Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dig Dug it up!

Jinkies, it's no longer a mystery! Researching a well-known (to nerds, anyway) myth, a documentary crew has managed to unearth a horde of video games long-believed to buried in a New Mexico landfill.
After hours of excavating in the sweltering desert heat, the crew finally hit pay dirt:
a cache of Atari games which experts agree will fetch ones of dollars on Ebay.
Above: footage from the excavation
reveals a serious alligator and goggle
 monster problem at the landfill.
For people with lives, I should explain that for years there's been this story that back in 1983, Atari crushed and then buried a shitload of cartridges, consoles and accessories during a particularly rough period for the video game industry. Since nobody wanted to be responsible for a bunch of kids with shovels poking around a landfill, both the company and the owners of the dump were kind of cagey about the whole thing. Sometimes they'd say that all the games and systems had been destroyed and were inoperable and other times they'd flat out deny the burial ever happened.

If you remember Atari fondly, you are
mistaken. It was objectively terrible.
What was so rough about the industry in the early 80's that Atari felt they had to make like the mafia and bury their problems in a desert? Awful games and lots of them. Look, this was a little bit before my time as a gamer but looking back, console gaming was total shit back then. Not all of it certainly, but for every Galaga and Ms. Pac- Man, there's like a dozen pong-clones and SwordQuest's. Even if you're dripping with nostalgia for gaming in the time of disco, you have to admit that the graphics sucked, the gameplay was shallow and those primitive wood-paneled consoles were ridiculously overpriced (about $700-$900 adjusted for inflation).

Incidentally, how much coke do you
have to be on to fuck up Pac-Man?
Ok, NES-era chauvinism aside, it wasn't just the utter lack of quality that made the early 80's a terrible time for gamers, there was also a ton of corporate greed and short-sightedness. Atari once famously slapped together a half-assed port of Pac-Man in six weeks and then produced 12 million copies of it, which was like 2 million more cartridges than there were consoles to play them on. I know people did a lot of blow back then, but you'd think someone would have done the math on that one.

Anyway, the mystery's been solved and in a weird way I'm kind of bummed. It might have been kind of cool if they'd let the site stay undisturbed for a few more decades so that future generations could see for themselves how our civilization dealt with shitty games.
"Note the poor condition of the cartridge and the way it was just sort of 
chucked into the landfill. This indicates that even our remote ancestors of 
the 1980's understood that movie tie-in games are, by definition, bullshit."

-Some Future Archeologist

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