Pong’s Legacy Returns with a Twist
In something of an early Valentine to Gen X, Atari has announced an upcoming sequel to its groundbreaking, industry-launching, classic video game… Pong.
“Sequel” is a loose use of the term since the new game is essentially a wholesale reimagining of the rudimentary dual-paddle-battle save the inclusion of its main feature: the ball.
But this is precisely why it’s exciting and catnip for those who witnessed the first wave of early console gaming.
It’s as if the game’s designers were given Chevy Chase’s single, Zen-like directive from Caddyshack: “Be the ball, Danny.”
As Dustin Bailey at GamesRadar+ reports, “Atari is billing Qomp2 as ‘a creative sequel to the seminal classic Pong that asks the question, what would happen if the pong ball escaped the paddles?’”
“A point would be counted for the opposite side. It’s the point of the game,” replies Destructoid’s Zoey Handler. But wait, there’s more!
But as Pong’s original graphic design might suggest, the ball doesn’t just float in the dark void of 70s cyberspace. Instead, Qomp2’s heroic ball solves puzzles and navigates hazards and other shit. I dunno — I’m a “neither a gamer nor a gamer-writer be” type.
But I am a fan of inventive sequels, even those as tacit as Qomp2 (which is how Pong is spelled without autocorrect). Consider the cinema, where the best sequels don’t merely continue a specific storyline so much as invert the energies of the original work. In Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer robot is the bad guy. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, he’s the good guy.
In Henry Fool, everything the titular deadbeat wannabe novelist character says is a lie. In Fay Grim, it turns out (spoiler) he is in the CIA! In popular music, The The’s sunny, danceable 1983 single, “This is the Day,” is thrown on its ass by the bands’s later dirgy, cabaret torch song “This is the Night” a decade later.
So, keeping it old school, did Namco miss an opportunity when it followed Pac-Man with Ms. Pac-Man, which is just putting lipstick on a pie chart? Yes.
This is how it should’ve gone: A gaggle of ghosts honors a pledge to protect a sacred labyrinth when an insatiable intruder appears and greedily gobbles its natural resources. The ghosts, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde, work collectively to stop the ever-consuming menace before it levels up and climate change causes its AI to catch a pandemic or something.
I thought I had an excellent parable cooking until a quick Google search introduced me to… Reverse Pac-Man! It lacks my facile anti-capitalist get-off-my-lawnism, but an inverted sequel nonetheless.
Here’s another one — the gaming spinoff of the Actors Strike:
“SAG-AFTRA calls for strike authorization vote against video game companies.”
— Los Angeles Times
Saw that coming. “You are the ball” was a little too Method.