KING PONG 

Back in the late '70s, when I was 7, I discovered I had a talent that was second to none. I was exceedingly good at Pong, the monotone videogame that poorly imitated table tennis. The graphics were nothing more than rudimentary geometric shapes, and the sound effects consisted of two different pitched beeps, but
VIDEOTOPIA
Opens Tuesday, August 12
Through November 9
9am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday
noon-5pm Sunday
$5 adults
$3 seniors & military
$2 children ages 3-12
Institute of Texan Cultures
801 S. Bowie St.
458-2300
everyone loved Pong. It was the first time that the masses could control something on a television screen. Atari game consoles became the "must-have" item in hip households. Elvis had died. Pong was The King.

I was unbelievable at the game. I never lost, not even when the console was set to "Pro." To entice challengers, I self-imposed a handicap, only allowing my left nostril to touch the joystick. But I defeated everyone, and soon word spread of my talent and people started calling me the "Pong Ball Wizard" from Australia who "sure played a mean Pong ball." The media latched onto my story, pushing me to celebrity status. I dated Drew Barrymore and spent my Saturday nights at Studio 54 in New York City.

Pong didn't prove to be different from any other craze and eventually lost favor. New and better videogames came along, like Space Invaders, and I never was able to reach a comparable Pong skill level with the new games. Pong was no longer The King, and neither was I.

However, through the "Videotopia" exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures, I have an opportunity to relive my glory days. "Videotopia" is a hands-on exhibit, claiming to accurately explore the "art, science, and history of videogames." The exhibit uses information kiosks and displays to highlight the influence videogames have had on culture. Even though "Videotopia" promises to be highly educational, the real attraction is the amazing collection of video arcade machines, which resemble a Hall of Videogame Fame. Asteroids, Defender, Pac-man-from old-school favorites to the latest in virtual gaming, visitors to the exhibit have the opportunity to play them all. Word to the wise: If you see a guy playing Pong with his nose, don't bother challenging him, because he will most definitely beat you. •


More by Rich Perin

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