Saturday, May 9, 2015

Atari: The Awesome Factory of Creativity and Fun

I just finished watching the documentary Atari: Game Over on Showtime On Demand.  I highly recommend it. I was completely caught up in the journey of the filmmaker's quest to unearth millions of game cartridges of the ill-fated Atari E.T. game from a landfill in New Mexico.  But the film really comes to be about the story of the people at Atari and Activision, who created all the games for the Atari 2600 videogame console.  The 2600 was the first widely successful home videogame system, and as the documentary rightly says, was the real introduction of home computers to American households.

The 2600 and all its wonderful games seemed to disappear as quickly they appeared in the early 1980's.  But as a kid growing up at that time, our Atari and all our games provided countless hours of fun.  They also sparked my imagination, and were an important part of helping me become the creative person I was meant to be.  

In the film, the emotional journey of Atari game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, who designed the games Yar's Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark (which took me a long time to figure out how to play!), and the now-infamous E.T. game is particularly compelling.  And I was surprised to discover that in a field heavily dominated by men, my favorite game of all time, River Raid by Activision, was designed by the talented game designer Carol Shaw.

One of my happiest memories from my childhood is my Grammy Soucy playing Activision's game Freeway, in which you try to get a chicken safely across a busy 10-line highway.  I can still hear her giggle and laugh, as her digital chicken kept getting bumped back by cars and trucks speeding across the TV screen, like it was just yesterday.

Thank you, Carol Shaw, Howard Scott Warshaw, and everyone at Atari and Activision for giving me, my sister, and my whole family so many hours and hours of fun back in the day.  And for helping a creative kid from a small town in Maine realize that he could make cool stuff that would be fun for people, too.  

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