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What is Pong?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pong is a video game that was released on the Atari platform in 1972. Although other video games had been created before Pong, it was the first popular video game to be developed. Pong, which was inspired by the sport of ping-pong, was revolutionary because its graphics were capable of responding to real time reactions from the user. By today’s video game standards, Pong is a far cry from what players expect in terms of graphics and playability.

The game consisted entirely of two lines, one on either side of the television screen, a dashed vertical line down the center of the screen that served as a net, and a ball that was square because technology was not available to give it a round appearance. The lines on either side of the screen represented each player’s paddle, with which he or she was to hit the ball back to his opponent. Despite its simplicity, Pong was wildly popular as both an arcade game and a game to play on the Atari home console system. The goal of the game was to score as many points as possible by forcing the ball to go past the opponent’s paddle.

The gameplay was considered innovative and advanced for its time, as it allowed the player to bounce the ball on the paddle and the ball responded in various ways depending on the force and angle of the hit against the paddle. Pong was also advanced because two players could choose to play against each other, or one player could play against the computer. While playing games against a computer is commonplace by today’s standards, the concept was relatively new when Pong was introduced.

Since the first version of Pong was released, several new versions have been released. Two of these versions, Pong Doubles and Quadrapong, allowed up to four players to play at one time. In addition, several other manufactures worked to create their own versions of Pong in an attempt to piggyback on its success. This was possible because Atari had failed to copyright their moneymaking product. Pong in its many varieties remained a popular gaming choice in the United States all the way up to the late 1970s and did not start to lose its popularity in Europe until the early 1980s.

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