Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yeah, but does anyone remember it fondly?

So I'm not a business person, but I think Atari made a smart move Monday by telling us what their new product is. It's a good first step in convincing people to buy it. Ok, now brace yourself, we're going to get into some very specific video game nerdom here. Now's your chance to bail out. Still there? Super.
Again, not a business guy, but I wonder if they're not
relying a bit to heavily on the nostalgic draw of wood trim.
Above: About how much
hedging I plan to do here.
Initially announcing earlier this year at E3 with a vague, information-free teaser trailer, the company confirmed that it's called an Ataribox and that it will at play 'new content' as well as 'classic games' which...look, I've been into video games for as long as I can remember and while I recall playing Atari, I don't recall particularly enjoying Atari. Yes, the games are important from like an historical perspective, but they're kind of, you know, terrible? Yes. Them's fightin' words, so allow me to hedge.

First of all, when I say Atari games, I'm lumping everything pre-NES into one giant broad characterization. Also, this is 100% just my personal experience and opinion here. If you yourself are a fan of this particular corner of gaming, good on you. Just know that I'm not trying to-I think the kids are saying 'yuck anyone's yum.'
Maybe these games were more fun during the Cold War with the
 threat of mutual assured destruction hanging over our heads?
It's like whoever designed this had
never seen a human hand before.
That said, the graphics sucked, the controllers were clearly designed to cause carpel tunnel syndrome and every single game was a frustrating exercise in futility. Which, I know some of this is unfair. The graphics, obviously, were limited by the available technology. I'm sure at the time it looked like goddamn Avatar, but it hasn't aged well. As for the controller, it was one of the first ever so it didn't have the benefit of earlier designs. But still, the gameplay. You've got to give me that.

Atari was sort of the Jean-Paul
Satre of the game industry.
Unlike NES games, Atari games didn't really have an ending. You just kind of played until the difficulty ratcheted up past the ability of the human brain to cope and then I don't know, you were supposed to write down your score or whatever. The reward was bragging rights I suppose, but at least in Super Mario Bros. you would eventually find Princess Toadstool. With Atari games, death is inevitable. I guess as a kid I just wasn't into existentialist games about the meaninglessness of existence.

Well adjusted people enjoying the great
outdoors seemingly without any visible
means of playing video games. Huh...
Oh well, those are just my surprisingly strong opinions about something any healthy, well adjusted individual probably shouldn't feel this strongly about. But to take it back to Atari's announcement, I think what bothers me here is the slow roll out of information, like they're building to something big when really they're just building to another retro game console which would be way more exciting if there weren't like fifteen plug and play Atari consoles already available not to mention the entire back catalogue already on your phone. 

Why the mystery? Ok, so this thing plays old Atari games as well as whatever they mean by 'current content.' Cool. So does every existing game console. Like, I'll admit, I'm a mighty fool when it comes to video game nostalgia but I am befuddled, be-goddamn-fuddled as to why someone thought the world needed another way to play Atari games.
I mean, Atari games were recently the subject of an actual archeological dig.
I don't want to be a jerk here, but that doesn't seem like a good omen.

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