Spreadsheet Invasion: Animating Pong

After seeing the inspiring work so many ds106 folks had done with the Spreadsheet Invasion assignment, I knew I eventually had to try it myself. I’ve been on an Atari 2600 kick for some reason lately, so I was originally wondering how much work it might take to re-create Asteroids for Atari 2600 in Excel. After looking at what that would entail (basically endless hours, though I’m not ruling it out in the future) I decided to animate the first great, mainstream video game: Pong. It seemed like the perfect option after seeing this video of the game play to spark my memory.

So, using the video as my aesthetic guide, I opened up excel and homesteaded a sheet in excel that was 81 columns wide (at .2″ a column) an 42 rows high (at .2″ as well). I filled in that area with black fill to create a basis to work from an then used five vertical squares in a column to create the paddles with white fill (each 1″ high) and I used one square that was .2″ x .2″ as the ball. The center line was made by shrinking the two center-most columns down to below .1″ each and highlighting every other cell in light gray. After that I had the field, an what was amazing to me is that it looked exactly like a game of Pong!

After that came the laborious work. I had to animate the movement of the ball diagonally from cell to cell as well as moving each of the paddles with every movement of the ball. It took me about a minute or so to animate each movement of the ball, and after each animation I had to take a screenshot. Like the one below:

After about two hours last night, an another two today I animated the ball moving at an angle from one paddle to the other, after that I decide if I wanted to finish my fifteen stars worth of assignments this weekend and still see my family I couldn’t animate another volley back, so what I did is grab all the stills I took and reverse them so that it gives the illusion of the ball going back and forth. This is a strategy I often use to make the animated GIF look smoother, so I figured I would make this animate spreadsheet an animated GIF as well—another play on the assignment I figured. Given that all my screenshots weren’t exactly the same I re-sized the layers and cropped them all to hide as much jumping from shot-to-shot as humanly possible. Of all the many GIFs I have made I might be proudest of this one, it was like making a game from scratch, and it gave me a real sense of just how complex a system video games represent. What’s more, what could possibly be cooler than using Excel to make an animated GIF of a game of Pong. I would love to finish my work with this as a more complex game but the labor is too much right now, so I am uploading my Pong template in Excel here and all my screenshots thus far in a zip file in the highly unlikely event that anyone else would want to spend endless hours animating Pong in Excel. Excel Pong anyone? 😉

That’s 11 stars, I have 4 more to go. here I come Animated Comic Book cover.

This entry was posted in digital storytelling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Spreadsheet Invasion: Animating Pong

  1. Alan Levine says:

    That is just freaking beautiful, no one would even recognize that as Excel!

  2. lockmantuj says:

    Tell you what Jim, in going through the old Atari game boxes, I’m convinced there is a ton of culture that we can remix and repurpose. I mean I just want to track down some of the different corporations that decided into get into the game publishing business back in the late 70s – early 80s. And I’m finding the back of box game description copy to be a rich literary genre unto itself.

    But this isn’t the place to bringing up such stuff. We are here to salute your efforts for bringing a game of Pong to life in the Excel Spreadsheets. Man, what an exercise in determination and patience. It looks good.

    I would love to do Lunar Lander in The Spreadsheet (http://seb.ly/games/moonlander/) but don’t think I have the time or skillz. Maybe if I do a little bit at a time over a period of days/weeks, I’ll be able to bring it to fruition.

    I’m gonna try, standby.

  3. hello,

    i put your pong gif on my tumblr page.
    hope that’s o.k.
    i really enjoy your blog.

    love from chris

    • Reverend says:

      I’m honored, the coolest thing about this GIF is it was made in microsoft excel. And your GIFs on that Tumblr are far out, I love the Two Coreys one 🙂

  4. Pingback: Life-Long-Learners

  5. Pingback: Stupid stuff is what engages us | bavatuesdays

  6. Joe says:

    Boy, this bring back fine memories. All time favorite. So simple yet addictive game.
    You are awesome, re-making w/excell. I can spend hrs on your blog. Great job.

  7. Pingback: Play MoMA’s Latest Video Game Acquisitions Online | Nick Socrates Contemporary Art

  8. Pingback: Evolution of Game | We Share because We Care

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.