Talking tech since 2003

Philadelphia may be better known for its cheesesteaks than its tech scene, but now it will be known for the world’s largest video game.

As part of the city’s kickoff for Philly Tech Week, a 437 foot game of Pong will be available to play on the north wall of the Philadelphia’s Cira Centre starting April 19.  The building’s glass sheathed wall of LED lights will display the arcade classic, fully functional for some lucky gamers that win an online drawing.

The game has been in the making for almost five years by Frank Lee, co-founder of Drexel University’s Game Design Program.  The hardest part was convincing the buildings owner, Brandywine Realty Trust, to let him manipulate the lights.  Once he did that, the next part was understanding how the existing lighting structure worked in the building.

“What we wanted to know is: can we convert those lights to be interactive?” Lee said.  “I didn’t know if it was technically possible, so I got a tour of the lighting system in 2010, and I found out that each of the lights are on its own IP address, so as long as we could reverse engineer the package, then we could control the lights, individually, and once we can control the lights, we knew we could make a game out of it.”

Currently, Lee said he has engineered three games to work including Space Invaders, Pong and Snake.  He said Pong and Snake look great, but Space Invaders doesn’t look as good.  Lee has some ideas for other games, but the ultimate idea is that it’s an open canvas.

Lee believes the addition to Philadelphia is a good representation of a number of sectors working together to highlight the tech and arts scene in Philadelphia.

So what’s Lee’s next idea?  He wants to take video games out into the real world…zombie-style.

“I have this idea of essentially a city-wide, 1000-people zombie game where you would have half the population as zombies, and the other half as humans, and the zombies are trying to take over the humans- and they’re running around the city with their phone and their map program and let you know where other people are where the entire city becomes a game,” Lee said.  “I want to make the world a game.”

I bet he can do it too.


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