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Still Entombed After All These Years: The continuing twists and turns of a maze gameOpen Data

Paul Allen Newell, John Aycock and Katie M. Biittner

Cite this as: Newell, P.A., Aycock, J and Biittner, K.M. 2022 Still Entombed After All These Years: The continuing twists and turns of a maze game, Internet Archaeology 59.


Annotated Entombed screenshot showing vertical symmetry of black paths with yellow walls, pink player character, blue zombie, and make break block. Direction of movement during play is bottom to top. Taken in the Stella Atari 2600 emulator
Annotated Entombed screenshot, taken in the Stella Atari 2600 emulator

The Atari 2600 video game Entombed (1982) left open questions in the design and implementation of its efficient maze-generation algorithm that, through serendipity, we are able to address at last. We have analysed almost 500 artefacts that capture the development process leading up to Entombed, artefacts that have not been seen for decades, including a distinct, unreleased Atari 2600 game. This work is interdisciplinary between the fields of archaeology and computer science in the area of archaeogaming; computer science has allowed informed technical analysis of the artefacts, with processes from archaeology used to manage and organise the large number of artefacts, as well as view game development in a human, archaeological context. The deliberate inclusion of a co-author who was a first-hand participant in the game development additionally raises interesting questions about autoethnography, authorship, and objectivity.

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  • Keywords: Atari 2600, video game, maze, game development, archaeology, archaeogaming
  • Accepted: 4 May 2022. Published: 8 June 2022
  • Funding: This article has been funded by Government of Canada New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRFE-2020-00880)
  • PDF download (main article text only)
  • Data Availability: Key files have been made available at

Paul Allen NewellORCID logo
Independent researcher, United States

Corresponding author: John AycockORCID logo
Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary

Katie M. BiittnerORCID logo
Department of Anthropology, Economics, and Political Science, MacEwan University

Full text

Figure 1: The Atari 2600 game console, produced from 1977 to 1993 (photo: Evan Amos, public domain)

Figure 2: Annotated Entombed screenshot, taken in the Stella Atari 2600 emulator

Figure 3: Maze generation algorithm, reflecting its usage in Entombed

Figure 4: Excerpt from original maze documentation printout (October 1981)

Figure 5: Multi-block view of maze algorithm context

Figure 6: (VIDEO) A modern reconstruction of the maze-generation algorithm, allowing experimentation

Figure 7: Excerpt from near-final source code for Entombed, showing commented-out easy mode

Figure 8: The maze algorithm in action, summer 1981; PAN recalls the 'Forbidden' refers to him being instructed to stop working on his maze game in favour of Towering Inferno

Figure 9: Harris matrix for the Entombed assemblage; the asterisk denotes some uncertainty, as explained in the text

Figure 10: (VIDEO) Gameplay of the unreleased Atari 2600 game

Figure 11: (VIDEO) MINOTR7's maze-generation demo in operation

Figure 12: Credits from design documents

Table 1: Summary of artefacts in Entombed assemblage

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