This is a picture from a video game called Aquaventure.
Created about 1983 by Atari Inc. for the Atari 2600 game system, it was never produced and released. Programmed by Tod Frye and Gary Shannon, the game is not mentioned in any internal documents or press releases or anything. It's like it simply materialized at Atari Corp one day. The game has no known bugs or missing features, it is, as far as anyone can tell, gold.
Aquaventure is one of only two games on the Atari 2600 to feature mermaids (the other, of course, is Fathom from Imagic). The game is simple -- you control a diver plunging the depths to recover treasure and bring it to a mermaid on top of the water before your air meter runs out. You can shoot the fish, but that only replaces them with faster, more aggressive foes. Not the greatest game in the world, and one level where the color of the water and your diver is very close makes it a nightmare to get through.
With the discovery of the completed prototype, a retro gaming convention made up a bunch of carts featuring the game and gave them a nice box, red label style to reflect the era the game would have been a part of. Years ago, a gaming magazine I subscribed to was ending and held a contest. They had a few repro carts from various shows they covered, and were giving away four of them. Among them was Wizard, the last 2K game for the 2600, and Aquaventure. Seeing a pretty good chance of getting a free game, I signed up for the contest, then forgot all about it.
I've been doing some cleaning lately. I call it "discarding the past," throwing out things that I said I was holding on to because someday I'll do something with them but realize, with my life working its way to its conclusion, I'm not going to. Those 5 1/4" floppies? Gone. Toys from things that I thought were so cool at the time but now barely register in my memory? Gone. Donated to charity or tossed in the trash.
Today, I'm going through one box full of old papers and such. Books, magazines...
…an unopened mail package from about five years ago?
I examined it. I didn't recognize the name that sent it. So I opened it up and pulled out a letter.
"Congratulations! You have won second prize in our video game giveaway! Enclosed you will find a reproduction cart of Aquaventure…."
…yeah, I kind of stopped reading at that point.
Sure enough, there was a boxed copy of Aquaventure in the package. I don't usually keep game boxes, but this one has gone in a protective case, and the cartridge is safely tucked away. Well, after testing it to make sure it worked (had to be thorough, took me a few hours).
I just love these little surprises.