Atari’s Pitfall as a Metaphor For Life

Pitfal 560x183Life is difficult, to say the least. We all grow up with hopes and dreams, and the idea that everything we ever wanted to accomplish is going to fall right into our laps with only the most minor of effort on our part.

It’s the lie we were sold from day one.

“You can be anything you want to be, Jimmy.”
“Dad, my name isn’t Jimmy.”
“Shut your stupid, juice box drinking cake hole Jimmy!”

There’s nothing wrong with inspiring hope and drive and passion in a child, that’s what keeps the human race moving forward, achieving great new heights. It’s also the line of crap that has led to so many “Occupy Whatever-Street” people these days. They bought into the dream. Nobody told them life was hard.

In that vein, we’d like to use the classic Activision game for Atari, Pitfall, to illustrate how life really is.

The Beginning

deadend 560x270The beginning, birth for most of us. This is where it all begins. The journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step. But watch out for the big ass hole in the ground. If you fall in that, it’s a dead-end and you’ll spend precious time climbing back out of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

And don’t think for a minute that by happily skipping over that hazard in your path that life is going to smooth out from there. Oh no. There’s more obstacles in your way. Just ask Pitfall Harry. You think you have it bad? Back in Harry’s day, we were all made out of just a few blocky pixels and could only move in four directions, in snow, uphill both ways.

Young Adulthood

traps 560x269See that? You’ve successfully navigated adolescence and you’ve moved on to college or a career. For most of us, it’s moving on to a shitty job flipping burgers or stocking women’s sanitary napkins for minimum wage. But hey! At least you’re 18 now and you can do what you damn well please, right?

Wrong. See that first log up there? That’s what happens when you’re old enough to do most anything, but you can’t legally purchase or consume alcohol. That’s what keeps you out of all the clubs and parties. That’s why, even though you’re 18 and can vote, you can’t have any goddamned fun. And if you manage to skip around that rule, what’s waiting for you?

A pit filled with scorpions. Or at least a hole to an underground hallway where an albino scorpion is waiting to revoke your license and cause you to bum rides to work for the next three years with stinky Pete, the dude who has worked the fry pit for the last decade or so, and hasn’t bothered to bathe in at least that long.

You managed to escape all of this heartache and misery?


layers 560x297Great for you. You’ve managed to avoid getting arrested too many times as a young adult, and you’ve finally gotten a real job. Maybe not the best job, but it’s a step along the ladder to success. Shit. Look at that would you?

You can see that Pitfall Harry is above the ladder. Since he lives in a two-dimensional world, let’s say that represents the outside of the corporation. He’s just applied and been given an entry-level sales position. In a few years, if he works hard, kisses the right asses, he can move up to that bottom rung.

Each step on that ladder represents 3 to 5 years of soul crushing, mind numbing, chapped lips from an old man’s ass worth of misery and treachery. You work, you get a few ” ‘atta boys” and maybe a small promotion and your own office. You also work 60 hours a week, neglect your family and your friends all so you can move up to middle management and deal with ulcers, stress and any other assortment of diseases you picked up along the way from Dave in Accounting always using your coffee mug.

Golden Years

gators2Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. You’ve managed not to lose everything you loved in the pursuit of earning a fair wage along the way. Maybe you have socked a bit of cash away for retirement and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy a well deserved rest. Hell, maybe you can even spend time with the kids and grandkids now that you have nothing better to do and no more worries, right?

Wrong. That snake up there is your retirement. Maybe you made good investments but chances are the stock market will dip, or the firm you employed to manage your assets will go belly up. And that’s just the threats you can see coming.

That alligator infested pond up there? That’s your declining health, limited mobility and energy levels as you age. Just waiting to bite you in the balls. You worked hard, dammit, and you’re going to take that dream vacation you promised Maude back in ’92! Well, you are if the doctor can get your blood pressure meds under control and your bladder isn’t giving you fits that week.


In summary, Pitfall for Atari 2600 is exactly like life for most of us. Need more proof? All of the images above are actual gameplay screenshots from the game. Notice how it’s kind of dull and simplistic looking?

coverThis here is the cover art for the game when it was new in 1982. Look how promising and full of excitement, fun and wonder they make it seem. Truly, life is bullshit. The best you can do is try to avoid letting an alligator eat your scrotum and avoid sitting on a scorpion.