Last week Loading Law ran an article about the excavation of the now-again famous Atari Landfill in New Mexico. This week, Loading Law is following up on that story with its first ever interview, featuring none other than internet personality and diehard gamer James Rolfe.
James is probably best known to gamers for his hilarious video game reviews as the Angry Video Game Nerd, which can be found on his website Cinemassacre and on YouTube. James is currently in post-production of a film based on the Angry Video Game Nerd series, simply titled: Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. The film, which is slated to be released in the next year, just so happens to feature the Atari landfill, and James was generous enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the landfill with Loading Law.
LL: When did you first hear about the Atari landfill?
JR: The first time I heard about it, personally, was in late 2006. That year, we saw the rise of YouTube, and the Nerd got a growing fanbase. Requests for game reviews began pouring in. The biggest one was E.T. the “worst game of all time”. So I looked into it, and Mike Matei who has always been a big Atari fan, told me the history of the game, and that there’s a legend that the game was so bad, that millions of unsold copies were dumped in a landfill. At that time, there existed a lot more information about it on the internet, which has disappeared, only adding to the mystery. I use the word “mystery” lightly, because judging from all the old newspaper articles I read, it seemed like a fact that Atari dumped a bunch of games there, but generic games, like Pac-Man, Centipede, you name it, and of course some E.T.’s included because that game is as common as dirt. The location of the burial was confirmed. The only thing that wasn’t known is if the “millions” of E.T. carts were there. Or somewhere else.
LL: Why do you think people care about the landfill and why do you think it captured gamers’ imaginations?
JR: It’s like a treasure hunt. But the comedic aspect is that there’s no reason to find them. Everybody calls it the worst game. So why would you want to find it? That’s the funny part. It’s one of the most common games on the Atari 2600, you could find it anywhere. I wonder how many landfills actually have that game in them. So the fact that it’s a quest to find something awful, I think is the whole charm of the story. That’s why we care.
LL: What was it about the landfill and the E.T. game that made you want it as a part of your upcoming film?
JR: It’s the “worst” game, but the greatest game story ever told. If I were to do it as a regular game review, it wouldn’t be that interesting. Especially, because I don’t find the game to be that bad. Believe it or not, I think it’s one of the more sophisticated games on the Atari 2600 because it’s not just about getting a high score, you actually have to beat it. The whole story of the landfill deserved to be made into a feature film. So I invented my own fictional, adventure / science fiction take on it.
LL: What do you think the future has in store for the landfill? Will it be a gamer tourist attraction or will it be quickly forgotten?
JR: From what I’ve heard, the sentiment seems to be that they didn’t find “millions” of E.T. carts in there. What they found, only confirmed the mass Atari dumping with all kinds of games, E.T. being included. The millions of cartridges seems to be a separate incident, and one that’s not confirmed. Those carts could be anywhere. So that’s the “myth” part. So I think some people will still be searching. The story has definitely gotten a lot bigger over the years.
LL: You used to work under the name “Angry Nintendo Nerd” and have said previously you changed the name to avoid a possible trademark issue with Nintendo. Was there ever an actual legal dispute with Nintendo?
JR: There never was an actual legal dispute with Nintendo, no. The Nerd was just branching out into other video game consoles, so we made the name more generic, and not to use an established brand name.
LL:You write, produce, direct, act, and you do so much of the work for your projects yourself. What advice would you give to young filmmakers, gamemakers, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs in getting their own projects off the ground? What things do they need to know and do right off the bat?
JR: A tough question to answer. Could be in a book form. But the biggest advice I can think of, off the top of my head, is to just know that it’s hard work. Speaking mostly from the film side, but to all artists, is to be careful not to start a project that is too big too manage. Pick your own battles. You have to balance rational reason, with your passion. It’s easy to dream big, but the execution is always more difficult than you expect. Pursue the projects that are most important to you.