Atari: Game Over

G 3 StarIf you were a child of the ’80’s, there is no underestimating the importance of the Atari 2600. It saved us thousands of dollars in quarters as well as trips to the mall. How many sleepovers did we have protecting the earth on Missile Command? Or Yar’s Revenge? How many hours did you spend playing that stupid, impossible to win E.T. game? (Which I did beat it eventually, I’ll have you know.)

I’m convinced that Atari was the single most important invention of the ’70’s and ’80’s. Perhaps of the last 100 years as it changed computing and gaming FOREVER. And yet as influential as it was, it all came crashing down in the year 1983 due to the ridiculous hubris of the company to make a movie tie-in game named E.T. in 5 weeks instead of 5 months.

The result was an unmitigated disaster. The games tanked. The people revolted. Quit buying the game and the console. Other consoles took advantage of the blunder – namely Sony and Nintendo. The rumor was that Atari, in an attempt to hide their embarrassment, buried all the ET games in a nondescript landfill in the middle of a desert in New Mexico. For years, this rumor could not be substantiated but all those kids in the ’80s grew up and one of them wanted to make a movie about Atari.

So he goes on a quest to find them and along the way tell the story of Atari.

I enjoyed most of this movie as it served as a walk down memory lane of my childhood. Exactly what the significance was of digging up the old ET game, I still don’t know. The movie was entertaining but the constant need for the director to put himself in the movie was annoying.

No…skip that. It was ridiculously stupid. In one scene, we get the director asking a dump worker how the road grater is going to help them find the ET game. The guy says – it isn’t. The director asks a follow-up question – ‘Well don’t you need to build a road to get to where the game is buried?’ The guy answers – “No.”

He’s clearly annoyed and doesn’t see the need or importance of this guy bothering him. I’m sure the director put it in the movie for laughs. But it isn’t funny. And after a couple of awkward scenes like this – you realize not only does it have absolutely nothing to do with the story of Atari but this guy is the kid in school that nobody really knew what to do with. Nobody hated him but he was so awkward, nobody really liked him either. Fortunately, 98% of these kind of kids grow up and become history teachers. Or track coaches.

The other 2%? Apparently they become directors of documentaries.

All in all, it’s a bit off-putting but doesn’t completely derail the movie. As they uncover the “mystery” and find the games in the landfill, it’s clear that real story is the importance of Atari – not that they made one horrific game that ended the run. For the most part, Atari: Game Over captures this.

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