Remembering a Giant: Atari
For anyone keeping their ears to the ground, or eyes on the internet, US-based Atari operations are filing for relief under chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code in order to separate from their French parent company. Atari S.A. Atari, which some may be surprised to learn is still in operation, is broke.
Established in 1972, Atari may seem like an old man muttering in the corner about how things used to be. With good reason; the release of their first console, the ineffable Atari 2600, was in 1977. For those not inclined to do math, that is over 35 years ago at this point, making it nearly a decade older than the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from 1985 (for the American release). Atari has an uncertain future as court proceedings commence and assets are sold off. In the meantime, it is easy enough to cannibalize information from the plethora of other news outlets which have already covered this story, such as here, here, or here, and even all the way over there. So instead, let us respect our elders and remember some of the greatest and most beloved games brought to us by Atari (in no particular order).
Pong. Yes, that Pong. It pretty much started Atari and the entire video game industry. Nothing more needs to be said. Oh, wait, one thing. Bow before thy master.
- Space Invaders, developed by Tomohiro Nishikado, is of particular note. It’s an incredibly memorable game and is considered to be the first “killer app” for a video game console. Supposedly, Space Invaders was popular enough in Japan to have caused a shortage of 100-yen coins because of its popularity in arcades. On the other side of the coin, the Atari 2600 was the only home console with Space Invaders in its catalog which had a hand in vastly increasing the sales of the 2600. Furthermore, it was the first video game to really capture the attention of the masses in America, leading to merchandising and the formation of fan clubs. One other interesting fact is that the difficulty curve, something we take for granted, was actually created by Nishikado because the whopping 2 MHz max clock speed of the Intel 8080 was bogged down by all of the aliens on the screen in the beginning. As aliens were killed, the game sped up, making it much more thrilling.
Missile Command placed the player on the wrong side of an endless supply of ICBMs. The goal of the player was to protect their bases/cities for as long as possible by shooting down the incoming missiles. Similar to many other titles at the time, there was no win condition, so the players inevitably had to watch their destruction as more and more missiles rained upon them. Also, it has glorious box-art and was shown in the arcade in Terminator 2. If Missile Command is good enough for the leader of the human resistance, it is good enough for you.
Gauntlet, a favorite of mine, allowed four players to huddle uncomfortably around one arcade cabinet as they each took control over one of the four main characters: Merlin the Wizard, Questor the Elf, Thor the Warrior, and Thyra the Valkyrie. The goal was to work together to navigate through the maze-like dungeons as they became increasingly difficult at higher levels. Oh, and don’t forget about such lovely voice-overs as these (starts at 2:50).
For fear of rambling on and on while filling up the server with screenshots of games 20+ years old, let us do something creative and list some of the other titles deserving of a mention. Ready, set, go; Paperboy, Breakout, Adventure, Asteroids, Tempest, Centipede, Pitfall, Ms. Pacman, Kaboom!, Combat, Frogger, Dig Dug, Pole Position, Q*bert and a super-special mention for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, widely considered to be the worst game of all time. Obviously, with over forty years of history, I am sure I missed many noteworthy titles which leaves it in your hands, dear reader; what games did I miss and why should we remember them?