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Tag Archive: Atari: Game Over


atari

If you didn’t live through life with an original Pong video game console or the groundbreaking Atari 2600, then you missed out on the beginning of the video game phenomenon.  Coinciding with the advent of the coin-op video game, the home version ultimately sold 30 million units, making Atari the legendary brand it became to this day.  And it all started with a couple of visionaries and an idea to get a dot on a television screen to be moved using the vertical and horizontal hold.  The history of Atari is interwoven with the early history of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza and gaming parlors, creators who would leave to form competitor Activision, and countless others who finally get their story told in Tim Lapetino’s book, Art of Atari.  We have a preview of the book for borg.com readers below, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

If you’re like many, including Lapetino, you likely threw away the boxes that housed the video game cartridges to your Atari 2600 immediately after getting the game home.  If you missed out on the Atari games altogether, like classic games Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Pole Position, Jungle Hunt, and hundreds more, you may not be aware of the role the box art played for early video game buyers.  The artwork on the boxes was much closer to the video game realities of today than the original games of the past, which frequently were as simple as boxes and line barriers with the same dot representing a football, a cannonball, a bullet, or a laser bolt.  But, as the designers interviewed in the book recall, it just didn’t matter.  It didn’t really, as the new form of gameplay was exciting in its own right.  Yet the box art is memorable for many, providing an easy recall to every game from Atari you once owned in an instant flashback.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Lapetino provides interviews with former Atari designers and staff, including those who created everything from the games, to the consoles, and the marketing materials that sold it all.  The artists who created the box art are identified and featured in their own sections.  No doubt Atari fans will likely encounter games they’ve never seen, including countless movie tie-ins.  You might recall the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, but how about Superman, Dukes of Hazzard, Pigs in Space, and Gremlins?

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Atari box

Atari, the company that brought us the Atari 2600–the game system that revolutionized what it meant to be a zombie–offered families in the early 1970s the benefit of the neighborhood arcade without that annoying quarter-gobbling component.  Adults who shake their heads today at kids zoning out over their smartphone games forget what it was like when they first zoned out over  Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and all their pixelated friends.

When Space Invaders was introduced, kids lined up at Woolco stores for hours on end to play the in-store demo model to try to beat the current high score.  The earlier Pong and Breakout games were revolutionary–and addictive–but Space Invaders was exciting, nerve-wracking, and required a different take on an old skill.  Hand-eye Coordination became a new, finely-honed, almost magical power.  Wielded the best by teenagers.

Then something strange happened.  We got distracted by something else.  Most of us didn’t even notice when Atari vanished.  When modern video games playable on PCs via compact discs came around we all went searching for the original Atari games and for years, nada.  What happened to Atari anyway?

Pac-Man game over    ET video game

If you didn’t track the business pages for Atari back in the 1970s and 1980s, a new documentary will get you caught up.  Atari: Game Over is a nostalgic look back at the first video game designers and how one designer created the first great game for Atari, and later the last, and then vanished into anonymity.  His journey parallels several die-hard fans’ strange and curious search to prove or disprove an urban legend–that Atari lost so much money on the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600 (thought by many to be the single worst video game of all time) that Atari dumped at least a million of the unopened boxes in a desert town landfill back in 1983.  It’s also a story of one of the first Dot Com economic busts long before there were Dot Coms.

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