|Howard Scott Warshaw (born July 30, 1957), also known as HSW, is an American psychotherapist and former game designer who is best known for his work at Atari in the early 1980s. There, he designed and programmed the games Yars' Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, all for the Atari 2600 video game console. He has also written two books as well as produced and directed three documentaries.
Before entering game design, Warshaw was "Colorado born, Jersey raised, and New Orleans schooled." He attended Tulane University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree, with a double major in Math and Economics. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and received a scholarship for his graduate work in Computer Science. One year later he received his Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering.
After graduation, he began work at Hewlett-Packard as a multi-terminal systems engineer. In 1981, he went to work for Atari.
Warshaw's first success, Yars' Revenge, first started as an Atari 2600 adaptation of the arcade game Star Castle. However, as limitations became clear, Warshaw re-adapted the concept into a new game involving mutated houseflies defending their world against an alien attacker. The game's working title was Time Freeze. Playtesting by Atari found that the game was popular with women. The game was a major success and is still regarded as one of the best games made for the Atari 2600. This led Warshaw to be picked as the designer of the game adaptation of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was also a commercial success and was critically acclaimed at the time.
It was his success on Raiders that led to Warshaw being chosen to design and program the ill-fated Atari 2600 adaptation of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Problems began early as he was only given five weeks to go from concept to finished product. Warshaw was assisted by Jerome Domurat, a graphics designer at Atari. Although the game was finished on time, it was poorly received and seen as being confusing and frustrating. Atari took a major financial loss on the project which, combined with other poor business decisions and conditions, led to the company being divided and sold within two years.