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In This Party-Friendly Reinvention Of Table Tennis, You Play To The Beat

A fun remix makes the game as cooperative as it is competitive.

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To anyone who has ever joined in a friendly match of ping pong, only to realize they’d unwittingly entered the competitive performance sport that is table tennis, in which athletes wield $300 paddles and refuse beer until after the match, there may be hope. Ping Pong FM brings the fun back to a parlor game that’s taken way too seriously.

Developed by a dozen designers and makers and featured recently on Swiss Miss, Ping Pong FM is ping pong that you play to the beat. You load any song, and to keep it playing at its native tempo, you have to hit the ball at the proper beats per minute (BPM).

Make a volley or go too slowly, and the music will slow like an old record. Hit the ball fast enough and Drake will sound like a chipmunk. The interface magic is thanks mostly to microphones hidden in each paddle, which can measure the exact moment that you and your opponent each hit the ball.

It’s certainly a fun idea that you could imagine polished by a big corporation into a stocking-stuffer Christmas gift—a bit reminiscent of work by the game studio Harmonix, which released landmark, music-driven titles like Amplitude and Guitar Hero—but Ping Pong FM is so intriguing because it’s leveraging music to fundamentally change the way you play the game.

For instance, fast songs will probably drive you to play faster, if only to make the song play back properly, as you know it should sound. While quickly changing the pace of the game could allow you to riff on a song, slowing down the tempo like a DJ before letting the beat drop with a big slam.

But most of all, I’d bet that Ping Pong FM turns table tennis from a competitive sport into a cooperative game. Anyone who has played Rock Band knows how fundamentally gratifying it is to hear a song played correctly, and how you’ll intrinsically root for fellow players to hear it reproduced properly. If I were playing Ping Pong FM, I wouldn't want to beat my opponent, but join them in finishing the next track.

[All Photos: via Ping Pong FM]

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