The Good In E.T.

E.T. is hailed as one of the worst games of all time and credited with the downfall of Atari and the entire video gaming world of the 80s. My first experience with E.T. was hearing about it from the game show X-Play. They told me that it was the worst game ever. It was so bad that it had to be buried in a landfill in New Mexico and then covered in cement. It turns out that this interesting little tidbit is actually true; Atari did bury many game cartridges in the desert. However, by simply dismissing E.T. as a failure we do ourselves a disservice. We may be accepting the common wisdom concerning this game almost as if by osmosis, without taking the time to see it as anything else but bad. After all, history is not all black and white.

We have to go back to 1982, the year the game was produced. It was a golden time for Atari, and there was a push to get a game based on the E.T movie out to the public for Christmas. So a man named Howard Warshaw was tasked with getting the game made. He had five weeks. Usually, any game that came out for the Atari could take six months.

The game was finished and thrown out into the world where it flopped. Even today, people credit the game with being the worst of all time, but I want to take this opportunity to dissipate some of the negative opinions that surround it.The people behind this game took risks to make it unique, interesting, and fun, so let’s go over some of its good points.

One could say that E.T. is the predecessor of procedurally generated worlds. With its randomized item spawn you can play the game and have it turn out many different ways.  This adds up to a high replay value. At a time when games had the same layout each time you played, this made E.T. stand out.

The enemies in the game are horrifying. You play as E.T., a harmless alien searching for three pieces of a space phone so he can “phone home” and out of nowhere, bam! Here comes the scientist or the detective, eager to catch you. If you are playing the game for the first time, you might think that both enemies come after you on sight, but not so! The detective comes specifically after the phone pieces while the scientist has another objective entirely: he wants to drag the alien to his laboratory.

Finally I want to point out the world design. The layout of the map encourages exploration and curiosity.  While the player could use an ability to find the phone pieces, there is still a need to explore the map. Your mind becomes curious as to what’s next.

It’s not that this is the best game ever, a ten out of ten, but the game had some interesting ideas. It could be that because we hated it to death we have also played a part in it staying bad.  Maybe if we would have given it a chance we could have seen a better game made in the future.  There are even some people who have tried to fix the game and websites made by people who say they love the E.T. game.

So we decided to focus on the bad instead of the good. We put this game into a pit so deep that instead of learning anything from it we buried it all together. “There is nothing good about this game,” we tell ourselves while not realizing that we are part of the problem. But by this unrelenting hatred of a product that is not as bad as we say it is,  we do a lot of damage to our community.

First, we hurt the person who made the game. Have you ever thought that that E.T was made by someone and that he worked hard to get this project out? We love to be the Simon Cowells of gaming and raise our snooty noses thinking we are better, but in reality many of us couldn’t even make a better game if we tried.

This unqualified hate hinders any sort of progress because we don’t think about the game as anything other than a failure. Instead, you have to understand why you hate it and how not to do that in the future. We don’t ask how the game could have been better or maybe how we should look at it as an example to not repeat. At this point, it’s not about the game being bad, it’s about feeling better about ourselves; we are being bullies. Our modern day games are at times no better. That’s right I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that was so bugged out it made people quit pre-ordering games. The difference in our day is that we have  easier access to the developers so that even when a game comes out glitchy, the developers have the chance to say, “Oops! That’s ok. We’ll fix it later.” So let’s keep these things in mind the next time we look to judge E.T.

The Life Lesson

Don’t judge anything too quickly. Try to get more points of view on something before you decide it should be cast away forever. Of course, sometimes we have to make quick judgments given the scenario, but make sure you don’t jump in the bandwagon and claim something to be the worst in the world if you only heard that from word of mouth. It is not the amount of people who agree with something that makes it write or wrong. Decide for yourself and remember hate is something you choose to do.

About The Author


Related Posts