The Cursed Quest To Get The High Score In Q*bert
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Video game records are a pretty big deal. Guinness even has an offshoot of the annual Book of World Records, just about video games—but it's futile to track most gaming records in print, since players keep breaking them too fast. Few records last long, and very few last years.
The high score for Q*bert lasted decades. Rob Gerhardt got 33,273,520 points in 1983, and no one who tried to beat him succeeded. Grabbing the crown requires not just skill at the game (the game offers you limited lives, and when you run out, that's it) but extreme endurance. To get that many points, you have to play dozens of hours, almost nonstop.
George Leutz was prepared to do that in April 2011. And 36 hours into his marathon session, he was going strong, with a hundred lives left. Then someone at the arcade that was hosting the event unplugged a neighboring machine, and this unfortunately reset George's machine as well. The following month, he gave it another go. He played for 54 hours this time, and made it to around 25 million points before exhaustion set in and he quickly lost.
Another competitor, Ed Heemskerk, tried in 2012. 56 hours into his session, a lightning storm knocked out power in the area. Ed had actually prepared for this—his game was connected to backup power and went on running even with the power out. But something about those seconds of electrical variation screwed with the game, and it glitched out, with two Q*berts appearing on the screen, and controlling them was impossible. He streamed the whole session, so the world has video evidence of the glitch.
Ed played again that year and managed 68 hours before losing. This nabbed him the world record for the longest Q*bert session, but he still hadn't beat Rob Gerhardt's score.
Then in 2013, George Leutz was at it again. He shattered Ed's new record, playing for 84 hours (by convention, players are allowed a 5-minute break per hour, and George saved his up and slept for 45-minute stints). And he also finally beat Rob Gerhardt's score, managing over 37 million points. Like we said, every video game record is normally followed by competitors just trying to break it again, but since this one took 30 years to beat, everyone else seems to have agreed to let it stand, for at least another decade.
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Top image: Gottlieb