Sometimes it’s fun to sit and try to imagine the pitch meeting for various products. Picture a group of executives and game designers sitting around a boardroom when the following conversation takes place:
“So, we’ve had huge hits with Adventure and Space Invaders. Clearly people like battling aliens and searching mythic artifacts. What should we do as a follow up?”
“Well, sir, we’ve been thinking. You know how kids these days are fascinated by tax law and maximizing their earning potential?”
“Well, what if we created a game where players collect money, avoid bureaucratic red tape and learn how to successfully dodge the IRS?”
“I love it! After that we can create a game centered around the savings and loan crisis!”
No matter how many times I replay the conversation I can’t figure out how Tax Avoiders, released in 1982 for the Atari 2600, got the green light. In fact, the more I think about it, the more bizarre the concept becomes.
The game featured you as “John Q.” Your mission was to become a millionaire. You did this by running around the screen and collecting money while avoiding red tape. Get tangled up in red tape and you lose money. At the end of each quarter, you have to successfully avoid paying taxes by dodging a sprite representing an IRS Agent. If you fail to do that, the agency will audit you and claim 50% of your earnings. Now, if avoiding paying taxes isn’t quite exciting enough for you, don’t fret. There’s more. During the tax avoidance phase of the game, you can also encounter a sprite representing a CPA. This plucky fellow will charge you a nominal fee, but provides you with tax sheltered investment options. There’s also an investment advisor who will help you maximize your investments. In the midst of all this madcap fun, you are attempting to collect items that represent your investment portfolio. Play your cards right, and you might just succeed in becoming a millionaire by the end of one year!
The game was developed by Dunhill Electronics and designed by Darrell Wagner. According to the game’s packaging, Wagner was a “”Licensed Tax Consultant and former IRS Revenue Agent.”
While it might be hard to imagine a child who would be fascinated by this concept, it’s my understanding that Gordon Gekko loved it.