RIP ET: The Legend Of The Long-Buried Video Game

The video game ET is considered one of the worst games ever created. It's so bad that many of the unsold originals are rumored to be wasting away in a New Mexico landfill. Now, filmmakers are on a quest to recover those copies — despite resistance from an environmental agency.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial" is a beloved and popular Steven Spielberg movie from 1982. Less known is that E.T. was also a video game.

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CORNISH: A lousy game. In fact, it's regarded as one of the worst ever made. It has a few problems.

NICK MONTFORT: Well...

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MONTFORT: ...it's hard to know where to start.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

That's Nick Montfort, associate professor of Digital Media at MIT.

MONTFORT: There are cases where, you know, as soon as you would levitate E.T. out of a pit, he would fall immediately back into the pit.

SIEGEL: And the game wasn't just stupid, Montfort says, he believes it was also too complicated. Needless to say, E.T. the game never caught on. And its maker, Atari, was stuck with game cartridges that were piling up in the warehouse. So they supposedly dumped them in a landfill. It's in Alamogordo, New Mexico. And some filmmakers want to find out if they're still there.

ZAK PENN: Well, our goal is to document the excavation of this game to kind of find the truth behind the story.

CORNISH: That's director Zak Penn. The studio backing him has been trying to get the state of New Mexico to let them dig the E.T. games up. Negotiations are underway and it's been a tug-of-war. At last check, the state's Department of Environment rejected the request to exhume the landfill - too many risks and hazards.

PENN: Last week, the kind of normal back and forth somehow got reported as we're not making the movie anymore. We keep joking, it's like the games don't want to be dug up.

SIEGEL: So the filmmakers will revise their proposal to solve the mystery of what happened to E.T., the worst video game ever. But for now, it remains shrouded in red tape and tons of garbage.

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CORNISH: This is NPR News.

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