So I released PONGS today, just two weeks after Epic Sax Game. There was some talk of delaying putting it out for a bit longer, to give myself (and possibly the Internet itself!) a break from my games production line, but in the end… no, it was a bit too exciting and I didn’t want to just hold onto it. In fact, PONGS is something I’m genuinely proud of.

Not that I’m not proud of the other games, but PONGS has been close to my heart. Perhaps because it’s been such a Spring Fling of a game, over in two weeks, hot and tawdry while it lasted… or something. Perhaps not that. But at the very least it was the most fun I’ve had making a game from start to finish in a fair while. It’s certainly another one of those nice “this game needs to exist” games, which is always a pleasure to put together and insert into reality – frankly it seems important that such games are made. Perhaps they fill some kind of gap in the space-time continuum. Or perhaps I just find them really funny.

As per usual, I think about PONGS in a couple of ways. First of all, a lot the ideas in there make me chuckle to think about and to experience when I play them. There’s plenty of good-natured ribbing of game design trends (serious games, edutainment) and tributes to existing games (Shit Snake, B.U.T.T.O.N., and more classic games like Tetris), and plenty of the games just “feel funny” to play for other reasons: perhaps the mechanics or the controls themselves are comical? Your mileage may vary, you stony-faced son of a gun!

Second, I’m really pleased to claim that (at least for myself and a couple of testers) a number of the variants are actually fun to play! This is kind of virgin territory for me in a lot of ways – it’s never been my objective to make games that are enjoyable in the traditional sense, so it’s with great interest that I found myself enjoying some of PONGS. LASER PONG and MEMORIES OF PONG are examples of this strange new phenomenon. Once again, your mileage may vary.

Finally, as with all these projects, PONGS has come to symbolise certain “larger” issues of game design for me. In particular, making variants of something as simple as PONG helped me to distill in some way what games might be made of. Or rather than that, perhaps, it has been in playing the games and seeing how much of a difference a tiny rule change makes to the experience (and strategies and all that) of play that have been illustrative. I’m not clear that it’s helped me perceive any deeper truths about “what games are” or anything, but experientially, at least, it has felt interesting and worthwhile. You mileage will almost certainly vary.

And, after all, isn’t it all about variable mileage in the end?

11 April 2012
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