Tomorrow, Atari announces the semi-finalists in their Pong Developer Challenge. I had planned to create a demo for the contest, but instead, got sucked into writing a design document that took me the better part of a week, and the demo never materialized. I felt really good about it, until I started the submission process on Atari’s site. When filling out the form, there was a box to check if you had a demo to submit. For some reason, unbeknownst to myself, I checked the box. I don’t remember checking it, but for some reason, I did.
I was really pleased with our submission until Atari sent us an email asking to see our demo. “Frack!” I thought, we’ll have to email them back and say there is no demo. It’s always great to disappoint people running a contest with your very first interaction.
I hadn’t really thought about this submission faux pas, until last night, when I had a vivid dream about the contest. I was in a room with all the entries from other developers. Each submission was housed in an ornate wood box with the name of the developer stamped into a golden metal plate on the front panel. The boxes were all beautiful, handcrafted, and stunningly attractive. I scanned the names on the boxes to find ours, but it was not there. Of course not, they contained demos! We did not submit one.
In my dream I looked done onto a table, and saw a cheap blue folder, the kind that I would have used for term paper in college. Written on the front on a an Avery label was: “Pong Returns, Producto Studios, Steve Fulton” . It was the only folder on the table. Obviously, we were the only ones to not submit a demo I surmised, then, this was the table of disappointments. There was a post-it note attached to the folder. I tried to read it, but as my eyes focused on the words, I began to fall through a tunnel, and then I woke up.
When I opened my eyes, I instantly knew where I had seen those ornate wooden boxes before. At the cemetery last year, when we were making plans for my dad’s ashes, I insisted that they be delivered in a wooden box with a carving of a mountain forest on the front. Even though we planned to have my dad’s ashes spread over the desert, I still wanted him to come home in something nice to stay in while we made plans. My fondest memories of him are from the time we spent outdoors, so it seemed appropriate. If we had not bought that box, he would have come home in cheap blue box, with his name written on an Avery label on the front. The folder on the table in my dream reminded me of one of those boxes: sad, nondescript, and disappointing.
We find out tomorrow if we move to the next level of the Pong Developer Challenge. If my dream is any indication, this will be the next to last diary entry for the Atari Pong Developer Challenge. However, there still might be hope. What was written on the post-it note I could not read in my dream? Was it some kind of encouragement or warning from my sub-conscience? Of course, it was all just a dream right? A mix long past memories and recent events fueled by fatigue and my late night snack of Wheat Thins and Fig Newtons. It doesn’t mean anything.