Last week, 14 truckloads of Atari 2600 “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” video games were unearthed in a landfill in Alamogordo, N.M. For decades, the buried cache was considered an urban legend by many in and out of the video gaming industry. Atari’s unsold games based on Steven Spielberg’s film of the same name were said to be buried somewhere deep in the New Mexico desert. But unlike so many legends that remain hearsay, this legend was proven real.
Not everyone bought into the E.T. burial legend. Luke Davis, UNM alum and co-founder of Flytcam Motion Pictures, the company commissioned by Condé Nast and WIRED Magazine to help with work on the excavation, said that he never considered the story a legend. Crediting the entertainment and news aggregating website Reddit, Davis said, “I discovered a New York Times article from 1983 on the site that described 14 truckloads of games and gears that were dumped in the Alamogordo landfill. So urban legend to folks who don’t google, and historical fact to video gaming truth sleuths like me.”
Davis graduated from UNM in 2001 with a BBA in International Management from the Anderson School of Management. In 2007, he was inducted into the Anderson Young Alumni Hall of Fame and then went on to get his masters in space science from the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Davis is also an Air Force veteran, a former NASA Space Grant Fellow and co-founded the satellite company Ziasat before starting Flytcam Motion Pictures.
Founded in 2012 by Davis and Shaun Stanton, another UNM alum, Flytcam is a growing company based in New Mexico that utilizes remote-controlled drone technology equipped with a camera that provides unique aerial shots that in the words of their website “are superior to traditional aerial, dolly-rigs or steady cams.” In addition to providing aerial shots, Flytcam also works in other aspects of the film industry including technical advising, consulting and recently some clients have even landed speaking roles in major motion pictures. Davis said they have plans to form a new business altogether for consulting.
XBOX Live, which got approval for the Atari dig, will be using Flytcam’s footage for a documentary they are producing. Davis said the strong desert winds were worrisome at first because of the difficulty in operating the drone in high winds; but they subsided long enough to produce some positive work. On a side note, Davis remarked on the landfill’s less than desirable stench.
As an entrepreneur and someone in the technology industry, Davis also had some insightful words about the events that necessitated the large dump of games. E.T. is perhaps the biggest flop the video game industry has ever seen, and is credited with not only Atari’s fall as a company, but also the entire video game industry crash of 1983.
Davis said he sees that crash as, “analogous to the dot.com bubble bursting and something similar to what we’re seeing today in the mobile app space.” He added that, “it was the over-saturation of lousy games in the market that caused gamers to lose faith in buying cheap, buggy games.”
For more information on the dig and video of Flytcam’s drone camera in action check out WIRED Magazine's article