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Does E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Still Influence How We See Aliens Today

"Madame Tussauds, London" (CC BY 2.0) by Denis Bourez
For many decades now, aliens have remained a hot topic around the world – and possibly even far beyond our world. As the media here on Earth often dictates what is and isn’t trendy, we at The Bearded Trio believe that Stephen Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) played a pivotal role in the introduction of aliens into popular culture. That is, though there had been numerous close encounters reported prior to the release of Spielberg’s movie, many critics (including us) believe this movie truly redefined sci-fi and turned aliens into pop culture icons.

So why do we believe E.T remains somewhat responsible for today’s interest in aliens?
Well, E.T features a cute, dumpy little alien protagonist who seems entirely harmless, naive and even innocent – therefore completely unthreatening. As the majority of movies depicting aliens before (and largely after) E.T showed them as angry, creepy killing machines, it was Spielberg’s masterpiece that truly humanised our galactic neighbours. After E.T appeared on the big screen more friendly aliens followed, from Star Wars Return of the Jedi's Ewoks to the 1980s' favourite daytime TV alien life form Gordon Shumway aka ALF, a character that was so popular he got his own cartoon, comic, film and even a chat show. 

Over thirty years after the film’s initial release, aliens continue to appear in numerous forms of media. For example there’s gaming, a media platform that has continued to experience success and, more importantly, constantly creates content featuring aliens.

Of course you expect video games to feature benevolent aliens (remember 1997's Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee?) as well as a vast array of alien killing machines to match. However, even more unexpected gaming niches, for instance iGaming, have embraced aliens in a plethora of their games where they aren't necessarily protagonists or antagonists of the player's character either. Alien Farm Invasion is just one of many slot games available at online and mobile casino mFortune featuring extraterrestrials in a. Another is Space Katz, which might have some of the weirdest looking yet adorable cats we’ve ever seen.

As for console and PC games, quite a few of the most highly anticipated games of 2017 feature aliens in some way or another. These include Arkane Studios’ Prey, Mass Effect: Andromeda and a brand new Avatar game, all of which are sure to be very popular amongst gamers. Interestingly, in many newer games featuring aliens, the extraterrestrials - benevolent or not - are the protagonist’s allies or you can play as an alien yourself – an idea that E.T. pioneered.

At the end of the day, we would never claim that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is the only piece of media that has impacted upon how popular aliens have become over the last few decades. There are of course hundreds of other movies, books, TV shows and games that are each unique and have made their mark on the road to alien acceptance. We do however enjoy the thought that E.T was the first friendly, lovable alien to ever make his way into the hearts and minds of humans, and we hope that he continues to be an inspiration for many years to come. 

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