Atari wants to make premium games again, but the company is still doing a lot of weird things in the background. Including paying someone to write the most elaborate backstory on… the company’s cyberpunk gaming hotels?
One of Atari’s weirder flexes to stay relevant over the past year has been the announcement gaming-themed hotels. While the pandemic has pretty much derailed many travel plans, especially the type of business travel that places like Las Vegas rely on, the first Atari hotel is still hoping to open in 2022.
Looks not bad at all. This neon style would actually be an amazing addition to the Las Vegas backdrop. The whole underground bar and arcade walkway would at least have the benefit of being drastically different, if it ever came to fruition.
In the meantime, however, something that has come to life is fan fiction. In what I’m guessing, it’s an attempt at guerrilla marketing – or maybe two people going wild on Instagram – the official Atari Hotels account posted. dozen of chapters on a fictional universe called Syzygy “inspired by the spirit of Atari hotels”.
It sounds a bit like a feverish dream, but what’s staggering is just how committed Atari is. This year alone there are almost 40 chapters in this Loan Player One-like a narrative world, each of 200 to 400 words, with its own illustrations and concept art. Art itself is not half bad. And whoever writes the little stories seems genuinely invested in the project.
Just to set the scene, here’s the beginning of the story, in a world where (of course) Tesla is so massive that it has built its own arenas specifically for street racing.
There are vibrations of Speed runner here, but of course it doesn’t matter. But from that point on – maybe because the writer and illustrator figured out that, no, Atari is really funding this thing – the story just goes places.
Here is a chapter establishing all kinds of weird racing rivalries, including a return to the Atari 2600 console:
I saw Sway walking towards us, dressed in his neon jumpsuit as always. He was a rabbit, always looking for a big lead, forcing you to burn fuel just to keep pace.
Ryland Costa was right behind him. His bike was too mechanical and heavy. If he was hit by a truck, I’m not even sure his bike would tip over.
2600 was also preparing. He was one of those robots that were driven out after being replaced by a newer model. Now he’s running for his own pieces.
Wait, is this …? It couldn’t be… Angie. It’s a legend, as tough as it is pretty. I saw her bury a lot of guys who were too busy looking after her to notice that she had blown them away on the track.
So many top runners. Each a killer.
It’s one of the first chapters, so hey, it doesn’t matter if we never get to see any of these characters again. But then – after the main character obviously wins the race – there is a natural conflict:
I rushed to Yaz’s room. Her window was smashed and she was nowhere to be found. Shards of glass were scattered around a row of large boot prints. Tears rolled down my throat and instinct took over.
I heard footprints coming from above – they were on the roof! I jumped into the pneumatic tube, took to the street and got on my bike. I looked up and Yaz was strapped to a hoverbike jumping from roof to roof. The dark figure driving the bike stood out against the multicolored billboards. I bombed the deserted streets following my sister.
I broke my line of sight to look at the gamepad – “BE CAREFUL” while cranking my bike at full throttle. I forgot my helmet. The wind was blinding. At this speed, even a fly would hit my head like a bullet. But I had to keep my eyes open. I couldn’t lose Yaz.
Then there is the black market in video games where people disappear:
Growing up, everyone knew that they should never go to the ventilation center. When I was in middle school, a kid in my class went there to buy illegal video games, but he never came back. Coolant circulates throughout the city to make sure none of the tech overheats, and the ventilation center is where everything drains away, leaving the entire area covered in a thick haze.
The vivid colors of the city slowly desaturated into a white cloud as I ventured into the center. It was hard to hear anything under the loud growls of the fans, but the occasional high-pitched noise put me in shock.
At this point, you have to seriously appreciate the amount of effort put into all of these chapters and articles.
It is later established that a sort of cyberpunk gang called Jin is responsible. For some reason, this futuristic group of human traffickers and black market gamers is residing in the Atari hotel. It sounds like a bit of a weird association to make on the official Atari hotels account, but live your best life I guess:
When I reached the Jin base, I was a little confused. Did Matthews give me the wrong address? It looked like an ordinary office building to me. No guards, no dogs, not even a force field – nothing …
I walked across the vast marble floor and walked through the sterile hall to a small office where I was greeted by a smiling robotic janitor: “What can I do for you, miss?” “
Am I looking for the Jin?
Someone even bothered to build this little animation for the kidnapping plot, only to go back to describe a second arc with a massive flight over the Atari hotel.
It’s just crazy to me that someone at Atari is actually funding this elaborate narrative universe weaving street races, a Tesla arena, gangs, corrupt cops, and an Atari hotel into one story just for an Instagram account. And while the first story released on February 9, the cyberpunk-esque concept art began to appear on the official account a few months ago. So this is an idea that has been hugely passionate about someone for months, even if it has not really taken off: the Atari Hotels account has just over 3,000 followers on Instagram. The posts also appeared on a Facebook account, but it’s even smaller with just over 1,500 subscribers.
Apart from the whole Speed runner vibe to it, I love that the artist and the writer behind it obviously have a blast. It’s bizarre to see him attached to Atari, a company recently known for launching crypto casinos in Africa, and it’s even stranger that it’s all tied to video game hotels.
But hey, why let that get in the way of a good knockoff / kidnapping / Pod Racer imitation? Atari certainly does not have.