Did You Ever Play Asteroids? - InformationWeek

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Did You Ever Play Asteroids?

I ask because Universal Studios recently beat out three other studio bids to win the rights to develop Atari's "Asteroids" arcade game into a movie. It hopes your dim memories will make you want to see the flick.

I ask because Universal Studios recently beat out three other studio bids to win the rights to develop Atari's "Asteroids" arcade game into a movie. It hopes your dim memories will make you want to see the flick.I don't.

I remember playing Asteroids as a teenager, and it was really cool. That line-drawn spaceship was far too easy to move, and it exhibited physics of motion that eventually rendered it impossible to control. Blasting bits of rock into smaller bits that also careened across the screen was alternately fun, and way too hard.

The computer that ran it likely had the processing power of your average toaster, but for the late 70s it was oh-so-futuristic. I think a silly stand-up version of the arcade game featured as a prop in the sci-fi movie classic "Soylent Green."

But it was a really simple game (which was perhaps why it was so fun to play). It had no plot. No characters. No dramatic narrative, or story arc that went anywhere but to a screen ever-more crowded with bits of asteroid. Success came from blowing things up, and avoiding getting blown up. It was "content agnostic," and didn't even try to approach the emotional tug of, say, Iron Man's inner-conflict, or the Watchmen's dynastic dysfunction. "Pirates of the Caribbean" at least had a backstory.

Universal plans to write this story from scratch, and is already doing so for other games, like "Candyland" and "Battleship." Those titles don't really have characters or plots, either...but they're soon going to have scripts (or something close), stars, soundtracks, and loads of merchandise and promotional tie-ins. The likelihood that any of these projects will come together and create a hit is about as dependable as winning at a roulette table. Something named "Asteroids" could just as well be a breakfast cereal or floor polish.

The movie-makers are betting that name recognition will be enough to make you want to see the flicks. Do you think it'll work?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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