level of dualism that the ancient religious orders of the Gnostics and Cathars would have seriously envied.
The game play in Pong is simply intense. Few games since have even come close to equalling it. This game required incredible hand-eye co-ordination, the ability to stare at the screen for extended periods of time without blinking or going cross eyed and… you could play it either standing up or sitting down. Talk about immersive and interactive!!! The first arcade version required you to stand. The home version that connected to your TV allowed you to sit. Then, some genius, and this guy should have won the Nobel Prize, coupled the arcade standing version with the home sitting version (there’s that dualism again) and came up with the arcade “cocktail table” version.
Many Pong players have fond memories of this one. It was a handsome dark wood cabinet with a glass top and a TV screen in the center. The edges were invariably stained with beer and encrusted with cigarette ashes and the floor around the game was usually sticky with spilled drinks and the blood of players who were poor losers (or overly arrogant winners) but the center was almost always kept clean by respectful Pong players and the bar owners didn’t mind because the more drinks that were spilled, the more people ordered. Add to that the amount of quarters pumped into the game and the bar owners were getting rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
The overall experience of Pong is simply beyond words. If you haven’t experienced it, you simply can’t begin to imagine it and no words will ever do it justice. Some say that having your eyelids surgically removed and being forced to watch endless repeats of the original Charlie’s Angels TV series with the sound turned off while listening to John Denver on 8-track and receiving electric shock therapy is even better but I say they’re completely, utterly wrong (and deeply disturbed as well). Pong is simply one of the best gaming experiences you could ever have.
Note – This retro review was originally published on the old Winterwind Productions site in March, 2006, prior to our switch to WordPress in 2020.