Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 CAGDC Tournament summary


There's something strangely fulfilling about being able to run up a score on a classic arcade game. They were designed originally to give the players a chance to have fun for their quarter, but to keep plugging in quarters to extend their playing experience. Those who invested enough time and money, could run the score up on a machine and get more for their money, but also be heroes to the arcade goers who learned to recognize the initials of the best players scattered around the arcade on any number of machines.

Then there are those who master scoring, level pressing and point pressing with a perfect economy of motion, turning gaming into something more like performance art. And I got a chance to play against some of those guys.


Donald Hayes may be the most dominant classic arcade gamer around with over 50 world records and he can play just about any game competitively. Watching him run up a game of Centipede, his favorite of the classics, was unbelieveable. In fact, after I videoed him from about 640K to 780K, he asked for a copy of the footage as he made some moves even he wasn't sure how he accomplished. He left the game after running up the score counter to 999,999 and left the score on a machine where second place was just over 40K.

There was a lot of media at the event, including the local ABC affiliate and a few newspapers comming to cover the event. I made the news, as did Mark Alpiger and some of the others. The reporter asked me at one point before the interview started what world records I held and I had to sheepishly tell him none. I had to explain that this was my first contest and I'm a big gaming buff, playing consoles, arcades, and handhelds. He asked me if I had played Halo 3 yet. I told him I didn't own an XBox 360 or a Playstation 3. He paused and said, "There's nothing current gen about any of you guys, huh?" That made me laugh.

Mark also visited my hotel room the first night and we watched an interview he had taped with Frank Seay, the world record holder on Crystal Castles, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his accomplishment. It was really cool hearing Frank reminisce about setting the record, preparing and perfecting boards until he hit the mark. What I didn't know was that shortly after he set the WR, he sold his machine and totally stopped playing Crystal, until Mark coaxed him into a game during the interview, which sadly, wasn't on the DVD Mark had brought by.


I also got a chance to hang out with the guys at meal breaks and talk with them casually, but the interesting stuff was listening to them talk about classic games. During dinner the second night, I listened to Donald and Doug talk about how they were planning on accomplishing their perfect games in Pac-Man, that their 9th key pattern took 47 seconds and how Doug had reached the kill screen in Pengo on MAME, pausing to clean the house and do his normal chores every so often.

These guys are amazing. That I was even able to compete on their playing field was awesome and that I turned up in second place after all was said and done was unbelieveable, but fantastic.

A big thanks to Mark Alpiger for holding and setting up the tournament and a heartfelt thanks to Donald, Pat, Mark, Doug, Brent, Jason, Connor and Angela for making me feel like one of the crew among the myriad of blinking lights and attract music.

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