E is for........
E.T for the Atari 2600 has been blamed for a whole host of bad things that happened in the Video Games crash of 1983.
The thing is you can't pin the blame on just this one game but it did go some way to illustrate what was wrong with the industry at the time.
Let's have a look at our old buddy E.T and see what he was all about in Atari's supposed 'car crash' of a video game.
Hanging On The Telephone
As always E.T needs to phone home to get home.
In order to phone home he needs to locate the pieces of telephone located in various pits around the landscape.
ET's life bar diminishes when he does literally anything (l suppose he just doesn't get on with Earth's atmosphere so this makes sense) so in order to maintain his life bar at an acceptable level he needs to eat Reeces Pieces (American Peanut Butter Candy).
I love Reeces Pieces so this part of the game is a sure fire winner for me!
Once you find all the telephone pieces you will then need to make the call home and haul ass to the spaceship before the timer runs out.
The pesky adversaries who want to halt your progress are a scientist who wants to take you away for observation tests and the FBI want to take back pieces of the phone and candy to stop you in your tracks.
That's the premise for the game and on the face of it, it would seem that it had some potential to be a decent game and the first ever Video Game movie Tie In.
The Clocks Ticking
This is where the problems began.
Atari had paid in the region of $25million to secure the E.T rights and therefore the pressure was on to cash in on the success of the movie and get a return on the $25m investment.
The deal was struck in July 1982 and it was decreed that Howard Scott Kershaw had until September 1982 to complete the game in order to meet Christmas schedule.
The thing is, it was possible but it was going to need to be right first time. The short timescale meant that there was no room for user testing sessions to ascertain whether it was any good or not.
Howard Scott Kershaw made the best game he could in the short time he had and had to get it out there and cross his fingers to cash in on the E.T mania of '82.
Atari were seen as being complacent by allowing this to happen but they were only really interested in the return on the $25m and generally not the gamers.
Cue the backlash!
As I was only around 4 years old at the time I'm not sure whether the backlash was really that bad or whether it has been over hyped over the year; since ET's release.
My own view is the perfect storm that created the video games crash contained E.T and it just so happens it was the most high profile of the games that were sub standard at the time.
Howard never set out to make a game that wasn't polished but that's just how some games turn out.
I think if I was playing video games at the time I would still have played it.
I used to play whatever I could get my hands when I was younger and it didn't matter what it was like I just saw it as a challenge to complete it.
Nowadays everyone is a critic and loves to hype how bad something was and how much of an impact it caused.
I have written previously in this series about the Atari Dig (D) and how it didn't just contain E.T cartridges but many other perceived better games as well.
E.T always seems to consistently make the 'TOP 10 WORST VIDEO GAMES EVER' and I think that is only because it's a high profile flop of a game.
There is definitely 10 crapper games out there than ET!
Funnily enough though, Steven Spielberg reportedly flagged the idea of the E.T game as being crap at its outset and he felt a Pac Man type game would have been better.,....maybe he had a point (you can't argue with Boom Blox guy!)
The bottom line is Atari was being badly run and the market was over saturated with rubbish so lets stop blaming poor old E.T for everything, let's give Howard and the alien a break!
Did You Know?
"In 1984 Softline readers named the game the second-worst Atari video game of 1983. But did you also know it received some positive reviews too such as from an 'The Miami Herald' who described it as 'a difficult game to learn to play, but worth dedicating the time to'
I like Howard Kershaw's take on the whole 'E.T Debacle' and I think it's only right that Howard has the last word.
"People worry I might be sensitive about the ET debacle, but the fact is I'm always happy to discuss it. After all, it was the fastest game ever done, it was a million seller, and of the thousands of 2600 games, how many others are still a topic? Another thing I like to think about is having done ET (consistently rated among the worst games of all time) and Yars' Revenge (consistently rated as one of the best) I figure I have the unique distinction of having the greatest range of any game designer in history."
Howard Scott Warshaw on E. T. 's reception - Taken From Wikipedia