Growing up in the 80s there was one name that stuck out, Atari. The 2600 brought gaming to the masses and introduced many to computing. However after burning so brightly Atari all but vanished by the mid- 80s. As a kid growing up in England I never heard of the computer games crash in America. In Britain the microcomputing industry was booming with the Spectrum, Amiga, Amstrad and BBC Micro doing very well, the 80s were an incredibly fruitful time for home computing. It was only as I got older that my friends and I were told about the worst game ever which apparently had caused Atari, the gaming juggernaut to die. Legends were spread around the schoolyard about how E.T. was dropped off into a pit in the Nevada Desert. As time went by this grew into mythical proportions and soon became legend, with people proclaiming many million E.T. carts dumped.
Game Over explores the E.T. game legend and looks to find the truth behind the mystery. What emerges is a fascinating social anthropological piece about the evolution of a new technology and markets that no-one understood. There was excess and demand which culminated in Howard Scott Warshaw, the programmer on E.T, assigned to complete the game within 5 weeks, in time for Christmas. Warshaw was an Atari legend, having designed Yars' Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark, both of which were instant classics which sold more than a million games each. He left the industry, disenchanted and ridiculed. It is hard not to empathise with Warshaw as he describes how he fell from grace so spectacularly.
The moment the dig starts and they find the carts is wonderful, the game designer is surrounded by hundreds of gamers and he poses happily together for this momentous occasion, it seems like a moment of redemption.
The film is quick and well paced at just under 70 minutes and I was impressed with the way the story unfolded, like an Indiana Jones story to find the dig location then the actual digging to the conclusion where the games are found and the game designer is able to let go of a dark part of his history. Fans of documentaries will love this and as a gamer I feel happier for having watched it. That's another mystery done... Now let's find out why Bubsy was ever released!