Atari Poop – Top 5 Reasons E.T. 2600 Was Better Than the Movie
Just so you know, everything you think about this game is wrong. It’s not the worst game ever made. In fact, it’s even better than the movie it’s based on. Here’s how:
5 – Better Commercials and Trailers
When E.T. came out in theatres, it had a trailer. Here’s what it looked like:
The main message conveyed by that trailer is “the.” Wow, was that painful. E.T. is about any word that can conceivably be placed after “the.” I can’t remember ever having seen a more pointlessly long trailer, yet it still manages, despite its length, to tell us absolutely nothing about itself. I’m surprised the film managed to break box office records when this is what was made to entice people to pay money to see it. If I hadn’t been 17 months old at the time, I would’ve spent my money on something else.
On the other side, we have these two commercials that were made for the E.T. video game released just in time for xmas 1982. This first one is absolutely brilliant.
First of all, it’s only 30 seconds long, but it manages to do so much. You get the classic scene of Elliott rolling the ball reenacted, but instead of getting the ball back, the kid gets a game thrown to his feet: E.T. for the Atari. His mom sets it up and the kid starts playing. As we see some gameplay footage, the narrator tells us we need to help E.T. get back home. JUST LIKE ELLIOTT DOES IN THE MOVIE! OMG MOM DAD I NEED THIS GAME FOR CHRISTMAS!
The ad then does something I’ve never seen done before or since: it shows us the end of the game. We literally see E.T. getting hauled back up to his ship. Immediately after this, the camera cuts to the kid with his mom as he says “Bye E.T.” Wait, or does he say “Buy E.T.”? Fucking brilliant!
So here we have a very holiday-themed commercial and holy shit, it all makes sense now. Santa Claus is an alien. To be more specific, he’s E.T. This explains how he’s able to visit every child in the world in a single night: alien technology! Anyway, Santa E.T. shows up to this house, opens up his own video game, and starts playing as two kids come down the stairs. Imagine yourself finding not only Santa Claus, but the main character from your favourite movie sitting in your dad’s La-Z-Boy on Christmas morning, playing a brand new video game on your most beloved console. This would be the greatest moment of your life, and you better believe this commercial had tonnes of kids bugging the crap out of their parents to make sure they’ll be able to experience the same joy the kids in this commercial did.
There is no doubt, that when it came to its advertisements and trailer, the video game is the clear winner.
4 – Walkie-talkies, a Bathtub Scene, and Harrison Ford
Some of you are likely already aware that Stephen Spielberg had some changes made to his classic movie for its 20th anniversary edition. Among these was the now infamous removal of the federal agents’ shotguns. As you can see in the image above, they were replaced by walkie-talkies. The anniversary edition also had an extra scene, one where E.T. takes a bubble bath for some reason. Finally, out there, somewhere, is a scene where Harrison Ford plays Elliott’s headmaster (what is this, England?). The scene has never been released, and while Spielberg now says he regrets having modified the original film and has stated all subsequent releases (like the 30th anniversary edition from 2012) will remain identical to the original, you never know if he won’t just wake up one morning and decide to put all that crap back in, while also CGIing E.T. into a Care Bear so he doesn’t look so scary for the children.
As for the video game, never, ever will Stephen Spielberg’s grubby little hands make their way to it to modify, edit, censor, alter, or change anything. Not a single byte! I don’t know who got the idiotic idea first, Spielberg or his good buddy George Lucas, but changing a classic movie usually has one of two results: absolutely everybody hates the changes or almost everybody hates the changes. Luckily, love it or hate it, E.T. for the 2600 will be what it’s always been, which is…
3 – E.T. 2600 Was One of the Most Groundbreaking Games of All Time
I’m serious… well, mostly.
First, Spielberg’s flick is by no means a pice of crap. It’s a good film. It broke box office records for some reason. There were much better films made before it, and hell, there were much better films released that same year (Blade Runner, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Grease 2 anyone?) Regardless of how much you like or don’t like it, you have to admit that the movie isn’t exactly what you would call groundbreaking. Alien movies had been done, and even Spielberg himself had already made a “benevolent aliens” movie before (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Star Wars had better special effects and everything Jim Henson made had better looking puppets and better puppeteering.
Meanwhile, the 2600 had a few groundbreaking games. Adventure came out in 1979 and was the first game to feature the ability to carry multiple items and is considered the first action-adventure game on a console. Pitfall! came out a few months before E.T., and while it doesn’t have items exactly, it did make the player explore a large area to collect objects. So, from Adventure to E.T., only Pitfall! seems to have taken up the action/adventure torch until E.T. arrives.
But then E.T. arrives and brings something completely new. In a strange way, it’s almost like E.T. combines the best elements of both those games. You have to scour multiple areas to find all the pieces necessary to put together the interplanetary phone. As well, Reese’s Pieces can also be found here and there throughout the game. They act not only as a means to replenish E.T.’s health, but also, when 9 of them are collected, as a bonus item, allowing you to call Elliott who will hand deliver one of the phone pieces to you.
This combination of the elements already present in Adventure and Pitfall! is an important part of the history of video games because of the place it holds in the evolution of video games. Without it, you can just forget about Metroid, Zelda, Castlevania, Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, and many more. If you like any of those series, you are forced to appreciate E.T. If not for it, all we’d have today without E.T. is sports, racing, fighting, and puzzle games; or, in other words, the four worst genres.
This is all the more impressive when you consider that the game was made, start to finish, in 5 and a half weeks. That’s all that was given to Howard Scott Warshaw, the game’s designer. For comparison, David Crane, the guy behind Pitfall!, said that he had developed the technology for an animated sprite (a running man) back in 1979. He also spent about 1000 hours programming the game. Warshaw also said that two of his previous games, Yar’s Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Arc, took 4 to 5 and 6 to 7 months, respectively. The whole thing just seems like some kind of crazy proto-Ludum Dare. Think about this the next time you want to call E.T. the worst video game ever made. Oh, and about that, here’s why everyone hated it when it came out…
2 – E.T. 2600 Might Be the Most “Ahead of Its Time” Video Games Ever Made
Have you seen the Miiverse reactions of the kids playing games like Super Metroid on the Wii U? For me, every person who says E.T. is a terrible game falls into one of two categories: the people who have heard nothing but “E.T. is the worst game ever” their whole lives and believe it without having thought much about it, often without having even played it; and the people who played it when it came out. The latter of the two groups reminds me of today’s young gamers playing Super Metroid. They don’t get Super Metroid. It doesn’t tell them what to do. It doesn’t hold their hand. It frustrates them. If not for the Internet providing them help, I’m sure the vast majority of them would quit the game, never play it again, and declare it terrible. This is what happened to E.T. and it has ruined its potential ever since.
Looked at more objectively, E.T. isn’t that much different from a game like Zelda or Metroid. You start the game by finding yourself alone in some form of area, not exactly sure what to do, who is friend, who is foe, or where to go. I know quite a few people who dislike the early Zelda and Metroid games for precisely this reason. It makes the game “too hard” and “too confusing.” This is certainly how I felt when I first played E.T. several years after it came out, likely as a 4 or 5 year old.
For the older folks who did play it when it came out, it was certainly a game the likes of which they’d never seen before. They didn’t really know how to play it, and how could they? Combined with the fact that the game wasn’t simply a clone of a previous game (which is what was suggested to the game’s creator), a perfect reenactment of the entire movie (which would also have been terribly boring), or something that would’ve looked like a game that has nothing to do with the movie that had E.T. shoehorned into it simply to cash in on the character’s popularity, they never stood a chance of understanding it at first.
1 – Howard Scott Warshaw’s Beard Kicks Stephen Spielberg’s Beard’s Ass
Seriously. Just look at that picture. No, I mean really look at it. I shouldn’t have to write anything to back up the title statement if you really looked at that picture. With that beard, the E.T. video game wins hands down.
Well, that’s it. The last Atari Poop. It’s been weird. I’d like to thank Eric and Andrew for making the mistake of choosing me to be a contributor. I don’t think they knew what they were in for, especially since I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
If you read Atari Poop, thank y… I mean, what’s wrong with you? I’m being serious. Have you even read this stuff? Sadly, those comments will eliminate my absolute favourite kind of reader. I never understood how anyone could possibly read anything I wrote and think that I was serious, but it’s happened repeatedly in all sorts of places like Reddit, Facebook, AtariAge, etc. I love those people. They made writing this stuff totally worth it.
Speaking of AtariAge, I don’t think there’s even a single article I could’ve written without that site. It’s like Wikipedia for everything Atari, not to mention the forum community and homebrew scene there.
If for some bizarre reason you feel you’re going to miss reading this stuff, you’ll be pleased to hear I’m not going away permanently. Daniel Lamplugh (@thedancingpanda) and I are working on a feature we hope to launch here in the next month or two. Don’t worry though, it won’t be stupid like Atari Poop. If everything goes according to plan, it should end up being infinitely more stupid. Trust me. I’m a librarian.