Breaking a high score record on an arcade game may seem like an easy way to get into the Guiness Book of World Records, but it’s a lot harder than people realize. Back in the day, you may have been able to school your friends on Donkey Kong or Street Fighter, but with the scores getting higher and higher with each passing year, breaking a record has become quite rare.
In 1982, 7-11 hosted a Defender Stargate tournament where they pulled in every game within a 50 mile radius and put them on free play. They then invited kids all over Texas to try and win serious cash prizes by playing the game. Billy Joe Cain made history that day and he is currently trying to make history again with his 12 year old son by breaking the high score for the game. While official rules do allow a player to take a 5 minute break each hour, the game must still keep playing, so you have to build up enough free lives to survive cat naps, eating and drinking and of course the bathroom breaks.
With a game like Stargate, this isn’t an easy task. If you leave your jet on auto-pilot it starts sucking lives at a rate of about 1 per 30 second break! This makes it all that much more difficult to make history on the game. Adding to the challenge is the fact that Stargate uses 5 different buttons, plus a joystick in order to play the game.
On his website, Billy Joe put together a Q&A with more background on his experience playing arcade games.
“What kind of educational and professional experiences might be affected by your arcade experiences? I have started playing Defender again in the last couple of years and I have noticed that my play style mirrors how I live my life. It’s weird. I take chances but keep my mind on the big picture. There are times where I’m fast and furious and other times where I take my time through a measured response. You have to size up your enemies, and know their patterns to expose their weakness. In order to get through the chaos, sometimes you have to deal with one “knowable” and “manageable” thing at a time until you can quiet the chaos. Being able to enter a very chaotic environment and start nailing down one thing at a time has been invaluable in my life and my career.
Weird. I think I might see the nucleus of a self-help book there.
Of course getting a job in the video game industry was just unbelieveable. All of my experience in the industry has been backed by decades of game playing. I try to bring my emotional experiences from those games to my players, whether it’s a new multi-stage game mechanic from Gorf, the surprise of a cut scene in Ms. Pac Man, or the feeling the excitement of getting the top score of Defender. It’s all in there.”
Multi-taskers can do well at the game, but if you give me more than one joystick and one button, it’s too much for my brain. Trying to balance when to use thrust, reverse, hyperspace invisibility or your laser cannons to avoid incoming fire involves the use of all your facilities and starts to get really complicated as you get tired. It’s still too early to know if Billy Joe will break the record because this is going on live right now, but if you live in the DeKalb Illinois area, you can get tickets here to see him break it as he gets closer to the top score on the game. We wish Billy Joe the best of luck and hope he gets lots of sleep afterwards. Chime in the comments if there’s a game that you think you could play non-stop for three days if you wanted to secure the top score? Stargate fans in the Sacramento and Bay Area stay tuned for more “new” releases, because we’ll be adding the game to our website this week.