The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

April 7, 2013

Philly readies for super ‘Pong’

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia is getting ready for a supersized game of “Pong” — on the side of a skyscraper.

The classic Atari video game will be re-created later this month on the facade of the 29-story Cira Centre, where hundreds of embedded LED lights will replicate the familiar paddles and ball.

Organizers expect hundreds of onlookers as gaming enthusiasts use giant, table-mounted joysticks to play from afar. The players will be standing on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a site that offers an unobstructed view of the office building from across the Schuylkill River.

“‘Pong’ is a cultural icon, cultural milestone,” said Frank Lee, the Drexel University game-design professor behind the concept. “This is my love letter to the wonders of technology as seen through the eyes of my childhood.”

Despite the buzz the idea has received since being announced Wednesday, Lee said it took five years to find people willing to make it happen. He eventually met kindred spirits at Brandywine Realty Trust, which owns the Cira Centre, and at the online news site Technically Philly.

Now, what might be the world’s largest “Pong” game will be played April 19 and 24 as part of Philly Tech Week, the news website’s annual series of events, seminars and workshops spotlighting the city’s technology and innovation communities.

“This is one of the best things I could imagine that could make people aware that there’s something happening here, and bring more people into the fold,” Technically Philly co-founder Christopher Wink said.

Wink estimated about 150 people might play over the two days — most will be chosen by a lottery, but some spots will be reserved for younger students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math programs.

Among those playing will be 36-year-old Brad Denenberg, one of three winners picked at random during a Tech Week preview on Wednesday. Denenberg, who runs the tech startup incubator Seed Philly, confessed to some trepidation. He said he’s actually not a big gamer.

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