Atari founder: Modern games 'unadulterated trash'

You'd think a man who was made a millionaire several times over by the Chuck E. Cheese pizza chain wouldn't be judgmental. However, Nolan Bushnell, the founder and onetime head of said pizzeria/video game parlor franchise and the once-mighty publisher/console-maker Atari has issued a scathing...

You'd think a man who was made a millionaire several times over by the Chuck E. Cheese pizza chain wouldn't be judgmental. However, Nolan Bushnell, the founder and onetime head of said pizzeria/video game parlor franchise and the once-mighty publisher/console-maker Atari has issued a scathing statement about the current state of games.

"Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I'm sad for that," Bushnell told the tech magazine Electronic Design in an at-times fiery interview. Bushnell did not single out any games in particular, nor did he name any companies or platforms as being prime offenders.

Despite his blanket statement, Bushnell's most recent venture has games at its very center. Some 31 years after he sold Atari to Warner Bros.--which went on to make billions on the 2600 home console--the serial entrepreneur has founded uWink, a restaurant where each dining table is equipped with touch screens offering a host of causal and "social" games.

Bushnell explained the concept behind uWink thusly: "A lot of video games today are very isolated. You don't see mom and dad, sister and brother, sitting down like they used to play, say, Monopoly. That represented good mentoring time for families that just isn't happening now."

Though Bushnell hopes for it to be a Chuck E. Cheese-size franchise, uWink currently only has one location in suburban Los Angeles.

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Discussion

311 comments
Sergeant_
Sergeant_

ZoSo1975 @ I totally agree with you and Cosmostein77. Very valid points. But the sick thing is the same parents that buy these children the "graphic" games are the same parents who complain endlessly that the gaming industry needs to be more suitable for all ages. *EEEEEEeeerrrrrkkk* Lets stomp onto the brake here, theres a reason why children should not be playing (M)ature games, and a reason why parents should actually look at the rating system freely given to notify each buyer of the given product if the product is suitable for the person playing it. If Bushnell has a problem with todays gaming - fine - make kiddy games for kiddies, case closed. I'll stick with flying around in an apache and blowing buildings up rather then learning how to spell, if I wanted to do that I'd spend the money and time on reading a book.

cosmostein77
cosmostein77

Bushnell has been in the service industry so long he has clearly forgot the fact that the Video Game demographic has changed, The Atari 2600 was marketed and designed for teenagers and preteens, and those original gamers have grown with the industry, last year the market data showed that its the 25 - 40 demographic that spends 80% of the money in the industry now, And its pretty hard keeping them entertained with "G" rated games like Pac Man.

dryden555
dryden555

he's just talking to get media attention

joeythemachine
joeythemachine

It's a good point. Nintendo, I think, is a credit against that arguement. My sister played Ghosts n Goblins for NES more than me. It was our first game. Since then, she's played about six video games around me: Mario Bros. Series, Populous, Dr. Mario 64, and, just last week, Wii Sports. I'd say groups like Bullfrog, Maxis and Nintendo's core developers are among the only big ones getting audiences wider than one of two demographics (gamers like us who comment on gamespot, and people waiting for pizza).

gamecubepad
gamecubepad

I agree with his assessment, but he seems forget the Wii. Still, except 3-4 games a year, the rest are disposable. Games like Manhunt, Bioshock, and GTA seem to be more newsworthy than great titles like Z:TP, Viva Pinata, Wii Sports and so on. In that sense he probably made that statement from a casual view, not the view of a nerd posting on his casual statement...on the seventh page.

MasterChief500
MasterChief500

from my experience my parents say that the new games are too complicated but I have found my whole family and my friends sisters loving guitar hero so this guy is obviously not informed. Also in the college dorms kids are getting together to play guitar hero and halo 3.

ZoSo1975
ZoSo1975

The problem with modern gaming isn't the games themselves. They merely express more of our culture in more explicit terms than most games from Bushnell's era. The problems with modern gaming are: [1] Many parents use video games as baby-sitters and don't bother taking the time to raise the children they helped to procreate. Video games have never been intended as child-rearing tools, much less to replace interaction with parents and real people. [2] Government has been forced to step in and regulate games, through the ratings system, when the parents SHOULD BE involved in what their children are playing, listening to (in the way of music) and watching (on television). If parents took the time to learn about games and make themselves a part of their children's lives, there'd be a lot less crap all around on many fronts. ... Mr Bushnell needs to realize that games have always been "graphic" in their content to some extent. After all, there was Leisure Suit Larry before anybody ever dreamed up Grand Theft Auto. (Think back to the one game, whose name I forget, where a cowboy rampaged through Indians in order to bone the Native princess. His member was waving about in blocky digital glory while feigning the hump-motion for craps sakes.) The only difference now is that the member COULD look real, along with the woman and anything else for that matter. (It could even be a video on the disc, like those Scores stripper videos on the "BMX XXX" games.)

edhc44
edhc44

Couldn't expect less from the man who made some of the dumbest moves in the videogame history. He's just spiteful.

nestea_king
nestea_king

Some games are, but to say that "Video games today are a race to the bottom" is stupid. There ARE very good games now, to say that all of them suck shows that his age is driving him senile. Sorry for not having 8 bit games anymore with bad sound effects.

Statictrance
Statictrance

ya know - it's sad that the first 4 posts i read on this completely trash the guy and say he's a washed up idiot in not so many words. If it wasn't for this guy, there's a really good chance video games wouldn't even be close to what we've come to know and love over the years because without Atari - who would have done it? And without their success, all the probably answers to that questions wouldn't have gotten into the business in the first place.

Marill
Marill

well, sucks to be you then, Nolan... coz i'm enjoying my modern games just fine - and i don't need to stick a quarter in every time i lose a life.

Threesixtyci
Threesixtyci

Says the guy that made his fortune one quarter at a time

imortiferus
imortiferus

"A lot of video games today are very isolated." ummm... Xbox live, PSN, Wii 24, 4 port consoles, wireless consoles, rock band, Wii sports, xbox live poker, Wii... should I go on Nolan?

christopherneal
christopherneal

MysticDynamite, I couldn't have said it any better. :)

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

I hate to disagree with you fellows gamers ,but he's right to some degree.the market is saturated with FPS, can developers make something else? I mean shoot this shoot that,get this weapon rinse and repeat.thats not to say theres not great games out there because there are,is just that is more of the same, I don't agree with him in the sense that theres not good game developers out there, and you are not gonna tell them or me that their games the poured their heart out to make are 'unadulterated trash'.I don't think so.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

I suppose I can see where he is coming from. Then again, he should go and play Zack & Wiki. That'd change his tune.

mustained13
mustained13

I still love playing Atari after all these years, but ET still is a thorn in my side.

Ryusennin
Ryusennin

@ Supernova Oh yeah, Blue Dragon is the pinnacle of brilliant modern gaming... HAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh :)

PS360owner
PS360owner

Yeah. Like Chuch E. Cheese's pizza parlor has a lot of class. What a hypocrite! He thinks the video games of today are garbage. Well, I think Chuck E. Cheese is garbage and where white trash goes to eat. I used to admire Bushnell, but am disappointed by this rant. He is no person to pass judgment on the tastes of others. The kind of entertainment he envisages went out of style 30 years ago. Spending quality time with your family at a Chuck E. Cheese playing multi-player table-top video games. You call this quality time for the family? What about a day at the library or a picnic at the park. Bushnell's idea of "quality" is trashy, so he's no judge of what consitutes "quality".

weathertrooper
weathertrooper

So, some people like playing games alone, whereas others enjoy Multiplayer.

SimuLord
SimuLord

If Nolan Bushnell had his way in the 70's, games would never have taken off---the only reason he greenlighted Pong was to try and raise some quick cash to do the arcade version of legendary mainframe hack "Spacewar!" When Pong became a runaway hit, he finally had his revelation about KISS being a key method of mainstream success. Also, I refuse to countenance an industry that could give us Oblivion, Psychonauts, BioShock, Phoenix Wright, and Final Fantasy Tactics being referred to as "unadulterated trash". Time for your medication, Nolan.

kyle759
kyle759

"Is it really surprising that an old man is bashing on current style video games? The guys is Old. Old people are always out of touch with modern trends and culture, which leads to their never ending list of gripe with the world." LOL You mean the modern trends and culture that are dictated to you by those same "old guys" that know exactly which buttons to push to get young people to think they're being hip, cool and rebellious?

kyle759
kyle759

"the "pg13" movement would be one step closer to killing creativity in games in exchange for a quick buck" Riiiight... because the only possible way that one can be creative is to use blood, gore and sex. Actually, it involves far more creativity and is much more of a challenge to create a good game that does not rely on cheap shock value to draw people in, but why let facts get in the way. Especially since it's so much fun to just sit back and watch everyone get so defensive when someone points out the obvious. Actually, the most intelligent (and accurate) post in here was made by Atomic_Mutant, but most people probably just saw "big words" and skipped it.

Djinnator
Djinnator

I like the idea of his restaraunt, but i prefer today's games. He has opinion, and i don't agree, it's as simple as that.

PatLTornado
PatLTornado

Nolan, you are great man. The grandfather of the U.S. gaming industry. And you couldn't be more correct, the industry is in a state of stagnation nobody, I mean no console manufactorer has brought anything new to the industry Xbox 360 and PS3 are great but they offer nothing different and new and don't get me started on Wii(I'm not sold on it and never will be.) While the Xbox360 is a great console,It's nothing more than an inexpensive Xbox that's only slighty upgraded while it's a wonderful western machine it will never sell in Japan. PS3 may be great, but it has few titles and and nasty price tage that bears the blueprint of the 3DO. And for Wii(please fanboys leave me alone before I report abuse) I see it as nothing more then another Turbo Graphix16 a console that tries to pass itself off as a next gen console when the techology is from 2002. Please spare your zionism talking points about wii, because I'll just ignore them. Before I continue, I just want to say who do you think your are insulting Nolan Bushnell?Don't konw all that he and Ralph Baer pineeored the U.S. gaming market? Plus when Atari became money hungry in the early 1980s, Bushnell had already left and sold the company to Warner. Chuck E. Cheese sucks only because in '87 some idiot bought the franchise from him and has marketed the franchise only to little children. The fact of the matter is that most western developers lack creativity and thier are NO guidelines on how many games should be released and EVERY single movie that is released is made into a game. This is very simular to what was going on in 1983-84 Oh let's not forget Atari disasters like 1981's "Custer's Revenge", and 1982's Pac-Man 2600 and E.T. these same problems along with it being weighed down by it's own success let to the gaming indusrty crash of 1984 and it looks like were headed right back there. While in October 1985, Nintendo saved the industry when NES was luanched nationwide, they were able to enact guidelines on how many games could be released until December 31,1988 many 3rd party developers were locked under contract, and other hardwarecompanies lost the chance to get 3rd party games. During this time, Jack"Satan" Tremiel bought Atari and tore the company apart, he's Atari's death nail!!!!! While I applad Nintendo for saving the industry in '85, that doesn't excuse the fact that they won't change and bring games to hardcore gamers not casual gamers and kids. And insist on churning out the same old franchise that just seem too kid friendly for non fans taste. They need to grow up and stop snubbing older gamers. While the industry may not need another guideline like Nintendo's four Cartridge a year policy, the market does need a guideline that reqiures test marketing a game before releasing it and recalling a bad game before it get's out. Now in 2007, six years since SEGA left the console market thier absence is now being felt more then before. Gone are the days of pinoeering the way SEGA did back in the day. Come to think of it, Sega was the only company that pinoeered new ideas that never caught on with it. They were the first to introduce online gaming, As early as 1991, they created a modem for Mega Drive, Thier SEGA CD/MEGA CD atactment was the only CD-add on that got attention despite the fact it was only moderately successful, in 1994 Sonic&Knuckles became the very first expansion pac game for home consoles, they were the first to have game consoles who's arcade port were a spot on match, and in 1999 they would have been the first to introduce DVD techology to gaming but for finicial reasons they couldn't do it and Sony beat them to it. Now I know SEGA made alot of mistakes, 32X, underpaying 1st party developers, poor marketing in the U.S. but from the looks of it thier presence is missed and the time is looking right for them to launch another console, A true 256-bit next gen console. That's affordable,has strong arcade ports,uses HD-DVD rom, online gaming(of course), is compatitble with Xbox live users(think about it: Sega net and Xbox live users playing together) and a strong library of software with little console ports virtually no bad movie titles. This is the reason I haven't bought any new console. I'll wait this gen out and hope that the industry can get it's act together. Though Sega didn't have that much money to launch Dreamcast and keep it alive they have recovered fincially from that and indeed still have the money and resources to make another console As long as Lindbergh exists I believe another SEGA console will come since most of SEGA's arcade machines end up game consoles. Will SEGA launch another console? I believe they will. Not just because of Lindbergh but because of speculation that within the nex gen SEGA will be ready convinced to return, I have a feeling that next year in 2008 will find out more about Yuji Naka's absence, the departure of Scott Steinberg, the NEW Sonic, and what SEGA may be cooking up in the near future. I hear you Nolan. I'm worried about the industry too. My two cents.

whitey3221
whitey3221

You know everybody is ripping him because he doesn't understand the modern games and whatnot, but what alot of you don't realize is that he is right. He's not saying that all of the games are "trash", but many of them are. I agree because there are very few games that are original and fresh. I'm not saying that I don't like playing these games that are trash such as halo, bioshock, and others. The truth is though that few are innovative as the games used to be and that's what he was saying(I believe) There are games like psychonauts and others similar that are very good and innovative each in there own way. Being a copycat business may be good for the NFL, but it's not good for gaming. I like it when I see KOTOR and others that strive to be different, but apparently many people just want more of the same. I would even go as far as to say that playing through the campaign of Stranglehold has been a better play than most other campaign modes...excluding halo, COD, GOW, and Bioshock(which I haven't finished yet so I'm not sure about it.). It would just be nice to see some of the young guys here respect the guys that created the industry.

Mr_Thordstrom
Mr_Thordstrom

plus modern games don't have any work ethic. in my day a game had to walk to school up hill in the snow, both ways.

Lum_Yatsura
Lum_Yatsura

Bioshock without a story would just be another single-player FPS. It made up for the lack of multiplayer by it's engaging story, and new gameplay elements popping up throughout.

Czm21x
Czm21x

"Atari founder: Modern games 'unadulterated trash' " Modern games are trash? What about ET for the Atari 2600. I saw that on Youtube. Worst game ever.

Absolutezerr
Absolutezerr

Who was it that first said "we just have to wait for all the old people to die" ?

McDog3
McDog3

Does he have any reasoning for calling all games nowadays "unadulterated trash"? Or is he just picking sides on the whole "violence & children" debate???

Neloy
Neloy

I think he should play today's games. To make things interesting, he should play online games, or play some co-op games with his family. I bet he will take back his words.

andrewlkt
andrewlkt

He has a point. Games today are becoming bland. Especially if you look at American game companies, probably 90% of games are either FPS, MMO or sports. And almost all are graphics before gameplay. Adventure is dead. Side scrollers are dead. There hasn't been any good RTS lately. The last good CRPG that isn't Japanese is Baldur's Gate 2. The last good action RPG is Diablo 2. Good fighting games are now rare. MMOs are basically WoW and cheap imitations. There's a huge lack of creativity and polish in games today, especially by American developers. Most of the creative, niche games and new genre busting games are from Japan and small Eastern European developers.

Proman84
Proman84

The sad thing is, here is a man who is in a position to criticize the gaming indunstry by saying something effective. Instead he wastes this opportunity by making a bland overstatement that is not even close to being true. What a waste.

Valen_Ca
Valen_Ca

Kratos314 "The gaming industry is just evolving like the movie industry. You don't hear anyone complaining about movies having spoken dialog now instead of subtitles" That's true, however all movies released by a major studio will allow you to subtitle their movies in case you can't make out the dialog, you can't really say the same thing about games.

Kratos314
Kratos314

The gaming industry is just evolving like the movie industry. You don't hear anyone complaining about movies having spoken dialog now instead of subtitles.

Ryosagi
Ryosagi

@ 5FingersOfDeath Bring up the points of Wii and other stuff that doesn't fit with the "unadualtrated trash." I want to know if he honestly forgot or did it on purpose.

Tylendal
Tylendal

What he is saying sounds like what Nintendo is always saying.

godzillavskong
godzillavskong

I would like to take the kids to Chucky Cheese and spend some quality time with them but it's too freakin expensive. 63.00 for some pizza and tokens! I guess I'll have to stay home and let them play in their room ALONE on their Gamecube while I play Xbox. Gimme a break!!!!!

HXCDEW
HXCDEW

Bushnell explained the concept behind uWink thusly: "A lot of video games today are very isolated. You don't see mom and dad, sister and brother, sitting down like they used to play, say, Monopoly. That represented good mentoring time for families that just isn't happening now." ------- Umm, Mr. Bushnell. Have you heard of the Wii? It's probably the closest any console has come to getting most unlikely people to play exactly that kind of casual and social video games. Sorry Mr. Bushnell but I feel you are just spouting sour grapes for not being in video game industry and making billions. It's your fault for selling Atari and not doing this yourself. Don't blame the industry.

5FingersOfDeath
5FingersOfDeath

His uwink is very close to where I live... and I had never heard about it. I'll probably stop by soon, any messages I should relay to him guys?

williamv1138
williamv1138

To everyone who started their post with some form of, "what he meant was...": I think we can expect people to say what they mean and mean what they say. Mr. Bushnell, meant what he said. Of course video game time takes away from other worthy pastimes. But don't sell yourself short by putting your own nuanced thoughts into his less-nuanced mouth.

PacoL250
PacoL250

I think he is missing the point of the Wii...not to mention the upcoming Scene-It game for the Xbox 360... Sure plenty of games out there are cookie-cutter pieces of trash, but many aren't and the family/casual gaming sector is only starting to get bigger. Plus, he should know how BAD some of the games out for the Atari were. If anybody has seen any of the Angry Video Game Nerd on ScrewAttack/GameTrailers knows what I'm talking about.

DevilD2005
DevilD2005

I wish him luck on his new venture, and he does make a point. However, the new games that come out, can inspire gamers imagination much like movioes and tv.

Jeff
Jeff

He's probably just saying something that sounds controversial so that more outlets write about his little interactive restaurant business. Whether he believes what he's saying or not, I bet it's coldly calculated. And here we are talking and reading about it! Nolan wins!

Hydrolix
Hydrolix

While that is a rather blanket statement, to some degree I have to agree with the guy. When was the last time you saw something truely original in gaming? Or movies for that matter...I think our entertainment injudstry has either a) run out of ideas or b) become too afraid to do anything that isn't a sure bet $ wise in their minds. Thus is something in the past worked they will milk it for everything it's worth.

_eDdySON_
_eDdySON_

And the WII doesn't do this? sad...

0678
0678

hes living in the past

stone438
stone438

What a crock of BS from a pirating hack. He's just pissed that he's no Bill Gates. I remember the Atari 2600 gams sometimes came with these mini-comic books which talked about how Atari was the only remaining civilized force in a world gone mad. Funny, but Raving Rabbids has a more intelligent story than most Atari offerings.

captnquark07
captnquark07

if he has social games at his place and complains that the family aren't playing, i'm guessing he's not too critical of nintendo then....