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6  |  What started it all...
Darryl B. , 4/7/2009 7:47:50 PM

Pong cabinet - fatmanpong.JPG


Well, here it is, not a review of THE oldest coin-operated game in the Stage Select database/video game history, but the second oldest one: Computer Space was the very first coin-op game ever created, then Pong was second. And the differences between the two games couldn't be any more vast than night and day: Computer Space was too complicated for most people in general back then, what with using thrust, turning, and shooting controls, and it was a big financial disaster, whereas Pong was much simpler and literally an overnight success.

Pretty much any gamer on the face of the planet that's the age of at least 20 knows what Pong is, along with even those that were around back when it was first released that never even played a video game in their life knows it. But for those of you who are younger -- or older, but have lived a life more sheltered than living in protected captivity author Salmon Rushdie -- here's the skinny on the game:

Pong is a two player only (unless you're by yourself and very easily amused), "video tennis" game, where each person controls a paddle and hits a square "ball"; once the ball gets past a person, the other player will score a point. The first person to rack up 15 points is the winner.

And that's pretty much it; the so-called "graphics" are as simple as can be, since there was pretty much nothing else at the time, with just a square for the ball and rectangles for the players (and rendered in black and white), and the sounds weren't a whole heck of a lot better either, just being blips, pretty much. However, at least the controls were great, as you couldn't really go wrong with just the dial controller...

...or IS the game really that simple? As I played this at a gaming expo in 2006, one girl yelled out her frustration at one point during a game "why is this game so HARD?", which, indeed, it's a bit devious: once a person misses a ball, and it starts getting launched against them, the ball usually comes in fast, and at an angle, so chances are you're going to miss the ball several times in a row before you can actually hit the damn thing back to the other player. So that's a bit of a surprise that the gameplay actually somewhat holds up even today, over 30 years later (at the time of this writing), as the game got a fair amount of play during that weekend of the expo.

Believe it or not, Pong actually turned out not to be as horribly boring as I thought it would. However, chances are pretty good you wouldn't play any more than three games straight of it before deciding to wander off to play something else. But the basic gameplay is still there, and you might end up being surprised, should you ever find this rare game around anywhere, as probably the only places you will find it in the wild nowadays would be at a gaming museum or expo.

Now, if I could just find and play an actual game of Computer Space, then my life would be complete. 6/10


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