How Obsessed Fans Finally Exhumed Atari’s Secret Game Graveyard

How Obsessed Fans Finally Exhumed Atari’s Secret Game Graveyard

ALAMOGORDO, New Mexico — A strong wind blew out of the south all day, carrying sand and decades of long-buried refuse that had refused to decompose in the arid New Mexico desert. It blew into our faces, covering us with fine red dust and the stench of garbage dump methane.

It was the most fun I’d ever had in a landfill.

We’d come here, to a town about 50 miles outside Las Cruces, with the hope of literally digging up some gaming history. Atari, legend holds, buried thousands upon thousands of new videogame cartridges here after the market tanked in 1983. Over time, the facts of the matter had been blurred as people came to believe they were all copies of E.T., the mega-flop Atari 2600 game based on the 1982 hit movie.

When I tweeted that I was headed to Alamogordo to witness an attempt at digging up Atari’s trash, many replied with something along the lines of, “Uh, didn’t they pour concrete over them? How are you planning on getting to them?”

As romantic as the idea of me trudging into a landfill with only a shovel and a dream might sound, I would not be doing any digging. The massive operation was begun by Fuel Entertainment, a documentary film production company that had been researching the story for years. Microsoft picked up the project under its recent initiative to create original video content for Xbox and tapped Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk) to direct the film. Titled Atari: Game Over, the documentary about Atari’s precipitous crash in 1983 is slated for release via the Xbox 360 and Xbox One game consoles’ video services later this year.

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