Retro Interview: Featuring Mr Right Paddle from PONG
Welcome to the first in our regular series of Retro Interviews here on Hard Reset. Our aim is to put questions to some of the biggest stars in the games industry and gather some real insight into what really happened back in their day.
Please welcome Mr Right Paddle from PONG.
Hard Reset: Hello and welcome Mr Paddle, thank you for agreeing to talk to us today.
Right Paddle: Thank you, thank you. This is the first interview I’ve done in many years.
HR: Yes, I suppose whenever there is an anniversary of PONG on the horizon you are flooded with interview requests?
RP: That’s correct, if you go by the Wikipedia listing this year is actually the 40th anniversary. But I’ve been in the game from the very beginning so it has been more like 42 years for me.
HR: Crikey. I have so many questions for you but we only have a short amount of time. Do you mind if I dive right in at the beginning?
RP: Of Course not, go ahead.
HR: Thanks. Okay. Well as you mentioned earlier, you’ve been the star of PONG for 42 years.
How did you get the gig?
RP: I was approached by Allan Alcorn in around 1970. I was drinking in a bar in San Francisco when Allan arrived and sat next to me. He was looking at the Pinball machine in the corner and said that within a few months, that it would be gone. I asked why and he told me that he was working on a table tennis simulator and it was going to take over the world. We kept chatting and after several rounds of Tequila, he had asked me to be in the game.
HR: So what happened next?
RP: A few days later I was invited into the lab where I was first introduced to Left Paddle and Ball. I think we just got right into it and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
HR: So what’s your favourite memory from the old days?
RP: Everything really, it was such a great time. We were all young, famous and wealthy. There was nothing better than knowing I was going to be able to put my kids through college and buy my wife the dishwasher she had always wanted.
HR: In 1982, Ball was killed when his car overturned on the freeway. I understand that you all were all very shocked and for a time, thought that you would not continue. What made you decide to carry on?
RP: It was certainly a tough time. To be honest it was Ball’s daughter that inspired us to keep going. She kept telling us that he would’ve wanted us to move on, but we just couldn’t even start to think about who would replace Ball. He was perfect. I think it was Left Paddle who suggested that New Ball should join the crew.
HR: Did New Ball fit right in or was there some adjustment period while you were all getting to know each other?
RP: Well it was never going to be the same, but we decided that it should be a new starting point and a chance to try something different. That’s when we decided to try playing in colour.
HR: How did you find playing in colour.
RP: At the time it certainly felt fresh but looking back on it, it never really added much to the game.
HR: Jumping further ahead, Nintendo famously created their own version of PONG but spiced it up. I read somewhere that you were quite excited by their changes, but the rest of the team thought it was just a rip off.
RP: Yes. There were mixed feelings. No one could deny that Nintendo came along with some great ideas. It would have been nice if they’d have approached us first of course, but Allan was very pragmatic. He didn’t want the classic formula changed, at all. Unlike the other PONG clones at the time, Nintendo introduced so many new ideas into the mix.
HR: Nintendo certainly had some crazy ideas. I remember there being four different paddles and even featured brick walls, rather than a net.
RP: Some very inventive ideas that would’ve only come out of Japan. Still we did team up with Nintendo for the Gameboy Color much later on. That was fun, I remember Soccer PONG being a nice change, and we even went to the South Pole for some Arctic PONG. I’m glad we tried all that jazz in the end, but it was a bit over the top. But it was the 1990′s, that’s what it was all about back then.
HR: So what plans do you have for the future?
RP: Well there are some rumors of PONG HD, I can’t confirm if they’re true or not, however I can’t deny that I’d be excited to do my work in high definition. I’ve also been invited to cameo in Grand Theft Auto V.
HR: Wow, is that your first appearance in an open world game? Does the reputation of the GTA brand worry you?
RP: I’ve starred in quite a few games but the idea of working with Rockstar is a dream come true. I loved GTA 4, driving around the city, beating up pedestrians. Hilarious. The Rockstar games are great and have a real passion, it’s an adult game for sure but I’m happy with that. If the family want to see me, they can boot up PONG.
HR: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, good luck with your venture with Rockstar, can’t wait to see you in the game.
Next week our retro interview will be with Pac-Man. We’re opening the questions to the readers so please, send your questions via the comments below and we’ll put the best ones to him.