A First Hand Account of the E.T. Landfill

In an unprecedented case of life imitating art, pixel artist extraordinaire Pacalin, (aka. Pauline Acalin) shares with TeeFury the story of her journey to experience a modern-day urban legend literally be uncovered and vindicated. So it goes that 30 years ago, Atari discarded several truckloads of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial game cartridges in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, after the game failed to sell as expected. The mere idea that Atari would dump millions of game cartridges seemed outlandish to many, and over the course of three decades, speculation grew.


Retro video game aficionado and artist, Pacalin, was intrigued by this myth. It inspired her to create 8-Bit Legend over two years ago. The rendering could almost be described as a premonition, as her piece depicts a desolate landscape being dug up, with all indication of aliens underneath. When Pacalin caught wind that the excavation was given the green light, she packed her bags and headed to New Mexico on April 26, 2014.

TF: Did you think they would find the cartridges?

PA: I did! There’s always more mystique in a legend. Part of me is like, “Aww, we should’ve left it alone,” but since it is for a documentary, it makes sense to find some closure in it.”

ET photo 3

TF: When it was revealed that the excavation would happen, how did Microsoft get involved?

PA: From my understanding it was Fuel Entertainment that got Microsoft and X-Box involved to get the documentary made about this story. The documentary will be launched exclusively on X-Box.

Warshaw(Pictured: Pacalin and Howard Scott Warshaw, creator of Atari games E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Yar’s Revenge)

TF: Do you have any idea what Atari’s strategy was in burying all of these games?

PA: It was just over-stock, and the games were being returned. They had nowhere to put them. Over a million cartridges were unsold, and whether or not they were all buried there, I don’t know…but I saw hundreds of cartridges. I also saw Asteroids, Indiana Jones, and Centipede games.

TF: What did the rubble consist of?

PA: It looked like garbage with video games in it. Also, old newspapers from March 1983. It was really cool! Retro garbage! It was so windy. Fifty mile per hour winds and lots of dust covering people. Some of the games were in their boxes. They took some out, and they looked brand new.


TF: Does Atari or Microsoft have any sort of strategy for these cartridges?

PA: I think some of them will be given away. It would be really neat to get one of those.

TF: Did they approach this dig as an archeological event, or something gimmicky?

PA: Apparently X-Box had an in-house archeologist. I don’t know if he was contracted, or if he was staff at X-Box. You would see the crew digging, and then suddenly they all took out their cell phones and started taking pictures. I got out my telephoto lens, and sure enough, I saw the game box. I got the shot!

The shot

TF: With all of the lore surrounding this story, this industry has not been around forever. It’s kind of profound that this young industry has myths and legends surrounding it.

PA: It really is.



TeeFury would like to thank Pacalin for stopping by and sharing her story with us. You can grab 8-Bit Legend today, and also check out our Gallery for her other design, Grid Invader.

*All photos courtesy of Pauline Acalin

  • DavidEssex

    Great Read!

    • teefury


  • http://overallbeauty.com/ Kim Snyder

    The games that started it all! No matter what it is still a piece of video games history. Centipede was my favorite to play..

    • teefury

      Seriously, this is an amazing story. A myth that was revealed to be true.

      • http://overallbeauty.com/ Kim Snyder

        Do you remember Run Spot Run? I think that was the name of it. It totally sucked. Where you had the 7Up guy running around. I think it was like Pacman.. It took forever to load!

  • Lily Molinar

    We’ve always known there were aliens hiding out in New Mexico. Alamogordo is a long way from Roswell however.

    • teefury

      We finally learned that the aliens are in a landfill in the desert too.

  • Josh

    The same guy designed E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark? Not a very good resume. I remember playing E.T. quite a bit as a kid and getting frustrated when I kept falling in those pits, but I still played it. Raiders, on the other hand, was simply awful. My mom picked it up at a garage sale and without having the booklet, it made absolutely no sense and was unplayable.

    • teefury

      Those pits were the worst! You couldn’t get out of them whatsoever.

      • Steve

        lol You just had to stretch his neck to levitate him back up to the top.

  • Pingback: GeekMom Lisa's Best of 2014 - GeekMomGeekMom()

  • Pingback: My Favorite Things in 2014 | lisathegeekmom()