This virtual pong game at NYU aims to restore social interaction to gaming and activate an abandoned storefront

Art City Terrain Design East Lighting
(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

While abandoned storefronts normally signal dereliction, Brooklyn-based design studio Urban Matter Inc. is using them to recreate the ’80s arcade experience prior to personal gaming consoles—at least on the pilot test level. The Play Array pop-up storefront activation is a larger-than-life virtual pong game made of a 6-by-8-pixel grid.

Passersby can play the game by using their smartphone to control the “ball” using steering wheel-like maneuvers, hosted on website Playpong.me. The ball’s path is indicated by the lighting up of the interactive LEDs housed in 46 disc-like connected pixels manufactured using a rotomolding process.

Behind each polyethylene pixel are ultra-bright LED neopixels arranged in a 1.5-inch circle. Each horizontal row is embedded with a brain pixel which controls the LEDs in itself and the other seven pixels in the row. The pixels are then affixed to low-budget milk crates and then mounted in the window.

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

The large-scale participatory game board is currently on display at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress in Brooklyn. “[Play Array] takes gaming out of our phones and computers and places it in the public venue for people to enjoy, and in turn create conversations and connections,” Urban Matter Inc. wrote on its website.

Developed over six months, the installation focuses more on play and participation instead of the bare-bones game itself, which draws inspiration from the classic Pong video game.

The installation will remain for a number of weeks not only to facilitate unforeseen friendships between players on the street—which Urban Matter’s website nostalgically attributes to the arcades of yesteryear—but to create awareness for urban and citizen science and innovation.

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

(Courtesy Urban Matter Inc.)

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