Live

Watch CBSN Live

"E.T." video game recovered from landfill added to Smithsonian collection

"E.T." is going to the Smithsonian.

One of the "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a New Mexico landfill has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Museum specialist Drew Robarge made the announcement in a blog post. He included a photograph of the crinkled cartridge along with the official serial number assigned to the game by the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico, verifying that it came from the landfill.

Robarge said the addition reflects the "dark days" of the industry.

"The video game history collection at the museum has some amazing objects in it that represent big moments in the development of the American video game industry," he wrote.

"But one big moment was unrepresented: the dark days of the 1980s when the U.S. video game industry crashed," he wrote. "The Smithsonian is no hall of fame -- it's our job to share the complicated technological, cultural, and social history of any innovation, including video games. That's why I was excited when we added a copy of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Atari 2600 game to our collection."

The game was one of hundreds recovered by team of documentary filmmakers investigating a decades-old urban legend that centered on Atari secretly dumping the cartridges. The "E.T." game had the reputation of being the worst game ever, and it contributed to the demise of the company.

E.T. landfill dig
An E.T. doll is seen while construction workers prepare to dig into a landfill in Alamogordo, N.M., April 26, 2014. Producers of a documentary were searching for cartridges of Atari's 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,' which has been called the worst video game in the history. AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca

Members of the film crew that inspired the dig at the Alamogordo landfill said they were thrilled to be contacted the museum.

"Just saying the name Smithsonian resonates throughout the world, and to be part this dig and an iconic museum like the Smithsonian with something that we created and researched and actually had come to fruition is pretty amazing," Gerhard Runken of Fuel Entertainment told The Associated Press.

The documentary debuted on Xbox last month, but it's unclear when the "E.T." cartridge might go on display or be worked into an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The museum also has hard hats and a vest from the historic dig.

Michael Casey

Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com

View CBS News In