Friday, November 22, 2013

What's The Big Deal About Defender? (Defender World Record Saga - Part One Of Five)

When I first saw the Defender machine pop into existence in my local 7-11, I watched the flashing attract mode screens until they settled on the High Score page... The DEFENDER HALL OF FAME. It had "Todays Best" (no apostrophe - but who cares) and "All time Greatest." That spoke to me. Loudly.

You see, my hometown area of Brazosport, TX is most known for being a chemical plant. I lived in the "blue collar" support city and, well, the place was filled with people whose families were hard working and honestly didn't always have time to spend with their kids. 

Not having an outlet so I could be good at something, I fantasized about being the BEST at Defender. And I mean... THE BEST! 

At first, the best I could do was get the high score on the local machines. 

Then in 1982, 7-11 ran a competition called the First Annual Texas Video Game Championships, in which Defender was one of the three machines in the competition. I was enamored by that contest, and in my heart I knew I could beat everyone in Defender. Long story short, I did. 

After the First Annual Texas Video Game Championships, I didn't really have any idea how to take that desire to be the best to the next level. It seemed that, while I was having fun with games, there just wasn't much of an outlet for it. 

I was asked "what are video games going to do for you?" 

I didn't have much of an answer for it at the time, although at this point I can give plenty of responses: 
- they kept me off the street
- they taught me critical thinking skills that were missing in my home life
- they gave me structure that was missing in my entire life experience 
- they taught me positive life lessons that were completely missing in my primary care situation

I could probably write a book on the things I learned from games that I *didn't* learn from my parents. Maybe I will write that book. Maybe it'll be a blog... Who knows!

Time Magazine - 1982
I heard about some kid (see picture - it's Steve Juraszek!) set a 17 million point high score in Time Magazine, and decided that I'd give it a try... I ran up 6 or 8 million points or something like that and found that the game repeated itself at wave 256 and that since that didn't seem challenging at the time, it took a long time, AND I didn't know who to tell about it... I just didn't see the point. 

This was at a time where there were a LOT of arcades. There was an arcade a few towns away that had an owner that found me and wanted me to come to his place and get paid to beat his customers. I thought that was crazy. Getting paid to beat people felt wrong to me (at the time!), so I wanted nothing to do with it. 

After that, nothing else really seemed interesting or possible. Defender kinda went by the wayside. I had a machine at home and I drug it around to every place I moved (sorry friends that had to move it), but I didn't play much, if at all. 

On August 19, 2007, I met Walter Day, the originator of Twin Galaxies (the original arcade world record entity) at the King of Kong world premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. I told him of my desire and he actually knew who I was because he had done a story on the 7-11 competition. From that moment, we stayed in touch while I tried to find the right way to get a world record run through Twin Galaxies together. It never happened.

In 2011, I met Josh Jones and we put together a great gaming event in the beginning of 2012 in support of Twin Galaxies releasing some Texas Trading Cards. It was awesome! 

Then later in the year I got involved with a Defender group on Facebook. I also started learning more and more about arcade game high scores and meeting legendary marathoners. Turns out that there is a huge interest in classic arcade games, so the seed was planted. 


Want to read each part? Well, here's your chance!


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