I was browsing ThinkGeek a few weeks back to see if they had added anything new that I would consider a mandatory geek purchase, and I ran across a DVD called Once Upon Atari. It sounded interesting enough, and like many of you, I grew up saving my money for, begging my parents for, and playing Atari video games. And anything that purports to increase my knowledge and understanding of my formative gaming years is certainly worth $29.95. Since I owned over 100 Atari 2600 cartridges back in the day, I ordered it.
The DVD was created by Howard Scott Warshaw (Yar’s Revenge) and consists of about two hours of interviews with many original Atari 2600 game developers. You’ll hear from people like Larry Kaplan (Kaboom!), Rob Fulop (Missile Command), Tod Frye (Pac-Man), and Atari co-founder, Nolan Bushnell. The four video segments are mostly “talking head” interviews interspersed with short game clips and the occasional nostalgic photo. If you’re interested in learning about the Atari culture and how it turned out video games, you’ll likely be extremely satisfied.
You’ll learn about the hot tub, the sprinkler lobotomy, the flying frog, the recreational drug use, walking on walls, and a whole lot more. It’s obvious that these individuals were given a lot of freedom and responsibility at a relatively young age, and it’s interesting to hear them reminisce about their experiences at the company. Although I’ve only been with Microsoft for about 4 1/2 years now, a lot of the passion, the creative energy, and the thinking-outside-the-box mentality reminds me of our corporate culture. Too often we’re obsessed by how “the other guys” are doing things, but we quickly forget that the other guys are obsessing about how we do things. We didn’t get where we are by being like the other guys, and this DVD reminded me of that.