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© 2004 The Beast

More Human Than Human?

An Interview with Perry Rogers, Videogame Superstar!

By Ken Barnes


L

ife is cheap at Ground Kontrol in southwest Portland (3 for 25 cents), a dark room where 20-30somethings dump quarters into pinball machines and classic video games on 12th Ave. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Missile Command, and several other coin operated visions, inspired by the cold war, UFOs and ‘80s paranoia fill the room. A few of these digital icons became TV shows, movies and boxes of cereal, while others faded into pop culture history with nary a blip.

Perry Rogers holds the world record on two games: Galaxian (an alien insect invasion nightmare which has spawned two sequels), and Mario Bros. (the two-Italian-plumbers-stuck-in-a-sewer-filled-with-homicidal-turtles epic). Perry is tall, easy-going and was seemingly awestruck when I met him. “It’s really impressive how they keep up their machines,” he said of Ground Kontrol.

The Gen-X software professional was trying to break his 20-year-old records, as part of Twin Galaxies’ 2004 Classic Video Game Championship. “It takes about two hours for Galaxian [389,770 points] and four on Mario Bros. ([,481,550 points]. Today I scored in the ‘70s [370,000’s],” he says, referring to Galaxian.

“Yeah, I didn’t want to tap you on the shoulder to introduce myself, earlier,” I say.

“Yeah, you’d be surprised what could happen.”

A vision of Perry smashing my head through a pinball machine flashes in front of me.

“I bet…”

Considering this reaction from Perry, I began to think about America’s emotional connection with machines and technology in general; our increasing interaction with cell phones, computers, cars, stoplights etc.; our exposure to chemicals in food and water; cosmetic surgery; prescription pharmaceuticals. And since many of us are beginning to view ‘reality’ as a TV show, I figured I’d ask Perry how videogames fit into the overall human/humanoid experience.

He graciously answered most of my questions at the sit-down Scramble machine at Ground Kontrol, then via e-mail.

Beast: What was your first memory playing a videogame?

Perry: Playing Pong and Depthcharge at a pizza parlor in Napa Valley… [I was] 12 or 13. It was especially rewarding to hit the speedboat in Depthcharge.

Beast: Your biggest moment involving a videogame?

Perry: Definitely playing Mario Bros at the Guinness Book competition in ’85… I came out ahead (defeating Eric Ginner) and earned a spot in the Guinness Book.

Beast: Define a 'videogame superstar' (as seen on twin galaxies.com).

Perry: I’d define a superstar as a player that can master several different games across several genres, particularly the most popular games.  Billy Mitchell has captured world records on Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Burgertime, and Pac Man.  Dwayne Richard is another well-rounded player.  More recently, Donald Hayes has captured attention as a superstar

Beast: What drew you to Galaxian?

Perry: One day the arcade manager wheeled in a new game called Galaxian.  I liked the shoot-em-up genre and being the first color game was a draw too….One day I broke 40,000 and thought I had Galaxian mastered.  Guess that was just the beginning. 

Beast: Mario Bros?

Perry: Mario Bros. came out several years later… I was more into Centipede at the time and won a high score marathon contest, sponsored by a magazine…. The prize was a video game of my choice. I chose Mario Bros. It has a lot more game play depth than meets the eye, and I was determined to learn all the nuances.

Beast: Since videogames dictate the world you interact with as a player and many (especially the classics) work off an infinite point system, do you think that the repetition of scoring points is an act of becoming more machine-like as a person, since the player is reacting to the games stimuli, as opposed to the computer reacting to your stimuli?

Perry: Wow…I think it is more of a contest of man vs. machine… As you learn the game and know the nuances of the game, you dictate play…. These games were designed and developed by humans, so there will always be a human element to the games.

Beast: Industrial workers have been acting more machine-like for years (repetitive, single-function motions) and many people have been replaced by robots/machines. Now we are 'playing' with complex machines (video games), which are designed to 'kill' a digitized persona of the player. Is this just the beginning to some terrible schlocky B-movie apocalypse?

Perry: I don’t think of it quite that way…. Each game offers it’s own unique challenge.  (And) perhaps in some way serve as training grounds for how to work through life problems.

Perry wasn’t buying into my Orwellian implications, and he never did get back to me regarding a player’s emotional/personal attachment to a game, dreams he might have about chasing coins, or alien insects coming back to earth to harvest humans, for that matter. Fair enough.

But it does beg the questions, are videogames a Darwinian imperative, a manifestation of subconscious fear, of a need to defend ourselves from our own creations (see videogame Robotron 2084)? Why is the game called Mario Bros., when one of them is named Luigi? I mean, is their last name Mario, making them Mario Mario and Luigi Mario? Will Perry Rogers ever stop the alien robots from taking over? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

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