While information on the Army Battlezone project is freely available today, in the early 80’s it existed as only the reflection of rumor passed around by magazine editors and kids on the playground. Without any formal information, even more scurrilous rumors (or are they?) evolved pertaining to other Atari games (i.e. Missile Command, released at the same time as Battlezone) and C.I.A. conspiracies. I recently dug up this quote from an issue of Joystik.
‘The rumor goes something like this: The Pentagon (or the CIA or the FBI) collaborated with Atari in the development of a realistic video war game. What they were after isn’t clear, and the reasoning differs from rumor to rumor. Either the Pentagon wanted to subliminally train future personnel in the art of video. Or the Pentagon wanted to locate and recruit immediately those talented gamesters with the most impressive war-game skills. Whether they found what they were after or whether the story is even true is certainly top-secret information. The game was real enough, however, and was appropriately titled Missile Command.’
-Matthew White, Joystik magazine,Sept. 1982
Well, not too long ago, we found out the the truth about this story, and it came right from one of the original Atari programmers of Missile Command, Rich Adam:
“Atari did not work on a military application of Missile Command. I was one of the 2 programmers on the coin-op original. I believe that I would have known about one and I never heard a syllable spoken about it. A lot was discussed about the ethics Army Battlezone though.
So there you go…”
So the illustrious Mr. Adam cleared up the story for us, which was very cool (if not a bit disappointing). However, last night on the NBC TV Show Chuck the issue was raised again. In last night’s episode of the the show, Chuck must help the 1983 Missile Command champion (one of his Nerd Herd co-workers) who is wanted by a global terrorist for his mad incoming ballistic warhead defense skill. It turns out that (in the show), the guy who created Missile Command created an ICBM carrying satellite for the Japanese military that could only be activated by codes hidden on the final level of the game.
Interesting? A Military implications for Missile Command? Where did the producers of Chuck get that idea? I mean, It’s not like the idea had been floated any place in the past 25 years, EXCEPT last April on our site. Did they somehow get inspired by that post to use it as an episode for the show? If so, we are here at 8bitrocket.com are flattered by their use of our patently wrong (thanks to the input from Rich Adam), and ill-advised story of the subject.
Of course the people who made Chuck were pretty loose with their facts (basically painting Atari as still existing Japanese company with a chief engineer named Morimoto who was the designer of Missile Command…sorry producer guys, Morimoto was an Iron Chef, the guy who designed Missile Command was named Dave Theurer was helped by Rich Adam), so who could blame them if their story was inspired by a poorly researched story from a rinky-dink game blog like 8bitrocket.com?
At any rate the show Chuck rocks, and the Atari Missile Command episode (obviously inspired somewhat by movie King Of Kong too), even with its historical inaccuracies, was still awesome. In fact in some ways it was awesome BECAUSE of it’s historical inaccuracies, mostly because it inspired a hyper-nerd like me to write about it.
Note Added By Jeff – A Long time Chuck Fan:
I have watched every minute of every episode of Chuck, so I already know that the writers are extremely talented and always brilliant.
The part Steve left out was the absolutely amazing game playing sequence where Chuck conquers Miss-ile (sic) Command to get to a mythical kill screen while synchronizing his moves to Tom Sawyer By Rush. All the while the 40 something nerd crowd that came to see a King Of Kong style classic video game match cheer with fists raised, rocking out to the tunes and the Chuck’s mastery of the game. At the same time, Sarah, who is Chuck’s CIA protector, sometime Girl Friend, and always righteous babe of kick ass awesomeness, disarms a band of black clad hooligans in concert with Chuck’s game play in quick cut away’s and split screens. This is absolutely the best friggin show on TV and no one is watching. Please check it out, as if you visit this site at all, you are sure to enjoy every minute.