More often than not urban legends are just that: legends. These fanciful creations may have a glimmer of truth at their heart, but are in general largely exaggerated and embellished to make for a better story. Every so often though, one story proves to be more than just a tall tale. Atari: Game Over tells the story of what is quite possibly the biggest and most mysterious urban legend in gaming.
The legend goes something like this: E.T. the Extraterrestrial was the hottest movie in the world in 1982. Around that same time, Atari was a rapidly expanding video game company that had recently scored a number of hits, including some licensed games based on movies. What more perfect match could there be? However, according to legend, instead of conquering the commercial world, the E.T. game was so awful that it somehow destroyed the video game industry. As a result, thousands of copies of the game were quietly taken out to the New Mexico desert and buried, never to be seen again. When questioned about the legend, Atari corporate leadership would refuse to comment, only adding fuel to the fiery theory that there was, in fact, some kind of cover up in progress ( all good urban legends need a cover up). If the game were really bad enough to destroy the industry, it makes sense on some level that the developer would want to destroy all copies of it, but it also seems almost unfathomable that one game could destroy an industry and be so bad it warranted burial. As Atari: Game Over explains, however, there is much more to this story than meets the eye. Continue reading