Entertainment Company to Excavate Infamous Atari E.T. Video Game Dump

250px-etvideogamecoverThere’s been a rumor  for decades that video game company Atari buried tons of unsold copies of its legendarily bad video game ET in a, Alamogordo, New Mexico dump. While Atari spokespersons at the time did confirm that they had dumped some material there, they described it as largely consisting of defective equipment (as opposed to defective ideas for video games). Now, entertainment company Fuel is planning to excavate the site to see what’s really under all of that New Mexico dirt.

Superficially, the story itself is little more than smirk-worthy. Even people who grew up playing the 2600 might only barely remember the ET game, and the history of video games based on movies is rife with missteps. Historical archaeologist Paul Mullens isn’t content with a superficial examination, instead taking a wider perspective on the activity in a short essay, which you can find at his blog.

Via Archaeology and Material Culture:

Nevertheless, there is something archaeologically telling in the popular allure of the project, and it is almost certainly that 30-year narrative about the ET game that a digital marketer would recognize as compelling. The public fascination in the assemblage rests on the literal absence of the Atari games and the burial and potential recovery of their material remains. In those respects, the Atari dump captures much of the allure of archaeological material culture as well that has relatively little to do with the antiquity of material things. Paul Benzon acknowledges that the fascination with the Atari dump reflects some “hipster nostalgia for the 8-bit culture of early video gaming”: yet Benzon recognizes that beyond this romanticism, the mythology of the Atari assemblage rests on its potential materialization of a manifestly “archaic” 1983 digital technology and style. Benzon points to the 2006 Wintergreen music video of an excavation of the ET dump (see video director Keith Schofield’s thoughts) as a now-telling indication of the power of the absent games, suggesting that much of the power of the mythical ET cartridges lies in their literal absence.

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7 Comments on "Entertainment Company to Excavate Infamous Atari E.T. Video Game Dump"

  1. DeepCough | Aug 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

    Don’t go digging up the past.
    Some things were just meant to be buried…….

    • Matt Staggs | Aug 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

      Sometimes, @Deep_Cough:disqus, dead is bettah.

      • DeepCough | Aug 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

        But Matt, if we dig up the E.T. video game, it could once again destroy the video game industry as we know it. It’s the Imhotep of video game cartridges!

  2. This game was DOA. I saw it being played @ Sears back in the day- to much loud criticism and disbelief. Not even up to the high standard of “Chase the Chuckwagon”.

  3. Hoarfraust | Aug 18, 2013 at 1:53 am |

    Worst video game EVER. I could never even get him out of the opening pit!

  4. Ted Heistman | Aug 18, 2013 at 8:19 am |

    its no jungle hunt….I remember for a brief period of a long weekend in the 80’s my Mom and her boyfriend got seriously addicted to Atari Popeye and took the game from my sister and I and barricaded themselves with it in her room with it!

  5. InfvoCuernos | Aug 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

    I’m surprised Alamogordo didn’t get the feds to clean up that toxic dump- no I’m not.

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