By Juan Carlos Llorca, AP
ALAMOGORDO, New Mexico–A documentary film production company has found buried in a New Mexico landfill hundreds of the Atari “E.T.” game cartridges that some call the worst video game ever made. Film director Zak Penn showed one “E.T.” cartridge retrieved from the site and said that hundreds more were found in the mounds of trash and dirt scooped by a backhoe.
About 200 residents and game enthusiasts gathered early Saturday in southeastern New Mexico to watch backhoes and bulldozers dig through the concrete-covered landfill in search of up to a million discarded copies of “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” that the game’s maker wanted to hide forever.
“I feel pretty relieved and psyched that they actually got to see something,” said Penn as members of the production team sifted through the mounds of trash, pulling out boxes, games and other Atari products.
Most of the crowd left the landfill before the discovery, turned away by strong winds that kicked up massive clouds of dust mingled with garbage. By the time the games were found, only a few dozen people remained. Some were playing the infamous game in a make-shift gaming den with a TV and an 1980s game console in the back of a van, while others took selfies beside a life-size E.T. doll inside a DeLorean car like the one that was turned into a time machine in the “Back To The Future” movies.
Among the watchers was Armando Ortega, a city official who back in 1983 got a tip from a landfill employee about the massive dump of games.
“It was pitch dark here that night, but we came with our flashlights and found dozens of games,” he said. They braved the darkness, coyotes and snakes of the desert landfill and had to sneak past the security guard. But it paid off.
He says they found dozens of crushed cartridges that they took home and were still playable in their game consoles.
The game and its contribution to the demise of Atari have been the source of fascination for video game enthusiasts for 30 years. The search for the cartridges will be featured in an upcoming documentary about the biggest video game company of the early ’80s.