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Drunken Physics




Let's get this out of the way: I'M LONGWINDED! It's probably one of the many reasons I'm not a professional writer along with reasons like NOT being able to write about INTERESTING things, NOT being able to spell worth a damn and NOT caring (too much) about whether or not what I say makes ANY sense.


*ahem* Okay, we're stranded at the beginning of 1973 having only the videogames released prior to that year for entertainment OR we can watch Ultraman. (Notice I picked a show which actually has a chance of losing against the Odyssey? If I had picked Star Trek: The Original Series there'd be no contest.) Before I get started on this, I should define some terms.


Odyssey is a simple beast of a system, by the standards we have here in the relative future. It broadcasts five "spots" to your TV: a PlayerOne Spot, a PlayerTwo Spot, a Ball Spot and a Line Spot. It also generates a Big Black Background Spot which everyone forgets about because they fail to notice that they are staring right at it! (something to do with background/foreground distinction, but I digress) When I talk about PlayerOne Spot, I'm referring to the "paddle" controlled by the PlayerOne (Left) Controller and I'll let you figure out the corollary statement for the PlayerTwo Spot. Odyssey also uses "Overlays" to create vibrant color on, er, in front of your TV set. They are pieces of cellophane that cling to the TV under the power of Static Electricity!!! I like to call them Überlays because it sounds naughty and exciting.


So without further delay . . .Table Tennis - The Basic Odyssey Game!™ Table Tennis uses both Player Spots, Ball Spot and Line Spot. It is the ONLY Odyssey game that uses Cart #1. It uses NO Overlay. Two players only. No automatic scorekeeping, no sound, no lights, no motorcar -- not a single luxury! In May of 1972, it was the only videogame system in town for 99.999% of the world's savage, primitive, 70s impaired population. (The other .001% had played Computer Space some time during 1971 but had been too drunk at the time to enjoy or remember it.)


Table Tennis was designed to help proud new Odyssey owners learn how to manipulate the paddle systems of the Odyssey. Two controllers come with the system. They are little white boxes with knobs on the right and left sides. One knob controls horizontal movement of the Player Spot and the other vertical movement of the Player Spot. In the center of the left knob is another knob which controls the "ENGLISH" of the Ball Spot. I think "ENGLISH" refers to something in the real-world game of billiards that governs how a ball's trajectory curves due to its spin. This "ENGLISH" control allows a player to control the trajectory of the Ball Spot after deflecting it with the Player Spot.


The Odyssey Manual always capitalizes the word "ENGLISH" so forgive me for shouting it.


The players keep score and take turns serving by switching every five points (just like the game in real-life!). A player serves by pressing a reset button on the top of the box. It's the only button but they labeled it RESET for you anyway, just in case you weren't able to find it. After serving, the server wiggles the "ENGLISH" control to try to get the ball past the opponent's Player Spot. This is very UN-like real-life! When the receiver hits the Ball Spot, they take control of the ENGLISH of the Ball Spot and send it to the other side trying to swerve and dodge the Player Spot of their opponent. The game becomes a drunken, wiggly, swervy mess with the Ball Spot careening back and forth across the screen.


My seven year old son and I were only able to make it up to a score of 15-12 before he said, "This is a crap game from hell!™ I want to go back to 2005 where I can play Super Smash Bros Melee on the 'Cube!"


Well, one must imagine what this Table Tennis game would've been like when there was nothing else on TV. A novelty? ABSOLUTELY! Worth playing even if it meant missing HR Puffinstuff? DEFINITELY MAYBE! Worth playing if it meant missing Ultraman? NO EFFING WAY!!! I SO would've turned off Table Tennis to watch Ultraman!!!


In the spirit of the Odyssey, we'll keep score ourselves:The Score is . . . Ultraman: 1, Odyssey: 0! Uh, unless by your comments you decide to overrule that decision. Then if I ever publish this in treemeat format, I'll list the dissenting votes.


I'll continue this exercise in drooling self-delusion tomorrow with: Tennis! We get to use an Überlay for this one! Yay!



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Override! This game is great, and is most likely the basis for Atari Pong. For that reason alone, it should get a better score.


Moreover, I live the incorporation of "English." It's way more interesting that just waiting for the ball to bounce.


The only downside, in my mind, is that the "reset" button is the "cheat" button, if you know what I mean.

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Override! This game is great, and is most likely the basis for Atari Pong. For that reason alone, it should get a better score.


Moreover, I live the incorporation of "English." It's way more interesting that just waiting for the ball to bounce.


The only downside, in my mind, is that the "reset" button is the "cheat" button, if you know what I mean.


We've played this game a bit more since this entry was written. Even though it can be pretty fun, we still don't count it as worthy of causing us to miss an episode of Ultraman which is the cutting edge of both cheesy TV special effects and Japanese import grooviness. Remember, the score isn't about the inherent entertainment value of the game, its about the opportunity cost.


Now if they'd called it something like "Telekinetic Tennis" and the incorporation of English represented our ability to mentally manipulate the trajectory of the ball...well then, that WOULD be cooler than Ultraman and we'd play it much longer, making Theremin sounds the whole time. :D


...which means we COULD just call it that, make the sounds and enjoy it a whole lot more...and ditch Ultraman. I'll count your overrule when I finally publish the treemeat version of this blog. :lolblue:


By the way, thanks for reading and commenting. I didn't think people were still going back to these old entries and checking them out. You've inspired me to try cajoling my son into playing "Armor Battle" with me tomorrow! :D

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A few notes:

  • Überlay is just EPIC!
  • Star Trek FTW. That had to be said.

I SO would've turned off Table Tennis to watch Ultraman!!!


Well, I disagree with you on that. I can't be sure, of course, because I wasn't born at the time, but it's my belief that the feeling of being able to control something on your TV screen must have been an amazing experience back then. I mean, what about when video cameras came out and everyone could put themselves on the screen? That was just insane!


Everyone who loves games today eventually started with games that the next generations simply couldn't stand. I hold dear in my memory plenty of EGA games that most people wouldn't stand to look at for more than 3 seconds today, much less giving them a try. But those games were special for us, and empowered us in ways that we thought impossible at the time. So I think that playing Table Tennis must have been quite a sensation back then, but only for curious, open-minded, tech-savvy people.


I would have given the Odyssey the point, just for the sake of it presenting a whole new form of entertainment.

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I think if I'd been an adult in 1972, I would have definitely played Odyssey over watching Ultraman, but remember... no VCRs... you miss that episode of Ultraman... when are you going to see it again? ever? you're five or six years old, that Odyssey will be in your house tomorrow, but the episode of Ultraman? It was pretty compelling "in the moment" times... there was no "saving for later" when it came to TV watching in 1972. xD

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That is true. But then we shouldn't compare playing a game (which you can do at any time) to something that you must do in a particular moment. I mean, even your favorite game today will be put on hold if there's a sports event, concert, or something else that you want to watch live, without it necessarily meaning that you prefer those things to the game. You simply organize your life so that you can do them both. A game may mean much more to you than some sports event, even though you opted for it in that specific occasion.


So maybe a better comparison would have been Odyssey vs Risk or some other board game you could just pick up and play at any time. ;-)

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