Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Watch This Now! presents 'Atari: Game Over'

Many sites of high regard feature usually some kind of video round-up list periodically. I love these as they feed my need for insane media while also keeping me up-to-date on what all the kids are into. 

I though how do we create a similar feature into CultSig! without re-tread? Also, what about a regular feature on films and shows that don't quite warrant a lengthy review? A place for music videos, lost gems, streaming films, and new TV. Thus we created...

Perhaps the exclamation point is too drastic...no matter, our first gaze is focused on a doc that delves into a beloved topic and a hated subject: Atari and E.T. for the Atari. 


No single entity has been blamed for more chaos since god's of Lovecraft. Depending on who you ask on any given day the reviews to this game range from "Oh God, it's awful" to "MY EYES! MY EYES! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY EYE!".

Behold...the Anti-Christ!
This game was so bad that it apparently lead to the desolation of Atari as a company and the video game crash of '83 (the savor of the market being the arrival of Nintendo Entertainment System...but that is for another time). So destructive was E.T. that Atari, stocked with extensive unmoving units of the E.T. cartridge, was to have buried the unsold copies in a New Mexico landfill like a whacked wise guy. This idea burned in the brains of many game fans for so many years that it become the stuff of urban legend, creating various pieces of media to continue on it's legend.

But this not about the AVGNTM (although that may be a stay tuned). It seems that it was finally decided to dig up the mythical landfill to see if there was indeed a secret depository of E.T. games and one filmmaker was there to document the reveal. Thus...'Atari: Game Over'.

Directed by noted screenwriter Zack Penn, 'Atari: Game Over' documents the official excavation of the landfill to see if all the rumors are true (more on that in the final warp-up). But it's more then just about the E.T. burial. It's also a exploration on why Atari needed to dump the game. It's about the fan base this apparent awful game still has. It's about the rise of home video gaming and the eventual bust. It's ultimately about the man, game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, who created some of the most profitable Atari games of all time and his eventual designing of E.T. in just five weeks.

This is apparently the beginning of a regular doc series by Xbox (yeah, this was funded by Xbox) and you can watch it on the Xbox 360 for free. It's also available on Netflix and on the Xbox Video website (you have to make a free account, but it's worth it...oh hell, just watch it on Netflix).

Okay, spoilers ahead.

You ready? The Atari dumped happened. It was never a secret. With little to no research you will discover not only was the burying was official it was covered by various press outlets. Why the urban legend then? How did this become as big as it has? 

Like I said above, this makes the actual discovery of the landfill site kind of defeated (hell, the legend is confirmed within the first ten minutes of the doc by a warehouse manager) but that's not what it's all about. This doc is a study in a man who helped create some of the greatest games in the early days of the home video market. Howard Scott Warshaw is a likeable guy who has felt the weight of designing E.T., a game few have actually played yet is universally hated. Warshaw is obviously emotional about the whole affair in the doc and we can understand. What was legend to us was the brutal reality to him. The ride was over. But like it says "...is it Culturally Significant?" Yes. The history of Atari is the history of video games. It's a cultural landmark for many kids of the 80's (and some in the 90's). 'E.T.' equally holds the hearts of my generation as one of the greatest films made. There's a lot of Spielberg imagery and linkage in the doc, as if there is a shared history with more then just the licensing. Overall, worth a watch...so watch it now!

(P.S. If you have to question the Cultural Significance of this documentary please refer to the attached photo.)

 Howard Scott Warshaw directed his own documentary about the history of Atair called 'Once Upon Atari'. Most parts can be found online.

No comments:

Post a Comment