The Mysterious and Elusive Sears Exclusives

The small town where I grew up had a fairly limited selection of available cartridges for the system, even when I acquired mine, at the peak of the innocent, naive, pre-crash frenzy, in May of 1982. Kmart and the small Kay-Bee toy store in the local mall were pretty much the only places you could go for this crazy new technological marvel, the home video game.

We didn’t have a Sears store anymore, its vacant anchor space in the sparkling new North Main Street commercial district (which has since become a grayed, decaying industrial district) having recently been filled by the town’s exciting new Kmart store. (More recently, the space, long abandoned by Kmart’s migration to the town’s sparkling new 18th Avenue commercial district — and now drastically renovated in an abominable and already “dated” 1990s architectural style — has become the home of the world-renowned Spam Museum.) As a result, I had no idea that Sears had its own version of the Atari 2600, complete with repackaged versions of Atari’s games, plus a few exclusives. (Even at the tender age of 8, however, I was already well-aware of the bizarre practices of Sears, Roebuck & Co. of selling products only under its own brands, even if those products were — as with the Sears Video Arcade — simply those of other manufacturers with new brand decals attached.)

I remember well my first encounter with a “Sears exclusive” Atari cartridge. At the time, I was deeply engrossed in the enticements of the game catalogs Atari shrewdly packed in with each cartridge sold. And in my insular little world, I was convinced that, thumbing the pages of the catalog, I had the entire library of games for the system at my fingertips. The concept of third-party games was wholly unknown to me, awaiting my discovery of the wonder of wonders, Activision, at the neighboring larger city’s Musicland store. The infallible comprehensiveness of the game catalogs I had studied and memorized had only recently met its first challenge, when I acquired a dusty, back-of-the-rack copy of Video Olympics, packed with an old (two whole years old, old!) catalog that featured two discontinued games: Flag Capture and Surround. “How can this be?” my 8-year-old brain wondered. “If they made these games, why would they stop selling them?” My childhood obsession with Atari taught me not only a love for electronic gadgetry and a modicum of hand-eye-coordination, but also some valuable lessons about graphic design and marketing, which have actually been somewhat useful in my adult career.

Anyway, as I was saying, I remember well my first encounter with a Sears exclusive. It came on the heels of the experiences outlined in such prolonged manner in the previous paragraph. As a child, I spent my days at my grandparents’ house while my parents were at work — a distinct advantage of living in the same town as one’s grandparents. Their next-door neighbors had 5 kids, the youngest of whom was a girl two years older than myself. She and I were close friends for many years. Thus it was that I was in these neighbors’ basement rec room, playing some of their Atari games I did not own (“Football,” for some reason, stands out in my memory), when I discovered something that shook my Atari worldview to its very foundations:


“Wha– wha– uh… what is this?” I wondered, perhaps aloud. An Atari game, but yet, not quite an Atari game. A strange artifact from an unknown world. Unfortunately, my 8-year-old attention span, already becoming frayed by another recent invention (MTV), was insufficient to sustain the intrigue. Oh yeah… and then I actually played the game. Not terrible, but… well… ehh…. Nothing to get that excited over. It was promptly long-forgotten.

My second encounter with a Sears exclusive came about 8 years later, in high school. All of my friends had, in the late 1980s, packed their Atari consoles away in a dark, musty corner of the darkest, mustiest closet they could find in their respective homes, to be replaced by the latest and greatest, the Nintendo Entertainment System. I never got a Nintendo. (In fact, I still don’t have one today… but it’s not for lack of trying.) I did covet the system many times, however, playing Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Gauntlet, and the rest on their systems during junior high and high school sleepovers. Meanwhile, I kept the Atari flame alive, fanned by two marvelous, recently-acquired games: Solaris and Yars’ Revenge. The latter, a classic long-missing from my collection. Simple, to a fault. But oh-so addictive. The former, a wonder. Truly an impressive achievement for the system, and good enough to sustain me in my delusion that my Atari was just as good as that stinkin’ Nintendo crap my friends all had. Plus, I never had to give my cartridges the infamous “blow job” to get them to work, either! (Nothing X-rated here, folks… if you’ve ever spent any time playing a Nintendo Entertainment System, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

One day in high school, one of my traitorous, Nintendo-loving compadres informed me that his parents were having a rummage sale (known to those of you in various other parts of the country as a “garage sale” or a “yard sale” or a “see how much money I can get for all this old crap I don’t want anymore sale”). He also informed me that he was planning to sell all of his old Atari cartridges at it, although he’d let me have first dibs on any of them that I wanted. I can’t remember now if he actually expected me to pay for them or not. But I am inclined to think he did. What the hey… I was rakin’ in the big bucks as a grocery bagger at the time, and he was unemployed, trying to earn enough scratch to buy the latest iteration in the “Mega Man” series, so why not help a chum(p) out?

I remember a few of the specific games I got in the deal. Cosmic Ark and Maze Craze were a few of the most anticipated in the bunch. And then there was this oddity called “Strategic Space Combat Game.” At least, that’s what I thought it was called, because the end label was missing. My friend informed me that it was actually called Stellar Track, and that it was one of his favorites. (The similarity of its title to “Star Trek” did not occur to me at the time.) Without an instruction manual, and in the days before all such information was archived for the ages on the Internet, the game was essentially useless to me, however, and to this day I have not given it more than a few cumulative, lifetime minutes of my attention.

I went on with my life… went to college, got married, moved to California, got a job, moved back from California, got another job, etc. etc. The Atari followed me in my many and varied journeys, and eventually acquired a companion/rival when I added an Atari 7800 to my collection in 1997. Somewhere along the way, my childhood interest in the numbering sequence of Atari’s games, and the mystery of CX2614 and CX2617 was answered. (Ah… of course, I thought, when I learned that those unused slots had been reserved for Steeplechase and Stellar Track respectively.) But there was still a nagging question, deep in the cavernous recesses of my brain: What of CX2647?

In May 2002, nearly 20 years to the day after I had first gotten my Atari 2600, I was introduced to the wonders of the AtariAge website. To be sure, I was disappointed that it bore no relation to the old Atari Age magazine from days of yore (although that disappointment was tempered recently when high-res scans of every issue of the rag were added to the site’s extensive archives). But the breadth and depth of information on the site was simply mind-boggling, and I pored over it exhaustively for days on end.

And at last, the mystery was solved. Submarine Commander. The missing piece!

I just recently added Submarine Commander to my collection. Having finally picked up Steeplechase sometime in mid-2002 (along with a newer, intact picture label copy of Stellar Track), I can now say that my collection of the Sears exclusives — all three of them — is at last complete.

But, being a naturally inquisitive soul, as well as an über-geek who delights in irrelevant minutiae, some unanswered questions linger:

  • Why were these 3 games released in Sears stores only?
  • Did Sears have an agreement with Atari to produce “Sears exclusives?”
  • Did Atari think these 3 games were too weak to be released under their own label?
  • If they were so bad, why did they bother to release them at all?
  • Why didn’t Star Ship meet a similar fate?

Got a Chronic Case of Pac-Man Fever? Drs. Buckner and Garcia Have the Prescription

I make no attempts to conceal my lifelong obsession with the video games I played in my youth. My Atari 2600 and Intellivision are still hooked up to my TV, I have collected over 200 game cartridges for those systems, I own a pinball machine and an Asteroids cocktail table, I lurk in the forums at, and I even have my own web site devoted to the topic.

But I can acknowledge some of the, er, pitfalls of such an obsession.

Yesterday a couple of friends and I stepped into the netherworld of arcade auctions. I went to a previous auction with one of them, and we each walked away with a machine in tow… I got the aforementioned Asteroids cocktail table; he took home a Ms. Pac-Man cabaret machine.

Yesterday’s auction was a comparative disappointment. Again, we each had our sights on a particular machine: I sought a Dig Dug, he wanted Tempest. And again, we found what we were looking for… the somewhat meager selection of machines up for bids did nonetheless include a fairly-decent Dig Dug and a pristine Tempest. Unfortunately, both of us were under strict spousal orders not to come home with another game.

I made a feeble attempt at bidding on the Dig Dug but ultimately let it go for a paltry $425. My friend didn’t even bother making a showing on the Tempest, which eventually closed at a surprisingly low, given its excellent condition, $900.

Although the auction was, for us, a failure (but a rousing success for our wives), it did inspire a renewed interest in, or at least awareness of, the music of Buckner & Garcia. (I think I phrased that wrong… this actually made a bad situation worse.)

In case you’ve forgotten, Buckner & Garcia were the one-hit wonders who provided the soundtrack to America’s early-’80s obsession with Pac-Man, in the form of “Pac-Man Fever.”

Most people, unaware of their good fortune in this matter, have probably lived the last 21 years in the belief that this was the only song ever recorded by the joystick-jockeying duo. But the blissfully ignorant among us are wrong. So very, very wrong.

In fact, Buckner & Garcia tried unsuccessfully to repeat their success cashing in on pop culture fads by recording a dreadful piece of rubbish entitled “E.T. I Love You.” But that wasn’t before CBS Records ill-advisedly inflated their “Pac-Man Fever” success into an entire LP… a concept album, no less, focused entirely upon the popular video arcade games of the day.

Marketing types have a curious unwillingness to take chances on new ideas, combined with an uncanny ability to take one small, unexpected success and run it into the ground with lightning speed. Such was the case with Buckner & Garcia’s “Pac-Man Fever” album… eight B&G songs about nothing but video games!

Of course, this was a bad idea.

But once the ball (or in this case, the tape, or to avoid the mixed metaphor I am about to produce, the locomotive) is rolling, nothing can stop the freight-train momentum of a fundamentally-flawed concept with obscene amounts of cash strapped to its back.

I’m sure some of you out there owned a copy of the album. Judging by the dozens of tattered copies of the LP I found at a St. Paul Cheapo Records store when I purchased my own in a surge of retro-kitsch interest in the mid-’90s, sales were quite brisk, at one time. I imagine most copies that haven’t yet found their way to used record stores are stuck away in attics around the country, alongside long-forgotten lava lamps, pet rocks, unopened six-packs of Billy Beer, leisure suits, leg warmers, and other detritus from the late ’70s and early ’80s. (Personally, I think the lava lamps deserve more respect than that, but I understand their place in most people’s forgotten fad attic archives.)

For those of you who’ve never heard the album, or have spent years in therapy trying to forget it, I’d like to share my recent experience, having brazenly subjected my ears and brain to the entire thing (not all at once, of course, or my head surely would have imploded before I had the opportunity to write this).

The music is god-awful, to be sure. But I discovered something upon my most recent listening that I never noticed before. If you pay close attention, you can actually hear the evolution of the musicians’ mental state during the recording of the album. This is, in fact, a brilliant case study in what happens to people who’ve come up with a goofy but novel idea when they are pressured to draw that idea out far beyond its inherent appeal.

Track 1: Pac-Man Fever

This, of course, is the original idea, recorded well before the rest of the album. If I remember the story right, Buckner & Garcia were a couple of commercial jingle writers and performers based in Atlanta, who came up with the idea of making a song about their enthusiasm for Pac-Man. The song effectively captured the public’s temporary obsession with the game, and was requested so much by listeners to local radio stations that the guys got a record deal out of it. Unfortunately, that meant they had to actually record an entire record.

I completely understand the decision to make a concept album. There is no way this song would fit with a program of serious songs. It had to be novelty all the way. But a better decision would’ve been to leave well enough alone.

Track 2: Froggy’s Lament

Fresh in the studio on the heels of their unexpected rise to fame with “Pac-Man Fever,” the boys put together this silly, but still fairly enjoyable little tune inspired by Frogger. They kept up the gimmick of using actual game sounds in the song, and engaged in some good-natured self-mockery in the form of bizarre, frog-like voices. But the concept was already beginning to fray.

Track 3: Ode to a Centipede

OK, let’s get one thing straight. There is no way a ballad about a centipede — the creature or the video game — could ever be a good idea. The fact that this nauseating experience is only the third track on the album has to be seen as an acknowledgement of the weakness of the concept. Hopefully, B&G’s intention was to send a warning to CBS management that this was a bad idea that would never work. They didn’t get the message. (I should just point out here that I realize the songs were probably not recorded in the sequence they appear on the album. But just work with me on this, OK?)

Track 4: Do the Donkey Kong

On the surface, this is a happy, bouncy, ’50s sock-hoppish dance tune, albeit one with horrifically stupid lyrics. But despite the perky tempo and forced enthusiasm of the singing, you can hear the band’s deep regret for ever having accepted the advance to record this album.

Track 5: Hyperspace

To resolve any ambiguity (“hyperspace” being a staple in the concept of scores of space-themed video games of the early ’80s), this song happens to be about Asteroids, a game that is near and dear to my heart. One of the most exciting things about this game (aside from its gripping black-and-white vector graphics) is the awesome bass-heavy rumble its speaker generates when you blow up an asteroid. (Homer Simpson might even describe the effect as “bong rattling.”) So it’s quite painful for me to hear those beloved explosions in the context of this song. I try to avoid listening to it much, lest the unfortunately-catchy chorus should find its way into my head uninvited while I’m playing the game.

By this point, Messrs. Buckner and Garcia were clearly just going through the motions, hoping to get the damn album over with as soon as possible so they could focus on their next big idea… a song about E.T.

Track 6: The Defender

Buckner (or is it Garcia?) sings with almost-believable conviction here about his passion for his role as the “captain of the ship and its men.” But his profound sense of self-loathing is beginning to overwhelm the music. Then again, from the listener’s perspective, that’s probably a plus.

Track 7: Mousetrap

By now, the band has basically worked through its issues. The guys know what they’re doing is hopelessly lame, but the end is in sight, and now their self-loathing is recast as a blatant contempt for the listener… an unmasked incredulity that anyone would bother to get this far into the album without flinging the disc out the nearest open window.

Track 8: Goin’ Berzerk

I think the title says it all. Every turn of emotion the musicians endured over the 3 days they took to write and record the album merges with the others and a final picture comes together of the stark reality of what they’ve just done: Here, at last, we are left with a document of one of the most monumentally-stupid attempts to cash in on a fad in human history.

Fads are defined by their temporality. Fads are, almost by definition, intrinsically ill-conceived. If they weren’t, they would endure. But they don’t. Sadly, they usually leave artifacts like this behind.

Japanese Video Game Insanity

Update May 23, 2007: It doesn’t appear to be exactly the same game, but it’s close enough… Taito is releasing a version of Turn It Around for the Nintendo DS!

“You can’t stop rounding the wheels…”

I’ll save the long, self-consciously witty set-up here. I have a lot of other stuff to cover. Right to the point: I have discovered the most insane Japanese video arcade game ever. It is called Turn it Around!! and is manufactured by Taito, the Japanese video game juggernaut that brought the world Space Invaders back in the late ’70s.

Turn it Around!!

In Turn it Around!! you play head-to-head with a companion through 20 wildly varied and occasionally incomprehensibly bizarre game rounds. I think ultimately each round is merely a pretext for cranking a big yellow wheel around and around as quickly as you can, but I’ll let you be the judge. Let’s have a look….

Round 1: Arkanoid

Round 1: Arkanoid

“Return the ball with the paddle to wipe out all the bricks!”

This whole fandango starts off deceptively tamely, with the classic Breakout-inspired Arkanoid. An unsuspecting gamer might come upon this and think, “Hey, I remember that game! I think I’ll give it a try!” They clear the screen, awaiting another round of brick-smashing fun, only to be presented with….

Round 2: Sherbet

Round 2: Sherbet

“Prepare 10 glass bowls of sherbet as quickly as possible!”

What the…? It is your job to dispense a tasty frozen desert into a glass bowl faster than your opponent. O… K… But never fear (OK, fear!), it gets far stranger….

Round 3: Potter's Wheel

Round 3: Potter’s Wheel

“Turn the potter’s wheel to work out pots!”

These oversized superimposed heads remind me of a particularly annoying commercial the Georgia Lottery is currently airing, wherein a suburban dumbass is fantasizing about riding in the rodeo, when in fact he is riding his lawn mower. It culminates in him roping a plastic deer lawn ornament. This round of Turn it Around!! looks almost as fun. At least the characters in the game seem to realize how stupid the whole enterprise is quickly becoming.

Round 4: Takoyaki Dumplings

Round 4: Takoyaki Dumplings

“Skillfully cook ‘Takoyaki’ dumplings!”

Now we’re talking! Apparently, Takoyaki preparation is a cross between baking muffins and the African bead game mancala, but incorporating scalpels and light-emitting, irradiated foodstuffs.

Round 5: Elevator

Round 5: Elevator

“Transport the customers to their requesting floors!”

I don’t really know what to make of this one… suffice to say, if the love child of Mega Man and one of the Powerpuff Girls is manually operating the elevator, I’m takin’ the stairs.

Round 6: The Safe

Round 6: The Safe

“Adjust the dial to open the safe!”

Would-be bank thieves take note: Playing this game will not help you master your craft, unless you limit yourself to banks that keep their money inside Easy-Bake ovens.

Round 7: Birdman

Round 7: Birdman

“Fly with the human power aircraft as far as possible!”

I’ll think of something funny for this eventually. Frankly, I’m feeling a bit shellshocked at this point.

Round 8: Crash the Robot

Round 8: Crash the Robot

“Destroy the giant robot!”

Watch out! The irradiated Takoyaki dumplings have congealed into a humanoid form and are attacking Tokyo! Can you save the populace in time?

Round 9: Camel Try

Round 9: Camel Try

“Skillfully carry the ball to the goal!”

This looks like a fairly straightforward game in the vein of Marble Madness. “Skillfully carry the ball to the goal,” they tell us. Doing things skillfully is obviously very important in Turn it Around!! There’s just one unanswered question here: WHY is this game called Camel Try??? What does that even mean? (OK, there are two unanswered questions. Maybe more. But that’s a start.)

Round 10: The Drunkard

Round 10: The Drunkard

“Take the drunken colleague to the railway staiton?” (sic)

Ah yes: In case it wasn’t already apparent for a variety of reasons that this game will never be seen in the United States, this one clinches it. Around here, killing people in the most violent ways imaginable is considered “family entertainment.” In Japan, beer is sold in vending machines on the street. Enough said. Frankly, I like Japan’s idea better.

Apparently in this game you not only have to steer your teetering, tipsy companion to the train station, but you have to help him resist the allure of the… er… “ladies of the night” as well. I can see all the Japanese parents now, fighting each other at the toy store to get the last copy of the GameCube version for little Yoshi to play at home.

Round 11: Golf

Round 11: Golf

“Timing and speed to hit the ball is important!”

After Saturday night’s drinking binge, there’s no better cure for that hangover than a nice, relaxing round of @!#?@! golf. I don’t know how that Japanese text in the golfer’s speech bubble translates into English, but I think it’s fairly close to what Q*Bert used to say.

Round 12: Grabbing Cash

Round 12: Grabbing Cash

“Skillfully catch the cash thrown down from the balloon!”

Here’s another round that simply would not work in the States. If some idiot in a hot air balloon is tossing money into the void, any red-blooded American would just grab a rocket launcher and blast ’em out of the sky. (Only in a video game, of course.)

Round 13: Fishing

Round 13: Fishing

“Operate the fish drag as instructed to catch the big fish!”

I’m really… trying… to think… of something… for… this… one…. Oh, come on. Who can possibly think about fishing when that deranged neckless lunatic awaits us in the next round?!

Round 14: Hammer Throw

Round 14: Hammer Throw

“Accumulate power to throw hammer as far as possible!”

OH… MY… GOD…!!!

The only thing I can think of is the old SNL skit where Phil Hartman is a weightlifter on steroids. He attempts to lift some absolutely insane amount of weight, and succeeds only in ripping both arms right off of his body. But that’s the fantasy world of TV, not the mind-blowing reality of modern video gaming. What would really happen is what we see here… the guy would just strain and strain… until every capillary in his face exploded simultaneously.

Then again, this is just a still frame from an animated video game, and maybe I’m interpreting it incorrectly. This could also be a recreation of the face-melting climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Round 15: Parasol-Man

Round 15: Parasol-Man

“Get him out of the cave!”

Hmmm… a sidescrolling platform game. Yawn. Parasol? Whatever. OK, this is about as weird as anything else here, but it just doesn’t stand out! I can’t even think �of anything funny to say about it! Let’s move on…

Round 16: Sushi Bar

Round 16: Sushi Bar

“Serve such particular kind of sushi as the customers wish!”

Now we’re talking (again… the food ones seem to excite me most — maybe it’s lunch time)! It’s the Japanese take on the classic arcade game Root Beer Tapper (which I am sure was not root beer in Japan, if The Drunkard is any indication).

So, you’ve got an aspiring model with pupil-less eyes, like that creepy guy in Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” video, you’ve got the Japanese dirty old man, who has just worked up a big sushi appetite groping women on the overcrowded bullet train, and you’ve got Buttchin Fauntleroy, in from Brussels for the day in his red velvet suit with frilly cravat. The big question, which one wants the squid roe, and which will have the yellowfin tuna. C’mon, quick! That stuff only has an 18-second shelf life!

Round 17: Swan Runner

Round 17: Swan Runner

“Turn aside obstacles and get him out of the cave!”

OK, you have to go through this tunnel, avoiding obstacles. I can accept that. But why do the obstacles include a bunch of bananas, surrounded by a mysterious PVC pipe force field? And why are you riding a swan? For the love of God, why are you riding a swan??? OK, clearly I am starting to take this whole enterprise a little too seriously.

Round 18: Pinch Hitter

Round 18: Pinch Hitter

“It’s now 2-down and bases are loaded. Be aggressive to make a big hit!”

Baseball. OK, I understand that. Quite possibly the common denominator between American and Japanese culture. (Well, that and Masaharu Morimoto.)

My confusion with this particular game is technical. Note that your player is a 3-D modeled (albeit poorly) polygonal object, but the umpire and other players are all bitmapped sprites. This is almost as visually jarring as Capillary Man in Round 14. OK, not really. But from a design and technical perspective, I just don’t get it. (This is the point where my computer nerdiness just gets in the way. I apologize. Please take a moment to ponder the next image as I beat Professor Douchebag Q. Poindexter into submission.)

Round 19: The Malicious Lord Proxy

Round 19: The Malicious Lord Proxy

“A regular scene in the historical plays. Intently round the wheels!”

The Taito web site describes the premise of this round as a “regular scene in the historical plays.” Now, granted, I know very little about either of the traditional Japanese forms of theater, Kabuki and Noh (other than their names, which I of course have just taken great pride in showing off), but I have to wonder how much of a role bikini-clad blondes play in the Japanese theatrical tradition. Whatever it takes to bring that enormous phallic symbol into action, I guess. (I know someone will be… er… intently rounding the wheels tonight.)

I am struggling to find a witty, eloquent, or even marginally-intelligent way to say this, but I can’t… damn, those guys are funny! (Although I will note with some unease that the guy in orange on the bottom looks a little like a Japanese Louie Anderson.) I like the name, too. “The Malicious Lord Proxy” is definitely not someone you’d want to cross. It’s a bit jarring to see the great cartoon-style design on the characters in this screenshot, and to contrast it to the godawful hack jobs they did in some of the other rounds. (I’ll spare you the unpleasantness of revisiting Round 14.)

Round 20: Skateboard

Round 20: Skateboard

“Play attractive performance!”

I’m spent. And I think the designers of the game were, too, by this round. The description on the Taito site is “play attractive performance.” I guess that pretty much wraps it all up. Or not.

All images of the Turn it Around!! video game on this page are copyright ©1999 Taito Corp. I claim no rights or responsibility for them whatsoever.

New Adventure Easter Egg Discovered!

Most loyal fans of the Atari 2600 game Adventure are well aware of the game’s famous “Easter egg” — if you bring an invisible dot to a certain screen and place another object in the same room, you can move through a barrier into a secret room with a self-congratulatory message from programmer Warren Robinett.

But few players of the game know that this is really just the first part of the Easter egg!

If you bring the enchanted chalice with you into the secret room (a gift for Mr. Robinett, to show your appreciation for his brilliant game), then proceed to the entrance of the white castle, you will see the rest of the Easter egg.

You see, Mr. Robinett’s motivation for the Easter eggs in this game stemmed from Atari’s reluctance to give its game designers adequate credit for their hard work. (After all, it was the designers of the games who were directly responsible for Atari’s financial success, but proportionate compensation for their efforts would’ve eaten into the corporate fatcats’ stock bonuses.)

It is widely known that Mr. Robinett was only paid his paltry salary of $22,000 in 1978 for designing Adventure, a game that went on to sell one million copies, thereby earning Atari $25,000,000. But as far as the public (and Atari’s management) was concerned, games were cranked out by mindless machines, not painstakingly crafted by computer programming geniuses who managed to pack elaborate and engaging game concepts into a meager 2 kilobytes of code.

It was this lack of respect and recognition that led some former Atari programmers to start their own company, Activision — the first third-party software maker. Every Activision game boldly proclaimed the designer’s name right on the cartridge label, as well as a photo and gameplay tips from the designer in the instruction manual.

But those unfortunate game designers back at Atari were left to find other ways to get their well-deserved recognition.* Many resorted to Easter eggs containing their names or initials, inspired by the bold work of Mr. Robinett.

And now, at last, you can see the full Easter egg from Adventure. While Atari’s executives laughed all the way to the bank in light of this game’s resounding success, Warren Robinett, game designer and computer genius, left Atari to pursue… other opportunities. And his dragons did as well.

Adventure White Castle

* Yes, I know Warren Robinett designed Adventure before Activision was founded, and he had already left Atari by then. But this entire article was all just a set-up for the visual joke anyway, so back off!