Atari: Game Over is an intriguing documentary that anyone interested in video games should watch.
Dubbed “The greatest video game burial of 1983”. the event was considered one of the greatest mysteries of all time. According to the legend, the Atari Corporation was on the crest of the wave when they decided to develop a video game adaptation of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. Developed by one person in five weeks (at the time, developing an Atari game took five to six months,) the game was released and it received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and most consumers hated it so much that they decided to return their copies. It’s said that this was the beginning of Atari’s decline which led to the period known as the video game crash of 1983.
According to the myth (perpetuated by internet articles and listicles,) one single video game almost ruined the medium forever. Atari: Game Over chronicles the events that led to the release of the infamous game and the documentary also tries to answer the following question: did Atari got rid of thousands of unsold E.T. cartridges by burying them in a landfill in New Mexico? If you know anything about this documentary, you probably already know the answer to that question, since dedicated news sites have covered the topic extensively when the digging happened. Nevertheless, Atari: Game Over is an intriguing documentary that anyone interested in video games should watch.
As soon as it starts , the film provides some context about pretty much everything it deals with, including the meteoric rise of Atari, some of its most popular games, the company’s unconventional work ethic, the influence of the myth in Alamogordo City, the development of E.T. and the urban myth that has surrounded the cartridge for decades. There are interviews with critics, writers, former employees of Atari and Warner, politicians from Alamogordo, historians and more importantly, with Howard Scott Warshaw, the developer of Yars’ Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. Most of these interviews are fascinating because they paint a clear picture of what it was like to work for Atari back in its heyday and the influence the company had not only in the video game industry, but also in popular culture?
Still, my favorite part about Atari: Game Over is that it makes you believe in things. Due to the ubiquity of the internet, everything’s so readily available nowadays that there are few mysteries and this is certainly making current generations much more cynical. Atari: Game Over reminded me that, at least from time to time, it’s good to believe in something no matter how silly it may be. If a video game company buried thousands of cartridges in the middle of nowhere and decades after that, a bunch of people were willing to do the impossible to dig them up, maybe there are other mysteries waiting for us to unravel them.
Game Over sheds some light on Atari, not only as a company who could create classic games, but also as a creative force that innovated in an industry that was fairly new at the time. A lot of people will come to this documentary to hear about the worst video game of all time and how it almost ruined our beloved industry, but instead, they’ll find an emotional look at the golden era of games and the creative minds that propelled it.