The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

April 7, 2013

Philly readies for super ‘Pong’

(Continued)

PHILADELPHIA —

“My biggest fear is that I’m going to play against some 8-year-old who will destroy me,” Denenberg said.

In today’s gaming era of lifelike graphics — think “Call of Duty” — and colorful characters — think “Angry Birds” — it’s hard to imagine how the pixelated “Pong” qualified as revolutionary when it was introduced in 1972.

The black-and-white arcade game used simple block shapes to simulate two paddles and a ball; the object was for players to hit the ball so their opponents could not return it. A home version paved the way for the game console industry.

At the Cira Centre, the game will be re-created using hundreds of lights already embedded in its north face. The tower stands by day as a gleaming, mirrored edifice in west Philadelphia, but each night it illuminates the skyline with colored, patterned displays. A spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Lee said he was driving by the building one night five years ago when he was suddenly struck with the idea that the lights could be configured to play the shape-fitting game Tetris.

The concept grew from there. Last month, after finally securing the necessary permissions, he and two colleagues successfully tested giant versions of “Pong” as well as the classic games “Snake” and “Space Invaders.” People might get to play “Snake” on April 24, Lee said.

The effort has been satisfying on a technical level, Lee said, describing “Pong” as “a large-scale interactive, light-based art project.”

But he noted it was rewarding on an emotional level as well, comparing it with the excitement he felt as a boy when he would put the “Pong” game cartridge into the console. And he hopes it inspires a new generation of innovators.

“I hope kids ... will go on to be the leaders, and push technology forward and do wondrous things in the future,” Lee said.

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