Niklas Roy

17 December 2004

Niklas Roy / 2004 / Germany / Courtesy of Computerspiele Museum, Berlin

Niklas Roy’s “Pongmechanik,” an electromechanical version of the early electronic tennis game “Pong,” has its roots in two strands of technological history. The first follows the transition from the elaborate machines of computer pioneer Konrad Zuse – the inner workings and sounds of which were prominently displayed inside glass cabinets – to the black boxes of today’s computers, which generally hide their internal processes from view. The second follows the shift from “Pong’s” abstract representation of sport, a generation ago, to the increasingly realistic representations seen in contemporary videogames. Roy contrasts these two trajectories by marrying the earliest manifestations of these threads in “Pongmechanik.” A physical version of the Ur-videogame, “Pongmechanik’s” highly visible logic circuit – constructed from telephone relays like Zuse used – responds to joystick-guided cues that maneuver a white plastic square and rectangles (the ball and racquets) across a network of black strings. Cleverly conceptual, Roy’s installation adds a new dimension to recent trends in lo-fi gaming.