bitPong is a game for two players, based on the famous game of Pong. The 8-bit game controllers are arrays of 8 binary switches — and therefore the most literal interpretation of the term. Taken together, and using bitMask operators, these 8 buttons can represent up to 256 individual values.
- Installation: bitPong
- Concept + Development: Douglas Edric Stanley
- Platform: Hypertable | iPhone | iPad
- Development Platforms: Processing, Wiring
- Location: Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence (map)
- Festival: Gamerz.05
- Dates: 26 november - 4 december 2009
- Times: 10h - 13h / 14h - 17h
The idea is simple: a two-player game, based on the uber-referenced Pong, here played with 8-bit controllers. When we say « 8-bit controller », we mean literally 8-bit, i.e. 8 buttons, each representing 1-bit of data. Collected together, this byte represents a 256 value variable which is used to control a visual paddle representation within the game. To aid players in the conversion of 1-bit discrete switches into their collective base-two 8-bit value, each button has been labelled: 2^n, i.e. two to the power of zero, two to the power of one, two to the power of two, and so on. This is otherwise known to mere mortals as the values 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128. To move your paddle, you must add each of these values together in order to position it somewhere between position 0 and position 255.
For those who know little about how the computer works internally, this is how the computer moves from the well-known binary 0 | 1 value, to complex values such as the letters you are reading right now: by associating a different value to each bit (the 1 values of « 0 1 0 1 0 1 » get converted to « 0+2+0+4+0+8+0+32 », otherwise known as the value 42) the computer can use a physically limited scheme (0 or 1, on or off, yes or no, true or false) in order to represent a far greater sum of possibilities (here a number from 0 to 255). bitPong plays off of this configuration and brings its dynamics to the surface of the playing field. In order to take control of your paddle, you will have to quickly master binary encoding.
In this Victor Vasarely inspired version of bitPong, hexagons populate the playing field and create an added diversion. Therefore, bitPong has now turned into something like a two-player bitBreakout. I was actually inspired by the following sign which is posted on the wall just next to my installation, indicating the escape routes out of the museum.
I have to admit, even considering the current legal battle of the Fondation, and the related embezzlement of it’s holdings by its president / family members, all leading to the current dilapidated state of this curious monument, it’s still a pretty cool place to show work.
An updated version of this game controller was exhibited at the Retrocompatible Museum of the Short Cuts exhibition in 2015.