The Celeb Pong Trap

pongThere’s a recurring pattern to interviews that never fails to amuse us me: Often, when musicians, actors, artists or other celebrities get polled for their favourite video games, there is a great, great tendency on the interviewers’ part to home in on their formative experiences.

“What was the first game you played?”, we often ask.

This is all fine and dandy – that is, up until someone falls prey to Pong. Don’t get me wrong; having to quickly bring up a childhood experience can be extremely difficult, especially so in the context of a fast-paced interview, and it’s only natural that these factors result in the interviewee resorting to examples that seem both fitting and illustrative. Only, due to the very relative age of the video game landscape, this effectively means games such as Pong, Space Invaders, Mario or Zelda, all suitably ubiquitous, canonized and readily accepted.

“…Pong. We were obsessed with it. That was it, man.”1James Hetfield

“Let’s go back to the beginning…Pong.”2 “I looooove video games, absolutely. POOONG!”3 -Dwayne Johnson

Part of the problem is the established practice of luring interviewees with leading questions. The other part, then, might have to do with the interviewee’s need to satiate the perceived target group of the interview. And heck, we gamers are notoriously hard to please!

“I’m still playing Pong.”4 -Neal McDonough

“Frankly I would rather go fishing than play Pac-Man, or I’d rather go play golf with Alice Cooper than play Pac-Man. And I hate golf and everything to do with it. I hate golfers. [laughs] I’m just not a game kind of guy.”5 -Ian Anderson

Surely, we still boot our NES from time, but whoever plays Pong these days? In this way, it’s ultimately our fault that our questions do not allow for more breathing space and room to our interviewees. Should we not allow our interviewees to cite games that we’ve never played ourselves, games that we have never even heard of? Games not called Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Halo or Grand Theft Auto? After all, there has to be someone out there to cite a Russian real-time strategy, or a German-only point and click.

“Galaga, Space Invaders, Pac-Man … I’m not much into games now”6 -Hugh Jackman

“I was a huge Defender, Galaxian and Space Invaders fan back in the day.”7 -Slash

Next time you read or hear anybody cite a game in this manner, you’ll knowingly shake your head, smirk and think to yourself: It’s a trap - the celeb Pong trap!

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