High Score (2020) s01e01 Episode Script

Boom & Bust

[man] There's a lot of different ways
to look at what a video game is.
As a game designer, it's not about
what I'm putting on the screen
and it's not about what's in my design.
It's about what's going on
in the head of the player.
We were pioneering a new medium.
We're taking the TV, which has been
a traditionally passive medium,
and turning it into an active medium.
That's a huge thing to do.
It was thrilling,
and it was terrifying.
And I was into it.
But it wouldn't be fair to not discuss
that I made the worst game of all time.
[dramatic music playing]
Some people say
that it was the thing
that destroyed the video game industry.
That wasn’t what I was going for
when I was designing it, by the way.
[narrator] Some revolutions
come out of nowhere.
And this one happened almost by accident.
Long before the internet or cell phones,
when computers were prehistoric.
But a handful of visionaries used them
to reimagine the world.
[man in Japanese] When I was little
War of the Worlds by author H.G. Wells
was very popular.
So having grown up seeing that,
I thought that aliens
were octopuses.
I'd look up at the night sky
and wonder whether aliens may come
and attack us.
That's why we used octopus as
the biggest enemy in Space Invaders.
My name is Tomohiro Nishikado,
I made Space Invaders.
[narrator in English] Back in the early
days, video games seemed kind of
-[electronic beeps]
-[Nishikado] Ta-da!
[narrator] like magic.
[in Japanese] Yes.
This is called a Magic Hat.
There's nothing there now.
If you show magic tricks,
people will enjoy watching it.
Now a sushi.
It's the same with games.
Then a flower.
If you make a good game,
people will enjoy playing it.
Now a ball pops up.
[narrator in English] Nishikado performed
his greatest magic trick
in 1978
when he created
Space Invaders,
Japan's first arcade blockbuster.
And it was such a success
that many game centers
were simply known as "invader houses."
[reporter] Space Invaders got so big
in Japan that, for a while,
the Japanese government had to declare
a shortage of 100 yen coins.
[narrator] And it all sparked
when Nishikado hit a wall.
[in Japanese] For the invader game,
I was inspired by Atari's Break Out game.
It was a game that made you want
to play it again and again.
It was amazing.
I thought to myself
how can I make this into a new game?
We thought maybe
a battle-based game would be good.
Initially we considered tanks,
planes, ships,
and then we considered various targets.
But the game didn't really click,
and I wasn't convinced.
So we tried it with soldiers.
And it was great fun.
But people shouldn't be shot.
About the same time, in the US,
there was talk of Star Wars coming out.
So we decided to go with
something like a droid,
which moves like a human
but isn't a human.
That decision ultimately became
Space Invaders.
It's already falling apart,
so I'll go through it slowly.
These are the original characters
that I sketched.
I drew a monster like an octopus.
Breaking this down into bits
gives you this.
So then I thought about the squid
as another sea creature,
and here it is drawn out in bits.
Then there's a crab,
although it looks a bit weird.
This is a UFO
and this is the bit-version of the UFO.
Programming is not done
via this method nowadays
but it used to be.
[narrator in English] The programming,
the concept, the characters
Nishikado pretty much did it all.
And it caught the eye
of American gaming giant
I'd like an Atari 2600 system, please?
If you haven't heard of Atari,
don't worry, we'll get to it later.
All you need to know for now is that
they transformed the arcade hit
into the first ever cartridge bundle
and it quadrupled sales
of their home console.
We got an Atari video game.
We especially like Space Invaders.
It's fun!
Fun, but really hard.
[Nishikado in Japanese]
I have the skills to clear level one,
but not level two, rather embarrassingly!
There are people that are almost
super-humanly good at it.
It's amazing watching them play.
[woman in English]
When Space Invaders came out,
it was the hottest game out there
because it was one of the first games
out there that had strategy.
And as long as you can maintain
that strategy,
you could get a very high score.
It was all about patterns.
There's six rows of aliens.
When you see the first one firing,
then you have a good idea
who's going to be the next one firing.
And then go ahead and slaughter them all.
Those are the tricks you learn
in order to get an edge.
I'm Rebecca Ann Heineman.
My friends call me Becky.
My enemies call me Rebecca.
I got into the industry by playing
in the Atari National Video Game
Championship in 1980.
[narrator] 1980.
That was well before this.
This battle's about to explode!
[narrator] Esports.
Back then, there was no such thing
as video game leagues,
pro players, or spectators.
So where did it all start?
Where most teens in the '80s
would hang out
at the mall.
Isn't that cute?
That's where
the LA regional qualifiers were held
for the very first
national video game tournament.
This was the very first time
I'd ever heard about a video game contest.
And it makes sense
because it was the first one ever.
So when the Space Invaders Regionals
came to LA,
I went in there
and I just paid my one dollar,
all right here's a joystick
here's the game
let's go!
When I played video games
back in the '80s,
I never believed
I was actually any good at the game
or that I had any real skill,
but it allowed me to be myself.
It allowed me to play as a female.
I've always identified as a woman.
Unfortunately, my anatomy didn't agree.
So when I played video games, I was
in this virtual world
where I was mowing down rows of aliens
and ignoring the world around me.
It was the only place
that I was able to find solace and peace.
So at the Regionals, I'm playing
and playing and playing,
and finally the aliens landed on me.
"Oh, crap, they got me.
Is that a good score?"
I had no idea what to expect.
They then announced third place.
Second place.
And then eventually, the announcer said,
"Heineman is the winner!
You get an all-expense paid trip
to New York City to play in the finals."
[narrator] There's a reason why
Space Invaders
was the perfect game
to play in a tournament.
The high score.
[in Japanese] If you see the high score,
it encourages people to want to beat
those scores and do better.
It's what's called a "replay appeal."
So we featured the high scores
for the first time.
[narrator in English] The high score.
It's what drives us to play
and play and play again.
It's what gets us so immersed,
so engaged,
that we forget the world around us.
And it turns out
that this state has a name
It was discovered by this man,
Hungarian-American psychologist
Mihaly [mumbling]
So what exactly is flow?
Athletes get it,
musicians get it,
and even gamers get it.
Why? Because
it needs to be a fun activity,
with the right amount of challenges,
a clear set of rules,
with concrete goals and outcomes,
an effortless yet intense practice,
that pushes your skills to the limit,
so you simply
lose track of time.
Basically, you're in the zone.
[in Japanese] Today, I'd like
to show you the magic trick
I used to do when I was little.
It's a bit of a childish trick
but I wanted you to see it.
So firstly, here is a 100 yen coin.
I'll make this go through
the top of the table.
For me, one of my aims when making a game
is that it's simple.
And to get people to spend
as many 100 yen coins as possible.
[narrator in English] And it turns out
that his simple idea was big money.
[Nishikado in Japanese] About four months
after the release of Space Invaders
I went to a head office this one time
and saw a truck collecting money.
I saw how the back of it was low down
with bags of money being unloaded from it
sinking into the ground.
That's when I got a feel
of how much money was being made.
It's now under the table.
It's a simple trick.
[reporter in English] Space Invaders
prompted a video game revolution
in the United States,
as more than 30 computer
and electronics companies
started designing new games
and competing for our quarters.
[narrator] And just like that,
business was booming,
even in a city like Detroit, Michigan,
known as the heart of the auto industry,
but where the number
of licensed arcades grew
by more than 20,000% in only two years.
And the rest of the country
wasn't far behind.
[reporter 1] The video game industry
has grown into a $5-billion-a-year giant.
[reporter 2] Greg Davies, an 18-year-old
from Fresno, California
played Asteroids for 31 hours
on just one quarter.
Now my life kind of centers around
the game the games, arcades and stuff.
[narrator] Playing 31 hours
on one quarter is extreme
but players were definitely getting
too good at the game.
You want to get the high score on the game
every time you come in.
And who better
than a group of college kids
to figure out a way
to keep them challenged
All right!
and paying.
My name is Doug Macrae.
I went to MIT in '76.
But Doug got a little sidetracked.
Technically, I'm a college dropout.
And now that I'm retired,
I'm an unemployed college dropout.
That is kind of like a badge of honor.
And it was all because of video games.
[Macrae] I was a triple major
in mechanical engineering,
economics, and architecture.
And was living in a dormitory
that I brought a pinball machine into.
The pinball machine
was collecting quarters.
I was very much enjoying the operation.
I bought a second pinball machine,
bringing in more quarters.
I decided at that point
to expand the business.
It was me
and a few friends.
We bought some more video games,
moved into a second dorm,
a third dorm, a fourth dorm.
And by our junior year,
our operation was now about 20 machines.
So we were very popular on campus.
Those games did very, very well,
earning a lot of money.
We had a route
collecting all the quarters in backpacks
and hauling them to the bank.
And that paid our tuition.
So as we went into our senior year,
we had purchased
three new games called Missile Command.
Missile Command games
fit the MIT personality perfectly.
It was a game where you had to stop
these intercontinental ballistic missiles
from coming in and destroying cities.
And the game was tremendous.
The first week we had the games,
they pulled in $600 a piece.
But by week two,
it had fallen to 400 dollars,
and by week four,
we were down to about 200 dollars a week.
We were looking and saying,
"This has a problem."
The revenue falls off
so quickly on the machine.
We wanted to try addressing it.
To better explain this revenue issue,
here's Doug’s buddy, Steve.
Steve also went to MIT.
[Golson] I started MIT in 1976.
I came in as a freshman that fall.
[narrator] Steve also dropped out.
[Golson] So revenue
Ideally, you want the length of the game
to be a few minutes.
You put in a quarter,
you play for a few minutes,
the game is over.
Oh, they put in another quarter,
they play for a few minutes,
the game is over.
But eventually,
the players would get good at the game
and they could play for a very long time.
And arcade owners were making less money.
I got it.
More. More, more, more. That's good.
So the players have learned
how to beat the game,
but there's nothing physically wrong
with the game.
The cabinet is still fine,
the monitor still works.
The controls are fine.
What they're beating is the software.
And we said, "Wouldn't it be really nice
if there was software
which added new things
and made it a little bit harder
and could really help
the revenue stream of it?"
So we started making enhancement kits,
which modifies an existing video game
and makes it more challenging
to the player.
Because it's more challenging
to the player,
their games are shorter
and the operator makes more money.
And that's the real key,
the operators making more money.
And so in spring break of 1981,
we took Missile Command games
and started making these kits.
What else are you going to do
over spring break? Hey!
Let's learn how this video game works
and make changes to it.
So here's Missile Command.
So let's take this out.
This is the main logic board,
and this is one of our kits.
You plug in these various cables,
and you can slide this back in.
And you're done.
[Macrae] So we ended up with
version 2.0 of Missile Command,
called Super Missile Attack.
[narrator] Super missile attack kits offer
more missiles, faster missiles,
smaller clouds, different colors,
different attack modes,
new sounds
and a totally new attack object, the UFO.
All yours for just $295.
[Golson] We sold about 1,000
to the arcade owners,
which was a quarter million dollars?
In a couple months of sales?
It's like, that's just incredible.
It, in some ways, felt like funny money,
but it told us
that we were onto something.
[Steve] I was supposed to graduate
that spring of '81.
But it's, like, okay,
we're not doing that anymore.
And it sort of turned into this company.
And so, we started looking around
and saying, "We should do this again,"
and this time we decided to focus in on
the biggest selling video game
at the time.
[man in Japanese] Game centers
were places where men played,
where you'd do things like
shoot dead aliens.
They were dirty, smelly and dark.
No games were available for women.
So my aim certainly was to change that.
[shutters creaking]
I was going to arcades
at least once a week
to monitor what sort of people
were playing with what types of games.
We thought about what kind of games
women might want to play.
So we thought, "Eating doesn't involve
killing each other,
and maybe women can enjoy it
as a game too."
When we were developing a game
with the new concept,
we happened to eat a pizza.
Thank you very much.
When I took a slice out
there was this shape left
That's when Pac-Man first appeared.
I'm Toru Iwatani, the maker of Pac-Man.
Right, so today's seminar
will be on Pac-Man.
Pac-Man, as you all know, involves
Pac-Man going around eating cookies.
People tend to think the idea
is the important thing about a game,
but it's not just that,
it's about the visual aspect too.
Pac-Man is just a yellow eating thing
with a mouth,
no eyes,
and no nose.
We kept it extremely simple as a symbol.
We thought it would be fairly popular
in Japan,
but not so much in America.
[narrator in English] Turns out
American girls couldn't get enough.
Men like the sports games,
the action games, and the space games.
Women are insane about this game.
Pac-Man is so cute. It is, it's so cute!
I like the little guys that go by
and chomp on everything.
-[reporter] What makes Pac-Man cute?
-'Cause the little mou-- [laughs]
-[narrator] Pretty soon
-Pac-Man fever ♪
he was inspiring hit songs,
churning out endorsements,
and starring in his own show.
Going out of my mind ♪
[narrator] But, like any global celebrity
basking in the glow
of international fame and fortune,
along came the critics.
[Macrae] Pac-Man was very repetitive.
After you played it a little bit,
you got extremely good at it,
so Pac-Man was the perfect game
for an enhancement kit,
even more than Missile Command.
So we immediately got to work on that
as our second enhancement kit project.
In order to make it work,
we need more people.
And so it was like,
"Hey, Mike, we’ve got this new company.
You should come and check us out.
We need programmers."
Engineering is in itself creation.
Really good developers
are creative people.
So my job as an engineer
is to come up with solutions.
Given a problem
and given a set of constraints,
I have to figure out how to make it work.
Pac-Man was a great game.
But Pac-Man had a problem.
It was deterministic.
It played the same way every time.
People were learning patterns.
So I did what engineers do.
I took this thing that was great,
but that had flaws,
and I tried to fix the flaws.
So we had to reverse-engineer the game.
We had certain things we wanted to change.
We wanted new mazes.
We wanted the ghosts to be random
in how they attacked the character.
We wanted to put in new sounds.
So we just zeroed in on those things
and figured out how to do it.
Meanwhile, Atari has sued us
for $15 million,
due to our Missile Command kit.
We have the biggest consumer
electronics company on the planet
coming after us?
[narrator] To understand how we got here,
you should know about this man,
Nolan Bushnell.
"One, two! One, two!
And through and through.
His vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
And with its head, he left it dead.
He went galumphing back."
-That's my mic check.
-[man] Mic check?
-[producer] That was amazing.
[narrator] Some refer to him
as the godfather of video games.
It was the '70s
and Bushnell was a young entrepreneur
-who had many visions, and one motto.
-Go big or go home.
[narrator] The Silicon Valley we know now?
It was rather different back then.
Silicon Valley was probably
80% prune orchards.
Bushnell built the Silicon Valley
startup prototype
when he created his own
video game company, Atari.
[Bushnell] We were all in our late 20s
and we thought to ourselves,
"What we want is to create
a new kind of company,
an Age of Aquarius company,
where our work ethic was
work hard, play hard."
I could target any engineer in the Valley
and get them to come to work for Atari.
All you had to do
was take them to our beer bus
and talk about how we would not care
what you wore to work.
You can come in in shorts
and flip flops if you want to.
We would not care when you came.
We would focus on your outcome,
and if you wanted to come in at noon
and leave at midnight,
-it's your business. You're adults.
-The pressure is on.
And all of a sudden, boom, they were in.
[narrator] There were tales
of board meetings in hot tubs,
pot smoking in the halls,
and lots of hooking up, allegedly.
And [chuckles]
And so the other companies
were looking around the Valley,
Atari was kicking serious butt,
and they said maybe that's the way.
[narrator] And Atari
made a ton of money.
They built their empire
by producing hit arcade games,
on top of industry-defining consoles
and computer systems.
We felt that we were creating
a world-changing technology.
[narrator] Bushnell sold Atari
to Warner Communications
and about two years after
the suits took over, he was out.
And the video game Goliath
found its David.
Well, Doug, Mike, and Steve.
We have the biggest consumer
electronics company on the planet
coming after us?
Awesome. Bring it on, dude.
And they just said, "Hey, Mike!
There's a restraining order against us!
We can’t sell anything anymore!"
And they were giddy.
That was not how I felt
when I first heard about it.
But I think they thought
the lawsuit legitimized them.
It actually made the broad tape,
on Wall Street,
and I remember my dad seeing
that I had been sued for five million,
which was one third
of the 15 million dollars.
And he called me up and said,
"Doug, are you gonna win this suit?
And, if not,
do you have five million dollars?"
I said, "We're gonna win it,
and no, I don't have five million."
Did these guys steal Atari’s idea
by modifying a game to make it better?
A judge would decide.
Okay, so we're going to court.
[narrator] While Mike
continued on the Pac-Man kit,
the others went to battle
over Missile Command.
Atari launched their case
claiming copyright infringement,
trademark dilution,
and misrepresentation of origin.
The dropouts
went on the defense,
pulling all-nighters over the weekend,
to change everything in their code
that Atari took issue with.
But there was one bigger issue for Atari.
If they lost,
the suit could set a new legal precedent
allowing even more users
to transform their games.
So Atari surprised everyone
and settled
but on two conditions.
One, that the twenty-somethings
come make games for Atari.
And two, that they get permission
for any game enhancements in the future.
Mike had just finished their kit
for Pac-Man.
So we've got this Pac-Man kit,
and how are we going to sell it?
We have to get permission
from the manufacturer.
Pac-Man was not made by Atari
so if they were going to release the game,
they were going to have to get creative.
We called the president
of Midway Manufacturing
who's the manufacturer of Pac-Man
in the US.
We've just signed this deal with Atari.
No one knows about this. It's secret.
All the industry knows
is that Atari dropped their lawsuit.
And we said we had beaten Atari in court
and that if they wanted to fight us
in court, we would beat them also.
So we just want permission to sell it.
It was a total, complete bluff.
We're like 21, 22 years old.
And we thought
we were very good poker players
and might get permission.
They saw this as a great way to basically
keep the Pac-Man assembly line going.
So we signed a deal with Midway.
[narrator] They called it Ms. Pac-Man.
Honey, don't you know ♪
I'm more than Pac-Man with a bow ♪
You know, I didn’t cure cancer.
I gave her lipstick.
[narrator] And video games'
first femme fatale was born.
On screen, that is.
On stage, video games' first national
championship was about to begin.
[Becky Heineman] I was 16.
And I've never left home,
and now I'm going
to New York City by myself
to play a Space Invaders
video game contest.
I was scared shitless.
I flew by myself.
They picked us up in a limousine.
They gave us a tour of New York City.
They took us to a really fancy restaurant.
They put us up in a hotel.
And the very next day,
they picked us all up
and took us to the contest.
And I couldn't believe it.
There were film crews from NBC and CBS.
When you have news like that,
you know this is a big thing.
They had five TVs
with Atari 2600s, in a row,
and they gave each of us a t-shirt
with our names on the back.
I remember I was the seat on the far left.
I was just told, "Play until you die."
And then at that point,
they then said, "All right, everybody.
Turn on your Ataris.
And, of course, the sound I still remember
to this day as if it was yesterday,
was the sound of all five Ataris
starting up at the same time.
We were completely in sync,
where you hear the
"Boom, boom, boom, boom."
And of course, we all started blasting.
And then the UFOs all came
with this thing of, "Woo-woo-woo-woo!"
And it was all, like,
five of them at the same time.
What they didn't expect,
was after 20 minutes,
the first player fell.
But the other four of us,
we played and played and played.
At that precise moment in time,
the only thing that existed
in the entire universe
was me,
the joystick I had in my hand,
and that screen.
Good players last around three minutes.
Great players last 30 minutes.
But exceptional players
[boy yells]
play the game forever.
So the intent, obviously,
was that one by one,
we would each fall off
until there's only one person standing,
and they would declare us the winner.
But we played and played
and I must have wiped out
200 screens' worth of aliens.
An hour and 45 minutes later,
they just suddenly announce,
"And so concludes
that first Space Invaders Tournament!"
So they announce the winners.
Of course, fifth place
was the guy who lost in the beginning.
Then the gentleman from Texas
got fourth place.
Frank Tetro of New York got third place.
Once they announced him,
then I realized [gasps]
I could actually win.
Then they announced Hang Ming
of San Francisco got second place.
"And the National Champion
is Heineman, from Los Angeles!"
With that I just reached over,
grabbed the cartridge,
yanked it out, and just put it down
and I’m like,
"I don't want to play this game
ever again in my life!" [laughs]
[reporter] So what do you think it takes
to be a winner at this game?
Raw courage. [laughs]
[reporter] How did you first get involved
in Space Invaders?
I buy the cartridges when they come out,
and Space Invaders came out
as a cartridge,
I bought it up immediately,
and I got addicted ever since.
[narrator] Cartridges,
the clunky plastic boxes
that gave players
an endless supply of video games.
They were new and they revolutionized
the home console market.
Before, when you bought a Pong console,
you could only play,
well, one game, Pong.
But in 1976, that would all change
thanks to one unsung hero
of video game history.
What do you know about your papa?
-He makes video games?
[man] He was a bit of a maverick.
And I think you’ve got to be, right?
You're the only African-American
in that space.
You represent more than just yourself.
So here's a picture
of your grandfather on the roof.
-Putting up an antenna, see?
-[boy] Oh.
[woman] Being a six-foot-six black man
in Silicon Valley
before they were calling it the Valley,
I can only imagine what
his everyday existence was like
working with people
that did not look like him.
[man] He was obsessed
with electronics and computers.
[narrator] Karen and Anderson Lawson's
father was Jerry Lawson.
He died in 2011,
but his legacy lives on today.
[Anderson] My father
was an electronic engineer.
[Karen] He loved his work.
He was consumed by it, really.
The garage was almost like
a mission control.
Monitors surrounding him.
Equipment that was up against the walls.
[Anderson] On the side,
he worked on a project out of the garage,
where he built an arcade game.
He just thought it was fun.
[Karen] His bosses got wind of him
tinkering with the game
and brought him on
to create the technology
for their new video game console.
[narrator] His mission was to create
a video game console
with interchangeable gaming cartridges.
It had never been done before.
[Anderson] There is power in having
the games programmed
onto individual cartridges.
It puts you into a place
where you can actually
have multiple games for your console.
So your library
can grow exponentially.
[Karen] He led that team
and he was able to create the technology
that allowed
interchangeable cartridges to play.
[Anderson] You're talking about a system
that is revolutionizing
how games are going to be
manufactured and played.
So it was kind of a top secret thing.
The console was finished
within six to eight months
and it was named the Channel F.
The Channel F was the first ever console
to use cartridges,
and it was a pivotal invention.
So much so
that competitors soon followed
with their own cartridge-based consoles.
Okay, Atari, let’s see your best pitch.
You're out, Rose!
[announcer] No other company offers you
as many different video game cartridges
as Atari.
Okay, let me show you this, Mason.
[Karen] When Atari came out
with interchangeable cartridges,
it eclipsed anything
that came out prior to it.
And Dad’s story was lost.
And look here.
Sleeping Papa.
[Anderson] He always used to fall asleep
at his desk like that.
[Mason] What?
It's crazy.
The fact that the Channel F
is not known by a lot of people
is a little bit sad,
but I'm willing to bet
that there's probably others
just like my dad, right?
No one knows their name.
Long time ago, right?
[narrator] Lawson may not have gotten the
recognition he deserved as an inventor
Ah, this is a good picture of Dad.
but others got recognition
for the wrong reasons.
[man] When I started working at Atari,
it was a vibrant, exciting
environment to be in.
It was creative,
stimulating, the people were fascinating.
It was cool to work at Atari.
[narrator] And Howard Scott Warshaw
had a pretty good start.
I had a number of very successful games.
I still to this day get fan mail
about Yars' Revenge.
Yars' Revenge ♪
[narrator] Howard made his name at Atari
doing big games that earned millions.
Have you played Atari today? ♪
Back then at Atari, a typical time
for development of a game
would be anywhere
from six to eight months.
[announcer] Can Indiana Jones escape
from the forces of evil?
[Howard] Raiders of the Lost Ark
took about nine months.
[commercial] Will Indy make it
all the way?
Find out in Atari’s
Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure game!
[Warshaw] That was a huge undertaking.
I'd literally just finished Raiders
when I get the call to do E.T.,
another big movie property game.
[telephone rings]
"Hey, we need E.T. for September 1st."
And this is July 27th.
Five weeks.
No one's ever done it
and no one would think of doing it.
It's a stupid idea, you know?
[laughs] Nobody would do it.
That's just ridiculous.
But the game had to be delivered
for Christmas.
It was deemed that
if it wasn't a Christmas release,
there's no point
in going out with the game.
So I said, "Absolutely I can."
There was no hesitation,
and no doubt in my mind
I could do this.
I'm not exactly sure what I was full of,
but whatever it was,
I was overflowing with it.
I was not short of confidence.
Now, this is a Tuesday afternoon.
He says, "Okay,
so Thursday morning at eight a.m.
be at San Jose airport
at the executive terminal.
There will be a Learjet waiting for you
to take you to see Spielberg
to present the design for the game."
I'm like, "Oh, I've got 36 whole hours
to design the game? Fabulous."
But I was a little nervous because
Spielberg was like an idol of mine.
It was a big deal.
So I pitched the game to Steven.
He sits there,
thinks about it for a moment.
"Couldn't you do something
more like Pac-Man?"
I mean, in my head I am exploding.
What? Are you kidding me?
You're one
of the most innovative filmmakers
and you want me to do
a knock-off for the game
for your very exceptional movie?
I did not say this to him, though,
because this is Steven Spielberg
and I'm not
completely out of my mind at that point.
So I said it would be a dishonor
to the movie in some way
to just do a knock off
of something like that.
I said,
"I think this is more appropriate to it."
And he just said, "Okay."
The reality of it was,
"Holy crap,
I can't do Pac-Man in five weeks!
This is the game I can do in five weeks!
I can do this game."
It's just a question of writing it.
It was an extremely intense five weeks.
Virtually nothing else existed
in my life other than the game.
I worked all the time.
I almost killed myself in my car
because I was coding in my head
instead of watching what I was doing.
E or FF. That'll change everything.
I could be eating with people
and, in my head, I’m still coding.
I had a development system
moved into my home,
so that wherever I am,
I'm never more than a minute
from being able to get to a keyboard
and start putting the code
that I need to put in in.
That five weeks was the hardest five weeks
I ever worked in my life.
And by the time it was September 1st,
I hand it over and it's done.
I was the hero who had come through
in the impossible situation
and made it happen.
I went to present it to Steven.
Spielberg plays the game
and approved the game, so it went.
It was a huge moment of relief.
So they made four or five million of them.
[narrator] Commercials were made,
stores were stocked,
and stockings stuffed.
[announcer] The video game
that lets you help E.T. get home
just in time for Christmas.
[narrator] But it all turned out
to be a huge,
expensive, disastrous misstep.
E.T. was nothing to phone home about.
Reviewers called it
cumbersome, crude, maddening.
[Warshaw] People said,
"What are all these pits doing?
It's stupid. Why do you have pits?
They're so annoying."
[narrator] In short
it bombed, big time.
[reporter] Some stores are canceling
orders right before Christmas.
[man] We have a lot in stock
and we want to get rid of them
before the holidays.
[Howard] Who wants to have done
the worst piece of entertainment?
So there had to be an identifiable face.
And I think E.T. became that face.
And I became the butt
somewhere behind that face.
[narrator] But it was
just the beginning of the end.
The home version of
the arcade smash Pac-Man
left fans disappointed.
I thought it would be
a lot different than it is.
I thought it would be
more like the arcade version.
[narrator] Then, a wave of crappy games
and a corporate mindset
of "quantity, not quality" had emerged
[reporter] There may just be
too many games on the market.
[narrator] and players began to hang up
their controllers.
[reporter] The booming video game fad
is losing its grip on American youth.
-I'm getting tired of them.
-Video game sales have gone tilt.
The boom simply isn’t booming anymore.
[narrator] America's video game boom
had gone bust.
If Pac-Man, E.T.,
and Raiders of the Lost Ark
aren't selling, what will?
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