Nov. 13, 1982: Teen Sets Asteroids Record in 3-Day Marathon

By Chris Kohler Email 11.13.08
Asteroids is not that easy to play, resulting in a record 26-year run for the reigning top score.
Screenshot: mr_skullhead/Flickr

1982: Fifteen-year-old Scott Safran of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, sets the world record score in the arcade game Asteroids — the longest-standing videogame high score in history.1

Safran, who had been practicing nonstop at the game for the previous two years, agreed to play a marathon session of Atari's popular outer-space shooting game as part of a charity event in Pennsylvania. His mother drove him to the event and lent him a quarter, which he dropped into the machine Nov. 13.

Some three days later, having taken only brief bathroom and food breaks, Safran finished his game with 41,336,440 points, nudging out the previous world record held by famous old-school gamer and actor Leo Daniels.

What makes Safran's score so momentous, however, is that it has gone 26 years without being broken, giving it the longevity record for a videogame high score, according to the authoritative game-record keepers at Twin Galaxies.

Asteroids is a very difficult game. Players have to contend not only with the eponymous giant rocks that veer at their spaceships and with enemy laser fire, but also with the touchy control scheme. You have to rotate your ship and fire a single thruster to move anywhere, and momentum can carry you right into disaster if you don't have nimble fingers.

Setting a high score on any videogame requires exceptional skill, as illustrated in the recent documentary The King of Kong. But setting an Asteroids record also requires superhuman endurance, because it literally takes days to do.

Unlike Donkey Kong, which has seen serious challengers step up one after another, only one person has made a serious attempt at the Asteroids record in recent years. An Oregon man named Bill Carlton settled in for a marathon session in 2004, which ended in failure when his machine broke down after 27 hours of play. He had scored more than 15 million points, placing him 15th in the record books.

In 1998, as Atari was planning to release a new edition of Asteroids, Twin Galaxies' head referee Walter Day attempted to locate Scott Safran, with whom he had fallen out of touch. It took Day four years to discover that Safran had died in 1989, due to injuries sustained when he fell from the roof of his Los Angeles apartment.

Source: Various


1Because of a copying error, this article originally misstated by a year the date the record was set and the number of years it has stood.

Related Topics:

Gaming , People

With HP wireless printers, you could have printed this from any room in the house.
Live wirelessly. Print wirelessly.