19 March 2015
On the Death of Companies and the Immortality of Brandnames
You've all seen this, right?
As some of you know, I contributed one of the music tracks to the OST of TxK. My association with Llamasoft games stretches back into my childhood of big heavy 386's and sleek, exceptional Amigas. Sorry Atari. Minter has long been a hero of mine, so much so that irrespective of what my career might or might not bring, having some of my music in one of his games will forever remain a personal highlight.
I'm not going to cover the ridiculousness of the claims, which are so utterly insane that even a cursory reading should tell you enough. What I wanted to get off my chest is something I'm sure the rest of you are feeling. How can something once so mighty as Atari become so culturally necrotic?
A recent episode of Freakonomics covered the topic of how we, as a society, have very few effective means of retiring bad ideas. Their embers can glow for generations and in the case of anti-vaxers, even retain enough heat to relight fires. The recent behaviour of Atari brings me to consider other cultural phenomena that do not leave respectfully.
Now I realise that what I'm proposing is idealistic to say the least, but please bear with me whilst I naively entertain the notion of a world which closer represents truth and respect for creators and not this shitty corporate greed thing we're having to deal with all the time.
Why is it that brand names and intellectual property rights can change hands so easily? Can we not simply let things die? The structure of our systems allow rebirth in the most grotesque fashion. Dying companies become carrion for the rest of the economy to pick from. Scraps are fought for and victors gladly drag home their spoils. Much of the public may be unaware of the new, vampiric form of the brand, but in truth everything gradually loses meaning and the past becomes tainted by the present.
Looking at the recent history of Atari I don't imagine there is a single person currently working there who was present when Tempest 2000 was made. I first presumed the seeming naivety of their legal claims to simply be a case of playing dumb. However, now there is the possibility that it's genuine ignorance. We are faced with the possibility of a company that does not know its own history beyond its list of the assets it accrued in its takeover. Atari has changed hands a significant number of times over the years, and a few years ago only consisted of ten members of staff. According to Wikipedia the company filed for bankruptcy in 2013 before re-emerging in the casino gaming space. And yet, through all this they have somehow retained rights to these various games, made by creators long past. With each passing these companies become a distortion, no longer reflecting the spirit of the founders, and in this case, so poisoned as to attack the very people that helped contribute to their immortality.
I propose an industry-wide convention: Atari without quotes refers to real Atari, "Atari" refers to zombie-Atari.— Jeff Minter (@llamasoft_ox) March 19, 2015
Imagine a world in which the great old names can be said with pride and a glint in the eye rather than with qualifiers and caveats...
P.S. Since Atari are falsely claiming that the TxK soundtrack is a complete derivation of the Tempest 2000 soundtrack, does that mean that the musicians who worked on it could potentially counter claim for defamation? Everything I've read about so far would suggest we could...