How Pong Kicked Off The Video Game Craze In 1972

By | November 6, 2017

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A mid-'70s advertisement for a Pong console. Source:

Thanks to Atari and Pong, video games are a pillar of the entertainment industry today. In 1972, Atari released a simple game based on ping pong, packaged in an upright cabinet suitable for bars and arcades, and it became a bona fide craze. Though the idea of computer games had been percolating for several years, it was Pong that made this abstract idea a reality, and made Atari, all of a sudden, the leader in an industry that would explode in the years ahead.

Pong Was Released In 1972

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The Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972, was the first home video gaming console, and one of its games was a rudimentary ping-pong simulation. Atari's co-founder Nolan Bushnell essentially lifted Pong from this Magnavox console, and Magnavox later sued.

Soon after the Odyssey hit the market, Atari released Pong as an arcade game. The game itself was classified as a sports type game that simulated table tennis. Games could either be played against another human competitor or against the game system itself, not unlike today. Players controlled electronic paddles and attempted to volley a small dot back and forth for the winning score. The winner was the player who reached the score of 11 points first. Points were scored when an opponent failed to return a volley. The game had a black and white display, was slow and painfully basic, but we fell in love with it just the same! At the time, it was state of the art. It was such a treat to find yourself in a bar, a bowling alley or some other public gathering place where there was an opportunity to try your skill; so we all shamelessly lined up with our quarters to wait our turn.