Adaptation and new media

Establishing the video game as an adaptive medium

Authored by: Dawn Stobbart

The Routledge Companion To Adaptation

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138915404
eBook ISBN: 9781315690254
Adobe ISBN:


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On 26 April 2014, at a landfill site in New Mexico, thousands of copies of the 1983 video game ET were found, games that had been buried by Atari after its economic and critical failure. Made and released in just six weeks, the game was intended to be, according to makers Atari, “emotionally oriented” and “based on the film’s sentimentality for the alien” (Guins 2014: 216). As an adaptation of one of the highest grossing films of 1982, it was an attempt to build on its success, but players quickly discovered that it had no ludic or narrative depth, that the graphics were inferior (even by 1983 standards), and began returning the game to retailers in droves. As the flaws became manifest, Atari buried the games in a secret location, which quickly became urban myth, until a documentary crew rediscovered it over thirty years later. ET cost Atari approximately twenty million dollars for the license alone, and its failure helped bring about the company’s subsequent demise; it has since gone on to be described as “the worst game ever” (Guins 2014: 217).

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