Digging E.T.

So, this has been a bad week for our community and I am still in shock from what happened this weekend. At the same time, one of the last conversations I had with Joel was about the Atari excavation. He was so excited about it and wanted to hear about it as soon as I could officially tell him anything. (In fact, I had said that I would send along some unofficial updates via email as the project developed).

So this afternoon, I’m off to Alamogordo, New Mexico to excavate a landfill and to document the search for some 4-5 million discarded cartridges of the Atari game E.T. The team is sweet: Andrew Reinhard is our fearless leader, Richard Rothaus and K. Lindsay Eaves know how to do things, and Bret Weber and I will be there to theorize, contextualize, and learn. We’ll also be joined by Raiford Guins, author of Game After, Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One, and a band of merry and accomplished filmmakers.  

I’ve blogged on locating this work in a larger conversation about the archaeology of late capitalism and in narrative strategies embraced by fantasy, fanboy, and gamer culture. I think we should also think about how excavating a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico contributes to our image of the modern American West where high-tech industries intersect with open and unpopulated spaces and failed dreams. I’ll be leaning on Bret Weber’s expertise in Western History as we track the final journey of the games from the Atari distribution center in El Paso to the landfill in Alamogordo. 

While I am not sure whether we’ll be allowed (or have time) to tweet or blog from the dig, but if we can, I will. In the meantime follow the hashtag #diggingET to see what’s up.

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