There are times when I will just sit and stare at my ever-growing video game collection. Most often, I am carefully selecting a title from the shelf to spend a few hours with after a hard day’s work. Sometimes, I will just make stacks of boxes and jewel cases and sift through their various paper inserts, which are usually wrinkled and torn from decades of abuse.
A few days ago, I was taking a moment to admire the collection of Atari goodies I have accumulated throughout the years, when I noticed a pile of boxes gathered in a plastic tub in the corner of my closet. They were a bunch of old Atari and Intellivision games that I had bought by the bagful for twenty-five cents apiece a few years ago and never really paid much mind to after the initial purchase.
I began sifting through the stack of mostly forgettable titles and couldn’t help but laugh at the box art that adorns Atari’s 1978 not-so-classic Casino:
At long last I can finally experience the frivolity and cocaine binges of an actual 1970’s rich white person for myself!
The coked-out woman (likely a hooker) in the white dress is so intoxicated that she is literally throwing cards and money at you. The middle guy in the tuxedo is inconspicuously passing his bag of the white stuff over his shoulder to the woman behind him, who might actually already be dead from overdose.
Exotic beaches, reckless gambling, and big-breasted cougars on drugs? What’s not to love about Atari’s Casino?
Well, a lot actually. What is advertised as a sexy romp of riches is actually about as exciting as Tuesday night bingo at the saddest VFW ever.
I’ve never been a fan of video game renditions of card games to begin with, but this is takes the tedium to a whole new and excruciating level. Add to that the necessity having to procure special paddle controllers to play the game and what you have is a recipe for the single greatest waste of silicon and plastic ever conceived.
I also have to point out that some asshole at the Atari marketing department had the nerve to call this a “special edition:”
Following suit is another vile piece of trashware named Slot Machine. You’ll never guess what excitement awaits you in this one. From what I could ascertain from the box art, you obtain infinite amounts of wealth via some awesome crank machine from a Judas Priest album cover and climb aboard a rocket ship full of champagne and women for the sexiest damn space party there ever was.
Or you just play a slot machine.
I will be honest: One of my favorite aspects of retro gaming is the box art. The hand-drawn covers of the 1970s and 80s are unlike those found in any era of gaming that has come since.
However, I can imagine that would have been extremely frustrating as a young kid during the era with a limited amount of resources to help distinguish the good games from the bad. Without the Internet, magazines, or even a screenshot to help one get a grasp for what sort of in-game action you could expect, cover art was all you had.
I’m sure there are countless horror stories of allowances being dumped on the likes of crappy Atari carts like Casino, and I’m certainly thankful that my generation of gaming was a little more forthright in its promotions.
So there I stood, mystified as to why these awful games were ever put on store shelves and allowed to steal money from children. I began to put the games back into the closet to sit for another few years until I was bored enough to pull them out again, until I saw a particularly shiny silver box at the bottom of the stack.
It was just then that I remembered that sometimes games are just as fucking awesome as the missile-equipped-chrome-dinosaurs-in-space battles on the box advertise.