All Articles: Pong

The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time #100: Pong

“The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” is a statistical meta-analysis of 44 “Best Video Games of All Time” lists that were published between 1995 and 2016. Catch up on how we decided to sort the games and the rest of the Top 100 in the Introduction.

You can also help support the completion of this project through Patreon.

Why were early game developers so fixated on bouncing a ball back and forth?

It’s hard to pinpoint the very first video game, but it most likely belongs to A.S. Douglas and OXO. This electronic version of Tic-Tac-Toe was created by Douglas in 1952 to support his doctoral thesis, Interactions Between Human and Computer. But after that, the only question early gamemakers wanted to ask was, “Tennis, anyone?”

William Higinbotham was probably unfamiliar with OXO when he unleashed Tennis For Two on the world on October 18, 1958. Presented to the public during an open house at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the game harnessed the pulses of an oscilloscope to give players the illusion of a playing field with a net in the center and a ball bouncing back and forth. Unlike Douglas, Higinbotham was trying to wow a crowd with the possibilities of science and add a little pizazz to the BNL’s normally staid event:

“The instruction book that came with the computer described how to plot trajectories and bouncing shapes, for research. I thought, ‘Hell, this would make a good game.’ It took me four hours to design one and a technician a couple of weeks to put it together. Everybody stood in line to play. The other exhibits were pretty static, obviously. The game seemed to me sort of an obvious thing.”

After the open house, Higinbotham’s invention was dismantled, and his status as a game development pioneer was forgotten… until the early 70s when he was dragged into the legal battle between Table Tennis and Pong. (more…)

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