Play Array : An Urban Pong Game

Play Array is an urban game made up of 6 x 8 pixel grid that allows you to play virtual pong using your smartphone to control the paddle.

The Challenge

Video arcades in the 80's allowed players to gather in one place to play together, thus forming unexpected connections and friendships. With the onset of personal computing and home based video games, we've lost some of those serendipitous connections, which are only possible when people meet and participate in an activity together in a public space.

The Solution

‘Play Array’ is a real world game. Its takes gaming out of our phones and computers, and places it in a public venue for people to enjoy, and in turn create conversations and connections. The focus is not so much on the game, but the aspect of play, participation, and connections. The idea is to have strangers on a street interacting with each other by playing the classic video game ‘Pong’ on an originally unused storefront. The project is also an attempt to activate empty storefronts, and to create more fun, vibrant and livable cities. It is installed at the New York University, Center for Urban Science and Progress Pop Up space for a few weeks to create awareness and interest around the theme of urban science, citizen science, urban innovation, technology and art.

The Technical Details

The low resolution pixel screen is made of 48 polyethylene disc like forms, manufactured using the rotomolding process. Each pixel is about 18.5” in diameter. The structural grid on which the pixels rest are created using low budget milk crates which are stackable and modular. Behind the pixels are the ultra bright LED Neopixels arranged in a 1.5" circle. Each horizontal row has a brain pixel which controls the LEDs in itself and the other 7 pixels in the row. The brain pixel is comprised of a Arduino Pro Mini microcontroller which receives its instructions over ethernet using the ENC28J60 ethernet module, and in turn controls the Adafruit 12 LED Neopixel Ring in each pixel of that row. The game server is built upon nodejs software, and communicates with the controller pixels using customized Open Sound Control.

Partnerships & Community

The project is installed in the New York University, Center for Urban Science and Progress Pop Up space.


Concept Development, Physical Design, Mobile Integration, Interaction Design, Technical Development, Installation.


May 2015


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