Atari : Game Over

There is a story that has been around for over 30 years now, about a video game that was so bad that it sunk the biggest video game company in the world.Atari: Game Over is a movie about this game, the man who made it, and the truth behind the legend.

The movie goes back to tell the story of Howard Scott Warshaw.  Washaw joined Atari as a video game developer, where he immediately gained success and acclaim as the developer of Yar's Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  He was approached about developing a game for the new movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  The catch?  It needed to be done in five weeks.  At the time a game normally took six months to get put together.

Unfortunately the resulting game did not catch on.  This was at a time when Atari were already having money problems.  The legend goes that the game flopped so hard that it caused the ruin of Atari, and millions of unsold cartridges were buried in the desert.

This is where the other part of the story comes in.  In addition to interviewing everyone involved with the alleged fiasco, the filmmaker also hooks up with a man on a mission to recover the lost games.  He has managed to get permissions from Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the games were alleged to have been interred, to dig up the site to find the truth.

The filmmaker did a fine job of interweaving these stories.  Game enthusiast and author/actor Ernest Cline is shown racing to the scene of the dig in his Delorian.  Warshaw also makes the scene, along with a surprisingly large crowd of fans.  Warshaw is able to get some closure on this chapter of his past which ended so badly for him.  Who knew that one could get so much emotion and tension from filming some guys trying to dig up some video games in a dump in the desert?

But the movie does capture some real emotion.  It also does a very good job of evoking the early years of Atari.  The thing that it does best, though, is offer redemption for Howard Scott Warshaw, a video game developer who was made persona non-grata for taking on an impossible task, and giving it his best shot.  This movie makes sure the viewer understands the influence this man had on video game development.  It sets the story straight about what happened those many years ago in 1983.  And it shows just how much the art of video game development means to some people, and I do not think one can deny that it is an art.

All in all, a really good movie about a subject that at first blush doesn't seem to merit it.  But the movie makes you understand why the story needed to be told, and makes you happy that it was, and in such an enjoyable manner.

photo credit: <a href="">Atari 2600</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href="">ET the 2600 Game</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

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