Atari: Game Over (2014)

atari game over poster 2014 documentary
8.0 Overall Score

Fun nostalgia for '80s kids who grew up on Atari and video games

Jumps around a lot with lots of threads

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Atari:  Game Over

Studio:  Fuel Entertainment USA

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  November 20, 2014

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Dead and buried?

In 1983, there was a game so bad that it was buried and hidden from the public.  The video game adaptation of one of the largest movies of all time was a bomb.  No one wanted to play E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and it was widely considered to be one of the worst games of all time.  E.T. proved to be a downfall for Atari, and director Zak Penn tracks and follows Atari’s rise and fall through the urban myth of the buried E.T. game…and intends to dig it up!

Directed by Zak Penn, Atari:  Game Over is part of a larger series of video game documentaries called Signal to Noise.  The documentary got a lot of TV coverage and was relatively well received.


Video gamers…the only ones who would come to a desert dump to potentially see old cartridges

Atari was an integral part of my childhood…and it wasn’t even really mine.  I can remember going to my neighbor’s house and playing his new Atari and loving it.  Years later, we got an Intellivision so Atari was just a rival.  Though Intellivision’s quality was often better, you still longed for the popularity of Atari.

The movie does a nice job outlining how Atari fell from a huge company and it is interesting to see some parallels now with Nintendo which has met struggles.  The urban legend of the mass burial of E.T. was video gaming myth and evidence of this fall…it makes it a great source for exploration as a “goal” for the documentary.


Oh yes, it will be mine!

The only problem with the documentary is that there are way too many threads and in the short length of the documentary, those threads aren’t thoroughly explored.  Howard Scott Warshaw’s inclusion is valid as the game’s designer and Zak Penn includes himself in the story as an active narrator.  Ernest Cline is supposed to represent the everyman fan, but it feels like he is crammed into the movie without enough reason.  A better example of a strong and thorough exploration of gamers is The King of Kong:  A Fistful of Quarters which really shows the gaming side of video games.

The death of video games seems a little less dramatic as it really was to me.  With such a glut of video games, I was able to obtain “new” video games for years and it never felt like video games died.  Atari (and in my part Intellivision) segued into Nintendo.  I know now however that I was getting scraps and gaming was dead.  Watching Atari:  Game Over is a bit sad to see a different look at childhood with clear 20/20 vision of the future.  Atari:  Game Over has its flaws, but it is a great (melancholy) trip into the past.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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