Sunday, March 4, 2007

Pong in 2007

By J.A. Rueda

Why is so much technology in new consoles not used to provide fun to the player? Fun can be based on simple concepts enabled by simple electronics such as Mr. Ralph Baer's Odissey and Mr. Nolan Bushnell's Pong, vintage 1966 and 1972 respectively.

A few days ago, I discovered a Pong type game for the Nintendo Wii as part of the Wii Play game. This game reminded me of one of the universal principles of design, the Law of Economy (Ockham’s Razor): Simple is Better. Brain Age for the Nintendo DS is another example of the application of the same universal principle of design.

Many games have great art and great stories, but with so much computer power available to the designer, it seems that often the emphasis is in the art and story, not on fun.

Mr. Raph Koster (Sony Online Entertainment, EverQuest) reminded me that “real fun comes from challenges that are always at the margin of our ability” in his book Theory of Fun. I found that a 2007 version of the 1972 Pong played with the Wii controller provides such challenge and it is fun.

Why are some video games so frustrating? I'll ponder this question while I play some more "Pong" on the Wii...