atari email archive

a collection of messages sent at Atari from 1983 to 1992.

On the Challenger shuttle explosion

... to see a national tragedy right in front of your eyes is one thing, but to see people vaporized as part of that national tragedy is another ...

1. Thoughtful messages about the Challenger shuttle disaster.

2. Proof, yet again, that it is all too easy to misread one's intent in written communication.

3. A civil reconciliation.

The Final Frontier

(1 / 5)

	I don't know about you, but I'm usually pretty cynical about tragedies.
I'm a little surprised to find this space shuttle thing triggering such an
emotional response.  I guess somehow I see the space program as some kind of
symbol of hope for the future of the human race, a sort of mirror opposite to
what is symbolized by the arms race.  At least these are missiles that aren't
supposed to blow up.  They seem to symbolize quest, exploration, cooperation,
transcendence.  And there seem to be a lot of people that come back from orbit
feeling somehow changed by the experience, by seeing the earth as a whole, a
blue oasis in space, without obvious national boundaries. 

	I don't know if this is an appropriate time to suggest this or not,
but I remember overhearing a number of Atarians in the past suggesting the
idea of some sort of space exploration game.  I feel that now that the video
game industry, at least for a while, has gotten past the stage of reinforcing
people's space war fantasies, it would be nice if we could go the next step
and encourage active participation in a guided fantasy of space exploration.
The thing that made the Star Trek series so great was its success at 
encouraging positive thoughts about the human spirit and our need for quest,
invoking an almost sacred aura around the mission to explore new worlds, to
boldly go where no man has gone before, etc.  There are limits to how much of
this atmosphere we can achieve in a video game, but it would be interesting to
explore these limits.

	I don't have any specific game idea to suggest.  It could be a
simulated space shuttle mission or the first manned flight to Mars.  It could
be a Voyager-like pass-by through the whole solar system.  It could be a
space-age Noah's ark, making its escape from Earth moments before the Last
War.  You could be controlling flight trajectories, docking with other ships,
using a simulated shuttle control panel, doing in-flight experiments using
remote-control arms, doing space walks, landing the ship, or whatever.  There
might be bad guys, there might not.  It would be nice if it were a multi-player
cooperative or cooperative/competitive game.  In general the way to do a
cooperative game has been to have the players cooperate in competing against a
common enemy (Rip-Off, Gauntlet, etc.).  It might be interesting to make the
common enemy the rigors of space, the difficulty of the mission itself. 
Different players could be working together in the ship, or piloting different
crafts, or whatever.

	Videodisk would've been ideal for using NASA footage to do great 
background visuals of planets, moons, and the Earth.  But whatever system
we might use, I'm sure we can develop evocative graphics and music appropriate
to the theme.

	Well, I just wanted to toss this out and see if anything bounces back.
If there seems to be sufficient interest, maybe we can have some brainstorming
meetings or something.  Maybe there's a game in here / out there somewhere, but
we won't know until we look.


a bad day at the office

(2 / 5)

   I dont know about you, but I am usually cynical about people who
say they are cynical about tragedies! Everybody in this building knows
that Earl Vickers is completely insensitive to everything he can 
get his hands on. But he just loves to remind us all the time.
   The truth of the matter is that yesterdays explosion of the Challenger
spacecraft was a shock to everyone in this country (Except Earl Vickers).
I personnally felt quite a shock, for this time their were alot of people
including myself who were thinking how successful the shuttle has been
and how it began too look more and more like civilians would be taking the
trip more and more. Well this truely will happen someday, but yesterday,
just like in January of 1967, Our space program suffered a severe loss and
setback. And what about those people and students in Concord, New Hampshire
who now have to live with what they saw yesterday. I think you might
call it the sling-shot effect. They were quite que'd up with much 
excitement of seeing thier teacher going into space exploration, only to be
scorned within seconds by  Mr. DEATH. And of coarse this is not to forget
by any means the rest of the crew and their families. True these people
knew the risk involved. When there are tons of Liquid Hydrogen stored in
a "thin-skinned" tank that is twice the size of you, and this tank is strapped
to your belly, There is consderable risk. And true, where there is 
experimentaion there is always faliure of some sort. But NASA has done
well with the safety of there missions in the past. (obviosly not well enough
yesterday) But I think that evryone knew this was going to happen eventually
and it really is amazing to me that it hasnt happend alot more. Anyway,
to see a national tragedy right in front of your eyes is one thing, But
to see people vaporized as part of that national tragedy is another. And for
those people who have to live with the fact that thier husband or wife or 
mother or father have been taken from them only to know them now as 
"National Heros", Its got to hurt. Not to mention those children who really
are not old enough to understand. 
   Well I'm sorry, but I feel alot of sorrow over what happend yesterday.
It's not like we dont have enough troubles with that Jerk in Libya who
considers himself a fish beverage (Cod-coffee). The one thing this nation
is doing together, to  expand itself and reach out to the skies in a peaceful
(not including that Star Wars garbage) way, yesterday had to take a step
   Salute to those 7 Americans who died for their country 10 miles above 
the Atlantic.  

An addendum to the appendix

(3 / 5)

	I don't mean to belittle the deaths of the 7 people yesterday,
but it seems to me to be one of the more minor tragedies of our times.
What really irks me is the public acceptance of the deaths of thousands
while they bemoan the deaths of a few, or the imprisonment of a few,
or the mistreatment of a few.  I am not known as a peacemonger, or
"nuke the nukes" freak, but I believe it is more of a travesty for
Time/Life books to use the deaths of hundreds of thousands (during VietNam)
to make a profit!  Watch for the commercials and see if you can eat 

	I regret the deaths of those 7, and I empathize with their families,
but it is a bigger crisis when a jet airliner crashes in a shopping mall,
killing hundreds and leaving emotional scars on the witnesses for the rest
of their lives.  May all those who have to suffer such things recieve their
just rewards sooner.


My apologies to Mr. Vickers

(4 / 5)

   I must say that, after hearing from Earl, that I truely over-reacted
to his message and did not understand what he was trying to say. I 
therefore must apologize to him publicly for trying to slander his personality
for something he was not guilty. I now know he basically felt the same
as I and many others over the awful thing that happend yesterday.
   I apologize Earl and promise that in the future I will read your messages 
more carefully. 

what I meant to say was...

(5 / 5)

	I just want to thank Chris for his apology, and to explain what it was
I meant to say the other day.  I can see how a misunderstanding like this can
happen, when people are expecting the black humor and bad taste with which my
name has apparently become synonymous. 

	What I was trying to say is that although I am usually cynical about
tragedies - there's only so much of it you can take from the media every day - 
that this was a total exception.  Tears were rolling down my cheeks the whole
time I was driving in to work.  It came as a total surprise to me that it
affected me this way - I'm not even that much of a space junky.  I was just in
shock the whole day.  And the reason seemed to be not just that 7 people had
died, though this was a big part of it - I wouldn't be upset over an unmanned
ship exploding - but it was also a sense of loss, like seeing your hopes and
dreams blow up. 

	And the point of the mail message was that I felt the last thing these
people who died yesterday would have wanted would be for the space program to
be cut back.  And I felt that something we could do in our own small way, as
kind of a tribute, would be to make a game that would help reinforce positive
fantasies about space exploration.  Maybe my timing was wrong, but I felt that
this was a time when all of our thoughts were focused on one thing.  I didn't
intend it in any sort of exploitive way.  I'm sorry if we view our work here as
such an insignificant and unimportant form of mindless entertainment that the
mail message could only be taken as some sort of sick joke.  I feel a need for
some kind of meaning in my work.  I don't mind if most of the games we make are
empty calories, but it would be nice if occasionally we could contribute
something, however small, to the culture.  I don't know what or how, but

Message 1 of 5

Jan 28, 1986