Join 3,426 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Atari Archaeology Allowed
May 31, 2013 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Some claim it is the worst video game ever. What is certain is that five million of them were dumped by Atari in a New Mexico landfill. Now, Fuel Industries, a Canadian film production company, has received permission from the city of Alamagordo, to unearth E.T.
posted by pashdown (69 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hasn't HP Lovecraft taught us anything about disinterring æons-old chthonian horrors? Like, to not to?
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on May 31, 2013 [27 favorites]


Wow, I thought the dumping-the-cartridges-in-the-desert thing was widely considered apocryphal.
posted by eugenen at 12:11 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, there's a Snopes link. Helpful.
posted by eugenen at 12:11 PM on May 31, 2013


Why the fuck? The games will almost certainly be unplayable in a way far different then how they were unplayable in 1982, and won't the labels be disintegrated?
posted by item at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with this plan is that once you fall down the hole, it's impossible to get out without E.T's magic powers.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [47 favorites]


I still have this on the ColecoVision. Frustation about getting out of that pit caused me to give up on games for an incredibly long period of time. Let them rot, nothing good will come from this.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:17 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


item: "Why the fuck? The games will almost certainly be unplayable in a way far different then how they were unplayable in 1982, and won't the labels be disintegrated?"

There was nothing in Al Capone's vault // But it wasn't Geraldo's fault
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:17 PM on May 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Please dont dig them up. The ET game, along with the Raiders of the Lost Ark game, were two of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

I had terrifying nightmares of falling into a pit and being unable to escape for months. In these nightmares I sat there, craning and retracting my slender extensible neck, but I was unable to escape, unable to phone home or even turn on my heartlight. Please don't make me relive the trauma New Mexico, I beg you.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I paid a nickle for one on eBay a couple of years ago. I haven't actually played it though.

I remember my friend had it when I was a kid and we played it. I don't recall us hating it but back then I think any new game was "the best game ever" because it was new.
posted by bondcliff at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently hooked my old 2600 to the flat screen after finding it in a box. Of the dozen or so cartridges I still have, they are kinda all about the same level of bad as ET. And yes I do have an actual ET cartridge.
posted by Big_B at 12:19 PM on May 31, 2013


Thankfully someone went out on his own and fixed all the problems in E.T.

Maybe it's okay to dig them back up now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2013 [22 favorites]


Worst video game ever, my ass.
posted by COBRA! at 12:21 PM on May 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure much is going to happen to electronics in an anaerobic environment like a landfill.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:21 PM on May 31, 2013


What about Leisure Suit Larry? That looked really awful. Never played it...
posted by Mister_A at 12:22 PM on May 31, 2013


I've been to Alamogordo and I can't imagine spending six months there.
posted by hyperizer at 12:22 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ian Bogost defended ET in his book "How to do things in videogames" as an example of games as empathy. In this case, you were playing something vulnerable in an alien (to you) landscape, with rules you didn't understand. When you think about it, the game was pretty out-there at the time. Instead of being this all-powerful megahero you were this little alien just trying to scrape by.
posted by hellojed at 12:25 PM on May 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


The photo of the opening screen in the last link makes me all sentimental in an Island of Misfit Toys mode. I pity the Atari 2600 E.T. for existing within such a piece of crap game and being so poorly rendered. Sniff; poor little dude.
posted by aught at 12:25 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


You were never all-powerful in an Atari 2600 game unless you were playing your little sister in Combat or something. The entire environment was actively hostile, in most cases, and you were just a couple of pixels holding another pixel that would occasionally spit out a pixel that may or may not damage attacking pixels. You could tell by the pixels.
posted by Mister_A at 12:28 PM on May 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thankfully someone went out on his own and fixed all the problems in E.T.

Maybe it's okay to dig them back up now.


That is genius. I never considered I could I could go back and just patch the ROM to get him out of that fucking pit. Ok, dig those fuckers up and patch them so all the kids disappointed by the game can finish it after all these years.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:29 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


You were never all-powerful in an Atari 2600 game unless you were playing your little sister in Combat or something.

Specifically, you were three all powerful fighters destroying your sibling's/parent's bomber over and over and over again.
posted by fleacircus at 12:31 PM on May 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Combat was awesome.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


We must all pray that this brief interment will prove adequate to allow for a *complete* transmutation into S.T. the Sub-terran.
posted by hoople at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2013


See also when Wintergreen did this in a music video.
posted by The White Hat at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


You were never all-powerful in an Atari 2600 game unless you were playing your little sister in Combat or something.

It's pretty much the only thing I can still beat my son at. Fear my fighter jets with guided missiles, you little spoiled FPS playing shit.
posted by bondcliff at 12:35 PM on May 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


The difference between Leisure Suit Larry and anything Atari was doing is one of expectations. Leisure Suit Larry is pretty easy to forgive in that it was pretty up front about not taking itself seriously. It was a watered down "The Miller's Tale" game of pixel hunter that sat there on the shelf next to science fiction games of pixel hunter, fantasy games of pixel hunter, cop games of pixel hunter and so on. It knew it wasn't high brow entertainment or even the zenith of current video game experiences, but it knew, was OK, and pretty up front with all of that.

Atari/Warner, on the other hand, took their selves VERY SERIOUSLY. The hype for every Atari Cartridge from about 81 on always featured a couple kids who looked like someone had just applied a couple hundred volts to the pleasure centers of their brains. And all the while they kicked more and more crap out the door.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition to the gameplay, I imagine dumping 5 million Atari cartridges would also count as toxic waste, given the materials they're constructed from.

I also remember it came out on clearance; not a good sign.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2013


This is awesome. I had a great fondness for that game, although it was plenty frustrating. I guess I didn't feel it was any more frustrating than any other janky-ass VCS title of the era. I remember being much more angry at Pitfall 2 than I ever was at ET.

I hope they sell them off as momentos. I would certainly pay much more for an exhumed ET cartridge than its original sticker price.
posted by ulotrichous at 12:41 PM on May 31, 2013



This is awesome. I had a great fondness for that game, although it was plenty frustrating. I guess I didn't feel it was any more frustrating than any other janky-ass VCS title of the era. I remember being much more angry at Pitfall 2 than I ever was at ET.

I have fond memories of ET. I didn't think it was that terrible, but we were poor so I played a lot of the bargain bin games. And.. well, back then I was 10.

But, yeah, Pitfall 2 was way harder. I remember the day I beat Pitfall2. That as a good day.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2013


I was really jealous of the neighbourhood kid who had a copy of the Raiders of the Lost Ark game...until I went over to his house and played it. Eeesh, what a mess.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:46 PM on May 31, 2013


Yeah, we've seen this before..OH SHIT THIS IS DIFFERENT I'M SORRY FOR DOUBTING YOU!!!!

COBRA!: "Worst video game ever, my ass."

You're link is wrong, it needs to be going to M.U.S.C.L.E. You should get that checked.
posted by theichibun at 12:48 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never considered I could I could go back and just patch the ROM to get him out of that fucking pit.

Kobayashi Maru!
posted by dirtdirt at 12:48 PM on May 31, 2013 [17 favorites]


The Raiders game ... is central to one of my fondest childhood memories. Somehow I won a copy of the thing, and it was going to be shipped to me via UPS. To an 11-year-old kid, getting your own UPS delivery is a big deal - even bigger when it's a video game!

I'll never forget waiting and waiting and waiting for it to arrive ... and then one night, the family packs up in the car to go to Long John Silver's or some other fine dining establishment ... and the UPS truck is coming down the street while we're leaving! And fortunately, the driver recognizes my dad and slows us down and hands the package to me in the backseat of the car. I remember just staring at that box and that instruction manual all through dinner, taking painstaking care not to get any fryer grease on the cardboard or the book.

The game itself is frustrating in a way that the E.T. game later perfected, but I didn't care. It was my favorite game ever for the next few weeks.
posted by jbickers at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I played the shit out of Raiders back in the day. I also played (and beat! sort of) E.T. In fairness, I probably would have played a game involving a talking puddle of cat piss back then.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck the developers of E.T. with a pointy stick. I delivered a lot of newspapers in the snow for that POS game. The whole experience taught 10 year old me that working hard and saving your money for the things you really want is a sucker's game.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:58 PM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Worst video game ever, my ass.
posted by item at 1:07 PM on May 31, 2013


The ET game, along with the Raiders of the Lost Ark game, were two of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

OHHH.. I still have a functioning Atari 2600, AND a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark! I don't have E.T. though.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:07 PM on May 31, 2013


Worst video game ever: my ass.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:11 PM on May 31, 2013 [25 favorites]


The Dwarves dug too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Alamagordo… shadow and flame.

posted by blue_beetle at 1:11 PM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


I also enjoyed ET as a kid. It's unfairly maligned. It was much more complicated than most games of the time -- there are actually a lot of different strategic elements to the game and a lot of different activities you can do. But when you're first starting out, you fall into a lot of pits, and getting out is needlessly exasperating.
posted by painquale at 1:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


It really wasn't that bad a game. If you know how to play it, it's fantastic, really. People just weren't ready for it – and it didn't help that it's virtually indistinguishable from a bug-ridden mess if you don't know what's going on.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


E.T. E.T. PHONE HOME

Pitfall Harry. Aw fucking hell.

E.T. FUN GAME!!!

Pitfall Harry. What?

E.T. FUN GAME!!!

Pitfall Harry. Yeah, I heard you. I've just heard really bad things about this game.

E.T. I CAN HELP. STRETCH NECK, FLY AROUND, FIND TELEPHONE PARTS, NOT GET CAPTURED

Pitfall Harry. You know, that sounds like a lot of fun, but I think I'm gonna go find a tree branch to stab myself with.

E.T. BE GOOD
from I Went Left Instead Of Right In Pitfall And Kept On Tickin' And Now I Believe In Miracles
posted by NoraReed at 1:20 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


double block and bleed: “Fuck the developers of E.T. with a pointy stick. I delivered a lot of newspapers in the snow for that POS game. The whole experience taught 10 year old me that working hard and saving your money for the things you really want is a sucker's game.”

Well, I think people can be forgiven for not knowing this at the time, since it was way before such things were usually necessary for video games, but it really, really helped if you read the manual.
posted by koeselitz at 1:24 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fascinating ... Wow ... Read some more ... AAaAAaAaaAaagh!

They said "reached out"! What the fuck is wrong with 'contacted'? Do we have to have corporate wankspeak infect everything?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:27 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


If more people had played "The Mutant Virus" more people would know that it was the worst video game ever made.
posted by drezdn at 1:28 PM on May 31, 2013


What about Leisure Suit Larry?

Just play the original Applesoft Softporn Adventure.

toxic cartridges

The Gold in them should pay for the backhoe. Free labor by the grad students in Garbage studies from all over the world taking notes as its dug up.

Think of the stories on the way TO E.T.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:40 PM on May 31, 2013


I'm not sure much is going to happen to electronics in an anaerobic environment like a landfill.

They could even be in pristine just-steamrolled-to-destruction condition, like the day they were smashed and dumped.

I'd still buy one. :-)

(Purchase seven ET-cartridge corpses from the grave-robbers and you might get enough body parts to Frankenstein together a complete one and bring it back from the dead. It lives! IT LIIIIVES!)
posted by anonymisc at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2013


Worst video game ever: my ass.

The buttons don't even DO anything.
posted by curious nu at 1:42 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


the worst video game ever made.

Firebird on the Apple ][.

Most awesome for being text? FireBug.

Never confuse the 2.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:43 PM on May 31, 2013


I'm not quire sure what they expect to get from doing this. According to snopes:

"In order to keep the site from being looted, steamrollers crushed and flattened the games, and a concrete slab was poured over the remains."

Sounds to me like they'll end up with hundreds of pounds of sharp plastic pieces and broken circuitry... and that's only if they jackhammer the concrete and grab whatever pieces are not destroyed in the destruction of the slab.

They either didn't read the snopes article, or perhaps they're planning on making kitsch jewelry out of the smashed pieces and selling those. Meh, I might pay $4.99 for something decent looking which was crafted from one of the famed E.T. landfill games.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:44 PM on May 31, 2013


Some claim it is the worst video game ever

Almost as bad as the movie.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:45 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Worst video game ever: my ass.

Nah dude, we had the trackball fixed while you were asleep and it's as good as new.
posted by mintcake! at 1:49 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been to Alamogordo and I can't imagine spending six months there.

Well, it might be the only city in the US to have both JESUS IS LORD and WILLKOMMEN LUFTWAFFE billboards welcoming you to the city. So there's that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:50 PM on May 31, 2013


Worst video game ever; my ass.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:54 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can buy it on eBay for $5, what is the point of digging up the landfill?
posted by yath at 2:49 PM on May 31, 2013


Fuck the developers of E.T. with a pointy stick

You mean developer. Back in the day, multimillion dollar video games were development projects given entirely over to to single individuals, who did it all. Howard Scott Warshaw was given five weeks to make E.T. to make the Xmas manufacturing deadlines. I think he did ok. His first hit was Yar's Revenge, and he was given the E.T. project because his first movie game, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was such a commercial success.
posted by ulotrichous at 3:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's pretty much the only thing I can still beat my son at. Fear my fighter jets with guided missiles, you little spoiled FPS playing shit.

Bah, I'll kick your's or most anyone's* butt in Bomber vs Tri-planes, playing the bomber.

* anti-social nerds between the age of, say, 38 and 54 possibly excepted

And for the record, I liked ET. There I said it. And I had the BASIC cartridge.
posted by Reverend John at 3:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What about Leisure Suit Larry? That looked really awful. Never played it..."

If you're really curious, Generikb has done a recent playthrough of the first two Leisure Suit Larry games.
posted by Eideteker at 7:09 PM on May 31, 2013


SPOILER ALERT: digging up an Alamagordo landfill so Walt and Jesse can sell black market ET 2600 games will be the next unexpected turn of the plot on Breaking Bad.
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


The worst games ever are the ones listed line by line in the back of the BASIC how-to manual that shipped with Tandy 1000s. Fucking things never worked.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:30 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know for a fact those programs never worked if you put them in your trash80 CoCo.

Now I wish I'd picked up some genuine sand from NM when I was driving through there last month. I could have ground it into my copy after roughing it up and finally gotten my money back from it on eBay.
posted by mcrandello at 12:15 AM on June 1, 2013


Potential bad news for all involved:

Isn't it a fact that 1983's " landfill in New Mexico" is 2013's " mall parking lot in New Mexico?"

From what I understand, the original burial site was eventually paved over and is now a shopping center, so it sounds like the current mayor is simply giving a film crew permission to go sifting through a nearby (unrelated) garbage dump for publicity.

Is there any evidence to the contrary?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:37 AM on June 1, 2013


The worst games ever are the ones listed line by line in the back of the BASIC how-to manual that shipped with Tandy 1000s. Fucking things never worked.

User error. Disregard the semicolon at your own peril!
posted by ShutterBun at 2:39 AM on June 1, 2013


Atari/Warner, on the other hand, took their selves VERY SERIOUSLY.

They sold (or strong-armed their way into) more units of E.T. cartridges than there were consoles to put them in! That tells you all you need to know about their hubris at the time.

But hey, Atari's shitty management gave rise to Activision! They're still cool, right?

Right?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:46 AM on June 1, 2013


Worst video game ever: my ass.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:00 AM on June 1, 2013


I'm told by people in the know that this whole plan actually isn't going to go through, and that New Mexico's Environment Department is going to shut it down before it even begins, for the following reasons:

- The site where the games are buried is also badly contaminated with absolutely enormous amounts of mercury, as well as significant amounts of malathion.
- The site is due west of town, so prevailing winds would carry anything bad that's unearthed directly in to the population centers.
- No one knows if the dump site actually has a liner, and if so what condition it's in, and thus whether or not it could withstand excavation and/or whether simply shifting the contents of the site might cause huge amounts of mercury to leach out in to the ground.
- No one seems to know if the Canadian documentary crew that's planning the dig will have any technical ability to address any of the aforementioned problems.

Apparently the townsfolk are pretty pissed that the city council let this vote pass with so little thought for details and consequences. But for all of you worried about the ancient evil that might be unleashed when the cartridges are unearthed, fear not, it sounds like that day might not come after all.
posted by saladin at 6:57 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does one need to take a Desert Bus to get to the Alamagordo site?
posted by AJaffe at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If only there was a game to simulate that hypethitical bus ride...

...oh god...
posted by ShutterBun at 2:39 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mister_A: What about Leisure Suit Larry? That looked really awful. Never played it...
Can anyone spot the slight flaw in Mister_A's deduction of the worst video game ever?
posted by IAmBroom at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it because he doesn't know where the most likely place to find virgins is?
posted by Brocktoon at 3:17 PM on June 3, 2013


« Older "The Texas SkyScreamer is now the park’s tallest a...  |  Ballroom Luminoso is a series ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments