Good day, literate ones! Do you know who Howard Scott Warshaw is? Everyday gamers may not recognize the name, but the more diehard among us know him as the creator of Yar’s Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, all for Atari 2600. That’s it. Just the three. So how did his name become famous in the retro gaming community?
This is an answer you’ll find in the documentary Atari: Game Over. Using my savvy inner-netting skills, I found the video on the Tubes of You. I went into this documentary blind, didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, the filmmakers were tracking down the location where Atari buried a large number of E.T. cartridges way back when during the video game crash of 1983. This is somewhat of an urban legend in the gaming community. This quest is intertwined with interviews from several employees who worked for Atari in its heyday, the most interesting, in my opinion, being Howard Scott Warshaw.
I won’t spoil the documentary for the five or six of you who haven’t seen it because I think it’s actually worth watching. It does lull from time to time, particularly during the search for the landfill spot, but the information and the interviews make it worthwhile to stick around. I was already familiar with the history of Atari and the crash of ’83, but it was a nice refresher and featured Q&A from people with first hand involvement, not to say that they caused it, but they were certainly affected.
My overall takeaway was that video games are held to a much higher stander now because of the mistakes made in the industry’s early years. I also gained an appreciation for the forefathers of game design who I, admittedly, have taken for granted. It is easy to watch YouTube videos featuring bad gameplay, like AVGN, JonTron, or PBG. We get a laugh out of it and it is entertaining, but if you really appreciate gaming, if you really are an enthusiast, you should take the time to see things from the creator’s perspective. It’s interesting, to say the least.
So how do I rate Atari: Game Over? If I had to put a number on it, I’d give it a 7/10. If you are an avid game history buff, you likely won’t learn much. Otherwise, you’re going to get an awesome history lesson about a company that pioneered console gaming. Either way, the interviews are great and worth watching! And when it’s all over, I’d urge you to show some love to HSW. Can you imagine what it would be like to live with that urban legend over your head? That a game you single handedly created caused the game crash? It’s not true, but just think about that for a second. You can find him on Twitter @HSWarshaw.
That’s my quick and easy review! Thanks for reading!
!SPOILERS! – This is a spoiler tag. If you plan on watching the film, skip this. The post is over for you.
HSW has gone on to become a psychotherapist. He’s led a successful life. The landfill dig turned up only a small amount of Atari items including some E.T. carts and a few others, but it was not the major haul urban legends would have you believe. The most logical reason these were scrapped was because the storage fees were costing more than what the games were worth.