I was a kid in the '90s, but I never played Atmosfear or any of the "video" board games that were trendy at the time. So while I knew they existed, I was never nostalgic for them and never had any inclination to seek them out. That general feeling hasn't changed... but I feel so lucky that I got to try out Atmosfear: The Harbingers at a game night last night!
Atmosfear is a roll and move game in which you attempt to pick up different-colored keys, get back to your starting space, and escape from the "other side" in which you and your fellow players are trapped. In addition to competing with other players, who might challenge you for your hard-earned loot, you are routinely interrupted by "the Gatekeeper."
The game itself is boring as hell, but the Gatekeeper? He's gold. I have never enjoyed being called a maggot so much in my life. And if I had been a little kid the first time I played this game, it would have totally enchanted me. See him in this clip:
The whole thing makes me wonder whether more purist gamers complained about games with video elements the same way they now complain about games with app integration. It also makes me think about how much external media can potentially add to a game. The video element of Atmosfear is the best thing about it. It would not be even remotely fun with no video. But the Gatekeeper's hammy delivery and hilarious nastiness imbue the whole experience with personality that doesn't come from the mechanics.
I have zero desire to play Atmosfear again anytime soon—as a game, it sucks. But I'm definitely going to peruse YouTube this afternoon in search of more of those hilarious videos. What would this game have been like if there were a perfect marriage of great mechanics with integrated video? Although I did not experience Atmosfear as a kid, and wasn't swept up by nostalgia, I'm so grateful that I got to experience a part of board gaming history.
Also, as far as I can tell, the actor who plays the Gatekeeper, Wenanty Nosul, is still alive, well, and calling people maggots.
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My name is Liz Davidson, and I play solo board games. A lot of solo board games...