Howard Scott Warshaw, programmer of Atari E.T. mentions AVGN: The Movie

James / January 24th, 2012

Howard Scott Warshaw made some of the most well known Atari 2600 games such as Yars Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the infamous E.T. He is also the director of the documentary Once Upon Atari which you can find on his site. Lately, there’s been some news concerning him with AVGN: The Movie. I’ve been waiting to tell you all about it, but it’s better to hear it from the man himself. He wrote an article which was published recently in issue #116 of GamesTM magazine on page 132. I think it says it all. Give it a read!

UPDATE: Just to be clear, it’s not 100% locked and confirmed yet, but we have a scene for him. We’ve spoken about it. He likes it. So stay tuned.


Ha! You’ll never live /that/ down.” This is a phrase usually associated with pub crawls, panty raids (if anyone still knows what those are) or the best intentioned public moments gone horribly awry. We all have one or two. Remarkable nights of debauchery, stunning flashes of stupidity and the occasional confusion between thinking and saying. That’s the stuff of which Never Live That Down moments are made. Oh yes, and there is one other category that appears to fit the bill: video games.

The funny thing about Never Live That Down moments is how they evaporate into the ether quicker than we ever thought possible. Not mine though. I made E.T. for the Atari VCS. Whatever one might say about that game and the dubious circumstances surrounding it (most of which has already been said several times over 30 years), one salient fact remains crystal clear to me: I will never live it down. How do I know this? Simple. They sent me the script.

Over the years there have been many allusions to and discussions of the great Alamogordo, New Mexico dump site and its substrata of E.T. game cartridges. There have been reports, songs, investigations, articles, YouTube videos, infrared analysis, folk lore/mythology and literally hundreds of interviews on this subject. The New York Times, Snopes, Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia, IGN and uncountable forums and blogs opine about it. All this activity principally comes down to ‘Is it true? Are there millions of your game cartridges buried in the desert?’ I’ve been hearing, speaking, reading, seeing and joking about this for nearly three decades. But just when you think there couldn’t possibly be anything new to say about the E.T. fiasco, someone comes along with something new to say about it.

This time, that someone is James Rolfe of CineMassacre Productions (creators of the Angry Video Game Nerd video series). He and his cohorts are putting together a movie about the E.T.-carts-buried-in-the-desert controversy ( and, as I said before, they sent me the script.

Why did they send me the script? Well, it turns out I’m actually IN the movie. So they figured since I’m a real person and I’m in the movie and I’m actually me and they wanted to use me as me in the actual movie and I didn’t even know yet that I was me in the movie although I did know I was me but I didn’t know I was in the movie, they had better let me know that I was in the movie as me and let me see if after I knew I was me playing me in the movie that I would be okay with being me in the movie as myself now that I knew there was actually a movie with me in it. Maybe that’s too much legalese, but that’s what movies are all about.

I read the script. I’m not issuing any spoiler alerts here because I’m not issuing any spoilers, but I do have to say one thing: this is the freshest take I’ve heard on the subject in 30 years, and I’ve heard a LOT of takes on this subject. After all these years, someone surprises me with a script that redefines my relationship with E.T. Astounding!

This reassures me I will never live E.T. down. I don’t regret it. I enjoy its infamy. Between E.T. and Yars’ Revenge, I have the greatest range of any game designer in history. I still get a kick knowing I made the worst game of all time and it feels cool to be powerful enough to have brought a billion dollar industry to its knees with just 8K of 6502 assembly code. People frequently ask me: How can you be so happy knowing you made the worst game of all time? I tell them it’s merely pragmatism. I’ll never live it down so I might as well live it up.


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