If you think about it, the tale of the Atari 2600, despite its most iconic element being a simple black controller, is really a story about a hugely successful company failing to show any semblance of control of its ecosystem.
It was a market that grew wildly out of proportion to what the buying public was willing to accept, and consumers, in their own way, called Atari out for that—by effectively not buying those junky games up at the rate they were being overproduced.
But nowhere does the lack of control show itself than the tale of Mystique, a line of erotic video games made for the system, with one in particular—the absolutely gross and absolutely racist Custer’s Revenge—proving hugely controversial with the public and deservedly becoming the target of public protest. Despite Atari having nothing to do with the games, it got most of the blame.
You’d think, if you’ve heard about the story of that game, you know everything you need to about the story of Atari’s unwitting foray into X-rated content.
“Critical Kate” Willaert
will be quick to prove you wrong. Willaert, founder of A Critical Hit!
and a researcher and essayist who has recently been working on a series called Video Dames on her YouTube channel
, dug well beyond the point where the average person stops for her September Kotaku
piece, titled “Porno Hustlers of the Atari Age
.” Willaert’s well-researched piece on Mystique highlights the line’s direct affiliation with Caballero Control Corporation, a major seller of adult videos in the early 1980s, and how, if the games didn’t kill the market for adult video games entirely, they certainly caused significant damage in the eyes of the mainstream.
The sometimes racy video games of the Atari 2600 era, at a time when there was no aggressive licensing to rein everything in, perhaps were a key reason why video game companies moving forward took a heavier hand in attempting to ensure the games they allowed on their systems were licensed, efforts that stymied legitimate companies
and fly-by-night firms like the web of companies associated with Mystique alike.