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November 2014 Retro Gaming Article


November 25, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Numerous entrees for “Game Of The Year” won't beat our pick, Star Castle - here's why

Yes, we are familiar with Bayonetta 2, Shovel Knight and Super Smash Bros. All are excellent games, but we like old stuff...

Each year I've watched the Video Game Awards on Spike TV, I've cringed with regret. For all the amazing games and talented developers in this diverse industry, it's hard to imagine how an awards show can be so low-quality. I want it to be a grand celebration of gaming, but all awards shows are fairly awful.

Game of the Year This year, The Game Awards 2014 will be streamed on the web, on Dec. 5, without the involvement of Spike TV. There is a detailed list of award categories on Polygon for those looking to see who was nominated by the group of 28 publications (including Polygon).

Star Castle for Atari 2600
** Game Of The Year 2014 **

Alas, all the hoopla over Best Game, Niftiest Cover Art, and Best Supporting Sprite in a First Person Shooter is all for naught since the clear winner for 2014 is Star Castle for the Atari 2600.

Allow me to elaborate...
Many will declare that Star Castle was never released for the Atari 2600 and that is precisely where our story begins.

Atari programmer Howard Scott Warshaw was tasked to create the arcade hit, Star Castle for the Atari 2600. He concluded that it was not possible to make a viable version of the game on the 2600's limited capabilities. His work did not go to waste, he turned this effort into a new original game, Yar's Revenge (1981). It became a runaway hit!

The following year, Warshaw was tasked with creating a movie tie-in game for E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Atari had rights to create the game, based on the Spielberg flick, and wanted it in time for holiday release. This afforded Warshaw 5 weeks to deliver the game - an impossible goal. But he still delivered it!

The game was not well received and was later labeled the "worst video game ever," which is a ridiculous statement. Anyone who has actually played the game knows it's merely a mediocre title. The manual aided in understanding the goals and there was a glitch or two, but it's not a bad game. However, the Crash of '83 ensued and rumors spawned that ET was to blame for bringing down Atari. It was said that Atari massively overproduced copies of the game and then buried millions of overstock cartridges in a landfill - in 1983. All untrue!

Star Castle for Atari 2600 screenshot In 2013, another former Atari programmer Scott Williamson, took on the challenge to see if he could create Star Castle for Atari 2600 (2013). He did and went beyond simply replicating the game. He designed a very cool translucent interactive game cartridge for it.

In April of 2014 an amalgamation of workers, documentary filmers, journalists, archeologists, and Atari fanatics watched as excavators pulled 30-year-old Atari games out of the Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill. Many different games were un-earthed... including ET. A documentary film was released which vindicated Warshaw as creator of the "worst" game and heaped praise upon his programming skills.

Thus, the failed attempt by Warshaw resulted in the amazing Yar's Revenge and prompted Williamson to code Star Castle while a team prepped to prove the Atari landfill legend and vindicate Warshaw's ET game. Star Castle for Atari 2600 - Game of the Year!

How might social networks have effected Star Castle becoming Yar's Revenge in the 80s?


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