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  • Okay, so let's...

  • let's just put it on the table, here, okay?

  • E.T. is frequently cited as one of the worst video games in history.

  • I got to read a magazine that said that my game

  • was single-handedly responsible for the crash of the video game industry in the early 80s.

  • (laughing)

  • That's a good one.

  • People are reticent to ask me about it.

  • They think I'm very sensitive about it, you know,

  • "Oh my God, you did the worst game of all time, you know.

  • Don't you wanna hide?"

  • And it's like, no.

  • (Narrator) Howard Scott Warshaw.

  • He was a video game programmer for Atari in the early 80s.

  • He made some of the most beloved games for the Atari 2600.

  • [Howard] I made Yars' Revenge, then I followed that with

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have had two

  • very successful games, both million sellers.

  • I truly believed that everything I touched, hopefully, was gonna

  • turn to gold because I was gonna put everything I had into it.

  • [Narrator] One fateful day, Howard received a call from the

  • CEO of Atari, asking him if he wanted to take on their

  • highest profile game ever, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

  • [Howard] And I said, "We definitely can do that."

  • [Narrator] But, there was one major caveat.

  • [Howard] It had to be something that related to the movie,

  • and it had to be doable in five weeks.

  • I mean, I had five weeks to do the game.

  • So I was working all the time.

  • (digital beeping) (upbeat music)

  • E.T. was gonna be a basic puzzle game

  • with some challenges that you run around to solve,

  • and if I redistribute the pieces among enough different,

  • random places, it makes a fresh challenge each time around and

  • bingo!

  • [Narrator] When it was released, E.T. was an immediate

  • success, selling over a million copies.

  • But a few months later, things started to turn.

  • [Howard] Retailers are starting to find that the game is not

  • moving, it's coming back, a lot of people are

  • disappointed with it.

  • [Narrator] Because of the poor planning and tight production

  • schedule, Howard failed to catch

  • a fundamental flaw in the game's design.

  • [Howard] There are too many times where you make a move,

  • you do something, and suddenly you wind up somewhere else.

  • Now, suddenly you're somewhere else,

  • and there's too many places in E.T. where the user

  • is disoriented, and that's a sin of which I am guilty,

  • and I have been serving penance.

  • [Narrator] Shortly after E.T.'s release,

  • the video game crash was in full swing.

  • Disappointing sales and mismanagement

  • forced Atari to restructure.

  • [Howard] And in the next couple of months,

  • Atari went from 10,000 employees to 2,000 employees.

  • [Narrator] During the turmoil,

  • Howard left the gaming industry for good.

  • He didn't think much about E.T. until nearly a decade later.

  • [Howard] Well, by the early 90s,

  • people started coming out with what a bad game E.T. was.

  • I was just kinda surprised anybody was actually even talking about it.

  • Good afternoon, some of those E.T. Atari games

  • unearthed at a New Mexico landfill are now up for sale.

  • Beaten up cartridges on eBay are going for hundreds of dollars a piece.

  • So we had a poll online,

  • Yeah.

  • Where fans could choose what game they wanted to see you

  • - play. -OK.

  • They chose this.

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

  • Even 30 years later, this obscure thing

  • that I did so long ago in just five weeks...

  • it's still generating excitement, enthusiasm.

  • I get emotional just talking about it now.

  • Because I just felt I was at the center of something

  • that is still meaningful.

  • And that is a huge success.

  • So when people ask me, you know, "Was E.T. a failure?"

  • I don't mind when people call it that,

  • but it'll never, it'll never be a failure to me.

  • (cheerful music)

Okay, so let's...

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Creating the Worst Video Game of All Time

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/03/17
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