Ready Player One is an action-packed Sci-Fi thriller where Earth has morphed into a dystopian society that has forced the masses to find refuge in a virtual reality world that has been made available to all citizens. The creator of this virtual reality world has long since passed but on the day of his death, a video went viral explaining that the creator had hidden clues - also known as "Easter Eggs" - throughout this virtual world and the person who could hunt down and follow all the clues would inherit his billion dollar fortune! A pretty fantastic story right?? Well naturally, a book based solely on 80's pop culture, music, and movie references would lead to one watching a killer documentary based on the most influential gaming system of the early 80's: Atari. Which is what lead Becca to watching this documentary, and then to me watching it as well!
I am ITCHING for this book to be made into a movie! Until then,
I need to get my own copy and read it again!
Atari is one of the most iconic gaming systems in the world and has been hailed as the piece of technology that launched the computer revolution. Most known for it's iconic first release Pong, Atari was a company that literally was only a thing in the world for about 10 years. With the release of two consoles - Pong and the Atari 2600 - the company created and sold hundreds of different video game cartridges that forever changed the face of at-home gaming systems. It was the X-Box and Playstation of the late 70's and early 80's. But then, as quickly as Atari exploded on the scene, it vanished. And nobody really knew why. And that is what Zak Penn wants to find out.
We want to know what caused the mighty to fall!
Screenwriter and director Zak Penn is the narrator and guide of our documentary. Growing up an avid video game player, Zak himself owned an Atari console and was deeply puzzled over the Atari vanishing act of the 80's. So he has taken it upon himself to track down the founders and famed game designers of Atari to find out the story behind the company. How it started, how it ended, and all the fun stuff in between. So co-founder Nolan Bushnell, famed game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, and a slew of other Atari associates all come together to tell the tale of where the legend began and ended. But the Atari story isn't the only thing being discussed in this film.
There's one piece to this puzzle that needs to be dug up, literally!
With the decline of any great company, there are always speculations and rumors about why it came to an end. And the supposed end of Atari has become an urban myth in the gaming community. After the majority of original games were released for the 2600 - games like Yar's Revenge, Adventure, and Castle Quest - Atari started on a new venture where games were being requested by major movie studios to help churn out profit. So films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and Predator were all subject to getting their own video game cartridges for play on the Atari systems...but there was one game that was fabled to have been so horrible that it caused Atari to close it's doors. And that game was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
The hottest new name in video games!
Overflowing with problems, when the E.T. game hit the market the public was outraged at the reception. It wasn't a simple game to play, on top of being confusingly multi-faceted, no one was happy with E.T. Because the film had been a box office smash, Atari was so sure they would make several million thanks to this game. But instead, the game was a flop. And it was rumored that so many cartridges were made of E.T. that couldn't be sold that Atari was forced to get rid of them...and so it was said that all these games were buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Did E.T. really spell doom for Atari? Are those games buried in that desert landfill in New Mexico? Zak Penn is literally going to find out the answers to both questions, and we are along for the ride!
There's over 30 years of trash and dirt in this landfill...is there any hope
of finding answers to this urban legend?
As someone who knows basically nothing about the world of video games, this was a really cool and educational documentary that I have watched twice in between my first viewing and writing this blog post. With insightful commentary from the founders and designers who used to be part of Atari, as well as other figure heads from major gaming systems like X-Box, I feel like I got a good grasp on the history of Atari as a company and as a gaming console. We learn about how the gaming system came to be, how it evolved and revolutionized how we use personal technology, and we got into the nitty gritty about why the company tanked. But probably the coolest part of this documentary was hearing from the people who are genuine fans of gaming and just wanted answers. Ready Player One author Ernest Cline was of the gaming enthusiasts who participated in this movie, and getting to hear about his passion for gaming was really cool. Plus, it was fun to see an actual problem-solving aspect to this documentary. Not only did we learn about the history of Atari, but narrator Zak Penn took an active role in wanting to debunk the E.T. video game urban legend - how cool! And there's no way I'm spoiling that ending for you! Even if you're not big into gaming, this was a fun movie to watch and I walked away feeling like I learned a lot. Such a cool watch!
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