(3) Tue Jan 13 2009 17:45: Adam Parrish and I had a long talk about game design recently and got over our hatred of Candyland. Not that we want to play it or anything, but it's useful as a null game. Candyland teaches kids about the ritual of playing a game, with a minimum of real game content that might confuse them. While reading this history of Pong I'm getting the impression that Pong is the same kind of thing for electronic games.
I spent a trip playing a lot of Candyland with some three year olds, and I started kind of hating it. The mechanics were perfectly fine, but the length was horrible. The damn thing would never end! And they didn't even know what winning was, they were just playing a rule-following game, but there was no point at which you could say "oh darn, the game is over, I guess that's it" and quickly pack the thing away and make your escape.
Don't hate on Pong, though.
Even though those poor misguided fools didn't realize that the interface could be made even simpler, it has both a nice physicality (like, Tennis for Two has no player avatar) as well as a subtle risk/reward system (going for the strikes at the edge of the paddle... hell, there's even a 1976 Pong strategy guide.)That said, you might be right to think of it as a bit of a trainer. Also, I'm impressed finally seeing some youtube footage of Tennis for Two. Maybe I'll make Tennis for One for my glorious trainwreck.