Now I wouldn’t say that all of us here at Comms are avid gamers. Yes, a few of us do enjoy the odd game on our Xbox, Nintendo or PC; of course not during work time I hasten to add or least I hope the team don’t! I tried my arm at a few but cannot say I’ve been hooked. I know for many playing Mortal Combat against somebody from across the globe is a great way to spend a few hours but not for me.
However, Atari’s E.T. game has captured my imagination. Not the game itself as I never played it rather the story behind its recent rediscovery.
For many years it has been rumoured that thousands of unsold copies of Atari’s ‘E.T. The Extraterrestrial, dubbed ‘the worst video game ever made’ were buried by the company in 1983 out of shame. Much criticised upon its initial release, its kitsch value has seen it become a somewhat Holy Grail for gamers.
The rights to turn the box-office hit film into a home console game were purchased for an estimated 20 to 25 million dollars from Steven Spielberg. Such was the clamour to have the game in the shops. Howard Scott Warshaw, the designer of the game led a team who had to turn the game around in an extraordinary six weeks. No surprise that the game was a colossal disappointment and with a price tag of $29.99, it was an enormous financial failure too. This failure, along with the disappointing sales of Pac-Man, led to the company being sold by its parent company, Warner Communications.
Documentary filmmakers, Fuel Industries have been on the hunt for said game, but until a few days ago the burial was thought to be an urban myth. The myth could have been put to bed some time ago if former Atari manager James Heller, who ordered the burial, had heard of the urban legend.“I never heard about again it until June 2013, when I read an article about E.T. being excavated,” he says.
However on Saturday, 26 April they finally unearthed it in a landfill site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. On hand were team members, Howard Scott Warshaw and the game’s director Zak Penn.
It is not often you see an archaeological dig for something buried a relatively short time ago however such was the interest in this treasure that the team have worked in pretty horrid surroundings, trawling through layers and layers of trash, with the need to wear breathing masks only too apparent. Yet their efforts paid off, as they unearthed their treasure trove.
So not too much glamour or excitement ala Indiana Jones but this landfill site has seen the world’s press descend upon it and the games were unearthed. Alamogordo city official Armando Ortega has this to say about the excavation, “It was pitch dark here that night, but we came with our flashlights and found dozens of games.”
The games themselves sell for $5 on eBay however as Penn said, “I don’t know how much people would pay for a broken ET game, but as a piece of history, it has a much different value.”
Yet despite the success in New Mexico, I’ll keep well clear of our local landfill site!