... 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.
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. Earl
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 back. Salute to those 7 Americans who died for their country 10 miles above the Atlantic.
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 afterwards. 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. sas
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.
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 something. Earl
Jan 28, 1986