September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
In September 1983 a phalanx of tractor trailers reportedly arrived in Alamogordo New Mexico and dumped a load of Atari games, of which the most infamous was rumored to be the ET: The Extraterrestrial game. The story of the “Atari Dump” has assumed mythic dimensions in gaming lore, symbolizing the near-fatal misstep of Pong creators Atari, capturing the primal moments of the industry, and according ET a symbolic if not formal burial rarely accorded to commodities. The likelihood that Atari or any other manufacturer might discard loads of equipment seems not at all noteworthy, but gamers have long been fascinated by the tale (or urban legend) that Atari discarded perhaps 3.5 million copies of the licensed game that is often considered perhaps the worst video game of all time.
In May the Alamogordo Daily News reported that the city has approved an “excavation” of the dump by the Canadian “digital branded entertainment company” Fuel. Fuel’s six-month “dig” apparently will revolve around the production of a documentary at the now-closed landfill, so this is not an archaeological project as much as a digital marketing campaign. ET game designer Howard Scott Warshaw is skeptical of the game dumping story and the likelihood that there is even anything to find; Alamogordo’s warm welcome for the dig appears to be focused more on public exposure than any interest in Atari or archaeology; and the shallow “archaeological” purpose of the project may be simply to prove or disprove the legend that tons of Atari products were discarded in the dump and sealed beneath concrete…
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. read more
ART: Geoffrey Fule