|What nonsense is this? The
answer is very nearly, but perhaps not quite, in the increasingly crowded category labeled
If You Have To Ask, You Will Never Understand. What Juraszek, 15, recently did at an
Arlington Heights, Ill., arcade called One Step Beyond was play Defender, one of those
beeping, flashing, quarter-eating arcade video games, for 16 hours and 34 minutes on the
same 25¢, ringing up a score of 15,963,100 before he finally made a mistake and lost his
last ship. Anyone who knows arcade games, and especially Defender, which is one of
the most difficult, will agree that this is very close to being impossible. It is
definitely not one of those non-feats thought up by the untalented to memorialize
themselves in The Guinness Book of World Records, such as eating seven miles of
spaghetti, or riding an exercise bicycle for a week and a half.
Defender is an attack-from-outer-space game. It is played on a large color video screen where nullity bombs and destructo beams are hurled at the player by the machine's computer. Increasingly rowdy sound effects suggest what James Joyce, under the influence of William Blake (who would have loved these gadgets), called "the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame." The Defender player controls a small cannon-firing jet plane that flies at varying altitudes and speeds over a barren landscape. He must shoot down a bewildering variety of alien bad guys, each with his own pattern of behavior; dodge an assortment of missiles; and rescue helpless spacemen, vulnerable to being kidnapped, who appear randomly on the planet's surface. He must have reflexive control of a joystick that determines altitude and of five separate buttons that fire the cannon, change forward thrust, reverse direction, make the ship skim off the screen into hyperspace and fire a limited supply of smart bombs, which blow up everything in sight. As is fiendishly true of all of the good new video games, as the game progresses, Defender shifts to subtler strategies and sends out it's alien waves with increasing speed. You play the machine and it plays you.
A neophyte has as much chance with Defender as he would if he were to take over the controls of an F-16. A reasonably good video-game athlete--that is how game junkies are beginning to describe themselves--will last it out for a few thousand points, or a couple of minutes. A superb player, the kind not seen in every arcade, may hit 500,000 on his best day. That is why when Juraszek began to close in on 1 million points towards the end of the first hour of his enchanted run, people began to notice. Darrell Schultz, one of the arcade's owners, asked Steve if he could set a record.
"I said, 'Yeah,'" Juraszek recalls,
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