Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Milestones : Pong

In this new series I call Milestones, I write about the games that I encountered through the years that changed my perception of gaming, that awed me with gameplay or graphics, or otherwise captivated me at the time. It all began with Pong.

When both parents are working parents, sometimes Dad gets stuck with providing dinner for the kids. It's often a good thing, because Dad tends to choose easier options such as going to the local pizza parlor. Such was the case in the middle 1970s when Dad took myself and my older sister to Mike's Pizza in my small Ohio hometown and we noticed a strange new sight over in the corner by the pinball machine.

It was a small table with a television embedded into its surface. There were seats on either side of it, a quarter slot in the side, and it emitted an eerie green glow straight up toward the ceiling. The sounds coming from it were also otherworldly - beeps and bloops that my young ears had never received before.

My sister and I watched it for a few minutes before begging Dad for a quarter to try it out. We grasped the concept immediately, but took a few rounds to understand the paddle controls. Once we did we were off and running, playing Pong. Dad even looked in amazement at the device while we waited on our pizza.

Subsequent visits to the pizza place over the following months brought further contests of Pong, and it was a growing national fad. A home version of the game found its way into our home for Christmas, and it had a few variations of Pong on it. While its replay value, as such things are measured today, was extremely limited, it was nonetheless a milestone that started my imagination going on the great question of "What else can they do with these TV games?"

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