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All Downhill Since Pong

Well, this is a little disheartening. Nolan Bushnell, creator of Pong and founder of Atari, reckons we’re all wasting our time. “”Video games today are a race to the bottom,” he reckons in this interview at Electronic Design. “They are pure, unadulterated trash and I’m sad for that.”

While I’m with him in so much as the distressing popularity of Halo 3 makes me pray for the polar icecaps to melt and flood the planet as soon as possible, and it’s hardly a novel occurence for an older generation to decry the hobbies and lifestyle of a younger one, the sweeping generalisation of his statement is massively depressing. The man who pioneered a brand new way to entertain and to socialise doesn’t recognise any of the ways communities and skills and discussion have developed thanks to games over the last 30 years. Perhaps he just doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on. If only we could sit down with him for an afternoon, and show him Portal and Peggle and Frets on Fire and Dwarf Fortress and The Sims and whatever. Unfortunately, as the interview reveals, he’s too busy launching restaurants people can play electronic multiplayer boardgames in at the moment.

More entertainingly, he attempts to attach a moral message to Breakout:

“It was like breaking down walls. And it was a metaphor. The world is better when you break down walls. Walls separate people. The more inclusive we can be, the better we can be as a species.”

And what was either side of Breakout’s wall? Nothing. By playing Breakout, we are uniting nothing and nothing, thus creating nothing. Except the next level, which also contains nothing but a wall. Sorry Nolan, but I’m going to go with Breakout as a message of nihilistic futility myself.

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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