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The Layer Tennis Archives

Posted 13th April 2017

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“We’ll be playing matches using lots of different applications, from AdobeĀ® Photoshop® to Adobe® Flash®, but the basic idea is the same no matter what tools are in use. Two artists (or two small teams of artists) will swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley” and then we post that to the site. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action, as it happens. The matches last for ten volleys and when it’s complete, everyone with an opinion sounds off in the Forums and we declare a winner.”

“How The Game Works”, layertennis.com (2009)

One of my favourite things to do on Fridays used to be to sit and watch a game of Layer Tennis. It’s a very difficult thing to describe exactly how much fun watching this was, and I never thought anyone involved with the game quite managed it either. It’s something you really have to experience, moment by moment, to fully get how much fun the game is.

The other day, I was thinking back to one of the game’s most memorable matches. That was between Shaun Inman and Gregory Hubacek; the final of Season 2, back in 2009. This was notable for the huge delay on one of Hubacek’s serves – I distinctly remember the tension in the air as we all waited… and waited… and waited. With all the genuinely brilliant serves from the many talented participants, this being a particular memory is probably massively unfair, but what are you going to do? Memorable sporting moments come from somebody breaking their leg in half as well as genuine sporting achievement.

Full of all these memories, recently I decided to search for the match in the site’s archives. But oddly enough, there was no record of the match there at all. Which is really, really weird, considering it was the final of Season 2. What kind of archive doesn’t include the final match of a whole season of play? And if the archives miss out that match, then what other matches have gone AWOL?

With the help of The Wayback Machine, I’ve done some investigating. There have been four seasons of the game under the name Layer Tennis. (The previous incarnation of the game, Photoshop Tennis, is not examined here.) Of those four seasons, the fourth has every match included in the archive in full. But matches are missing for each of the first three seasons.

Let’s take a look at which ones, shall we?

Season 1 (2007-08)

Both playoffs are present and correct, along with 10 out of the 12 regular matches. However, two of them are missing:

I’ve helpfully linked each match to the version from The Wayback Machine, so you can still watch most of the missing matches in full.

Season 2 (2009)

OK, here’s where things get really weird. All 13 matches of the regular season are archived, alongside all 18 qualifying matches, and the pre-season exhibition match. But the actual playoffs are an absolute mess. Matches currently in the layertennis.com archive are as follows:

But the following are entirely missing:

Of the seven playoff matches, a full four are missing: two from the first round, one of the semis, and the final itself. Which is completely bizarre. So every single qualifying match is included in the archives, but not four of the most important matches of the season?

Season 3 (2010)

Things are a little better for Season 3. All seven playoffs are in the archive, along with all nine qualifying matches. Two out of the 12 regular season matches are missing, however:

And three out of the seven exhibition matches aren’t included:

In many ways, perhaps the situation with Seasons 1 and 3 isn’t too bad. Sure, of course it’d be great to have every single match in the archives. But losing the odd one here and there might not have been that noticeable.

Sadly, the situation with Season 2 is just terrible. Four out of the seven most important matches of the season going walkabout is not a great state of affairs if you’re supposedly presenting an archive of things. Moreover, it’s not like the site admits anywhere that the archive is missing some games. If there’s a good reason for missing anything out, it should explain why. All the current situation does is make you wonder: exactly why were some games left out of the archive?

As it is, the Layer Tennis archives are currently missing the single biggest memory of the game I have. That’s just odd.

  1. Sadly, this match doesn’t seem to be archived by the Wayback Machine at all. 

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