Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

About ET, that Atari game

Little peeve here. The Atari2600 game, 「ET, the Extraterrestrial」, was not actually that bad.

Many geeks have heard of ET (the game), and have heard the story about the landfill and how it destroyed console gaming for a time. Knowing about how awful ET was is practically a rite of passage for gaming geeks.

It's also wrong. Yes, ET probably did fill a landful, and it had disappointing sales. However, there are two major bits of context that are almost always overlooked:

  • They were expecting a hit, and produced a lot of those cartridges
  • The game was not that bad compared to many other 2600 titles
I had an Atari, and I had ET, among many other games. ET was certainly not its platform's 「Legend of Zelda」(that honour probably belongs to 「Pitfall」), but it was deeper than many of its competitors (one of which involved a tank at the bottom of the screen and a plane at the top shooting at each other; fun, but very very primitive). These were games only a bit beyond 「Pong」 in complexity. ET's gameplay was sometimes frustrating and its plot didn't make a lot of sense, but that was true of pretty much all of its competitors too. I'd rate ET as being 「meh」, and I'm sure if I spent some time on some gaming sites that had screenshots to help me remember, I'd be able to identify some worse games.

One of the odder things about 「ET is teh suck」 as a staple of gamer culture is that young gamers take it as gospel as a sign they're in the know, while people my age who actually remember the game and its competitors might've bought into that cultural element but it takes just a bit of prodding to break through that stuff.

Unrelated, one of the weirder things about how the platforms worked out is that a lot of early NES8 games were effectively of the Atari-generation of games, and after a few years of figuring out the platform we saw much more advanced games. One of the last games released for the NES8, around the time the N16 came out, was 「Journey to Silius」. It probably would've been considered an acceptable N16 game.

Also, a strange nightmare I had recently:Nightmare: OSU campus, outside is normal, but no people at all. Daytime. Inside, buildings have the same general structure, but the rooms are completely empty and clean, as if they never had been occupied to begin with. Air is oddly still. Moved from building-to-building getting more and more creeped out. Basement of the Student Union gave me flash-impressions of another person there, but I couldn't quite see them because it was dark. I ran upstairs and out, had feeling they were following me but I couldn't see. Saw them(?) again in Baker Hall, ran outside and they were chasing me. They had no emotion on their face, but seemed to be making a serious effort to catch me. Running into the oval, I used some willpower to pull myself up off the ground and maybe about 30 feet into the air, and I looked down at them. He (it?) just looked up at me with an emotionless face and remained perfectly still

I am concerned to read about efforts by some parts of the Occupy movement to be protective of the historical narratives of the movement. I can understand the emotions that lead to the desire to be protective, and while I am less-sympathetic to the anarchists who distrust all non-radically-democratic structures, I can still see the source of their intuitions. Still, these intuitions are both wrong and a source of sickness. Regardless of the validity of a cause, there are many constraints on what is appropriate for its movements. Movements can and should try to have coherent messages, and it's reasonable for them to to to have good official messages for the press. However, they neither can or should try to speak for all their members (or prevent their members from speaking to the press), and diversity of perspective is to be expected and should be given reasonable respect. More importantly, just like a person does not have the right to control how others categorise or think of them, a movement has no place doing the same for others. This deserves more respect yet from press, and the deepest imaginable respect for historians. Any time people with an agenda seek to write or police official narratives of themselves in ways that get in the way of academic narratives, we should be as repelled as if we were seeing the beginnings of a cult of personality. The role of history is not to be kind or unkind, but to provide distant, accurate, academic analysis. It is the safety valve for when movements go wrong that press remains independent and committed to unflattering truth. It is an extension of this principle that while I may accept autocratic or semi-autocratic governments (or corporate/university structures, or..) of some forms under some circumstances, I believe there must always be free press, with open criticism/disagreement that will not lead to harsh consequences. I don't believe business owners should have the right to bar this, nor movements. The desire to own and control conversation is an illness, wherever it shows up.

Tags: philosophy

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