Commissioned by the Barbican for ‘Game On’ (16 May –15 September 2002)

PING, a reinvention of the original video game, Pong, is a multiplayer musical game that takes games back to their origins in order to show a possible alternative set of pleasures. In place of the spectacle and narrative that have become dominant in the video game industry, Ping emphasises social interaction between players. Ping invents an alternative history for video games, a sort daydream from the artists’ childhood about what games might have become.

Three vintage arcade machines are arranged back to back in a triangle, and the game will only work when there are three players available to play it. Going back to the very earliest video game designs, Ping starts with a ball bouncing around the screen and a paddle with which the player can bounce it back. Each time the ball bounces it makes a sound. Gradually more balls appear and the three players realise that the sounds of bouncing balls in each game are in time with each other, so that the game becomes a kind of collaborative musical instrument. Over time the form of the game changes to suggest a progression through various video game genres – in the next level the players “fire” balls up the screen in an echo of “space invaders” but in doing so the aim is to create rhythmic looping sequences of notes, which create complex phasing polyrhythms with the other players in a sort of video game version of a Gamelan. Although at first sight it appears to be very primitive – the graphics are deliberately merely coloured squares moving around the screen – the game is technically very sophisticated, using a twelve channel audio system and three synchronised monitors interfaced to the original arcade cabinets and controls.

Artists: Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway

Music: Richard Evans

ProgrammingJoshua Portway,Tree, Cesare Ferrari and Tom Riley

Supported by: Realworld, Open Scene Graph, Apple Computer, Sam Deane.