E.T. Video Game Journalism in the Eighties

E.T. Video Game Journalism in the Eighties

I was reading this January 1983 issue of Electronic Games, when I stumbled across this letter from a reader from Newark, CA asking about the rumored E.T. video game.

They confirm the release and talk about the only details they could reveal at this point. That Steven Spielberg is involved in its creation.

The publication date of January of 1983. Which is a month after the game was released. This is a fascinating look at how game journalism used to work.

For years magazines had to put together their issues months in advance. In that time many details could change. In this case a game could be rushed into development and released.

I went back to the December of 1982 issue and not a mention of a game that was getting a huge marketing push in so many other places. Then in February of 1983, they do a small article where they basically reiterate was was said in this January letter.


I browsed a few months into the future and couldn’t find a single mention of the E.T. game. Which is pretty mind-blowing when you consider the energy that went into its release and the mania around it. It is a shame the magazine was not able to get their hands at least on some of those E.T. advertising dollars.

Maybe I am just reading into this short letter, but I can almost sense the excitement and enthusiasm for this particular tie-in. In both the question and the untimely response.

I would put myself into that enthusiastic group of people. When I heard that this game was going to be available on Atari, I could think of little else and would not shut up about it.

You will read a lot about what a terrible game E.T. is and how everyone hated it. I was not one of those people. It was a difficult game and I was terrible at it, but I spent countless hours revisiting the world of E.T. in my living room.

Even now, knowing what I know, I cannot summon negative feelings about the title. I am forever Paul Valdez from Newark, Ca.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Ken

    ET was very hard, but I agree, not a terrible game. I do miss the good ole’ days of video game magazines. The layouts with all the artwork, huge maps, cartoons, etc. We may get info a lot quicker now, but it’s definitely not the same experience.

    1. Retroist

      I am glad I am not alone in thinking that. So many people have taken a hammer to the game over the years. In retrospect, it is not the most playable game. But at the time? It let me be E.T. That was worth the price of the game.

  2. vinvectrex

    Great article about ET but also about the challenges of being an electronic games magazine writer (and reader!) in the `80s. It seems their articles were heavily influenced by the limited number of games they could get their hands on. Or by whichever companies were able to write the most comprehensive press releases.

    1. Retroist

      Once you start reading the magazines through that lens, it become very obvious that EVERYTHING is outdated.

  3. Mr. Wayback

    I didn’t hate it as well, I just didn’t understand what I was doing. It is rather fun to go back and see what was said in the past. Everything, at the time, is new and cutting edge but becomes outdated the second after. I may have to revisit it!

  4. Nick

    I always loved Atari’s E.T. even as a kid. Back then, I didn’t ‘quite’ know what the object of the game was since I had no manual. But I just found it entertaining controlling ET. I just knew you had to walk around the map (which again, I didn’t understand the ‘cube earth’ layout back then), collect things, avoid falling and the pixelated people. It was a very forward thinking adventure game. The appealing art work on the cartridge always called for my younger hands to grab for it amongst the rest of the games in my pile.

    1. Retroist

      I had the manual, but I must admit, I gave up on the goal and did what you did. Just walked around mindlessly as ET for as long as I could.

      Occasionally I thought I was close to figuring something out, but I would inevitable lose the thread and go back to just moving ET around.

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