Picture a world-beating gamer. Take your time. Done? Whatever you pictured, you probably did not picture Mr. Awesome.
Mr. Awesome, aka Roy Shildt, may be familiar to some of you from his cameo in the 2007 documentary King of Kong, in which he plays a minor, background role. Which was a shame. If you're sitting down to make a video game documentary, and you're making it about a likeable, Regular Joe and a villain whose most distinguishing feature is the fact he wears a tie, you're making a terrible mistake.
We should instead have had a documentary called Shildt Happens. It would have been, if not as important, then at least more entertaining.
In 1983 the body-builder and fitness guru recorded the planet's highest recognised score on Missile Command. His new-found "fame", on a game he called "macho" and which has "phallic associations", began an era of proto-reality-TV madness for Shildt that, viewed from the safety of the 21st century, seems almost prophetic.
Given the nickname "Mr. Awesome" following his feats, Shildt got it in his head that, having set a world record in a video game, he could, and should, be a celebrity. To achieve his goal, he embarked on a journey of ceaseless self-promotion, releasing books, doing interviews and trying to get his name in as many papers and his face on as many TV sets as was humanly possible.
Which in the beginning wasn't hard, because he had a hook: Shildt had ceased to be Roy Shildt and had become Mr. Awesome. Designing a military-inspired uniform and driving around Los Angeles in a badass, customised Trans Am (complete with MRAWESM plates), he preached to all who would listen an intoxicating mix of regurgitated film quotes, pleas for celebrity, and even some life coaching.
His escapades, which became increasingly irrelevant once the mid-80s slipped into the history books, would ultimately culminate in the release of a book almost nobody read and an appearance on Howard Stern that was, as you'd expect, slightly bizarre. Oh, and he's been in Playgirl. Twice.
In 1988, having won a contest to appear in the magazine, he had a black & white shoot alongside a model. There's a NSFW image from this shoot you can see here.
A year later he was in the magazine again, not as a model, but because he took out a massive advertisement (in which he was shirtless and standing next to a...ladder), using his real phone number, saying he was available for "bachelorette parties, character roles in motion pictures, Swedish massage, tour guiding and personal fitness training".
Perhaps the weirdest thing he did, at least that's on record, is that he sent that issue of Playgirl, along with a letter, to Madonna. In Adam Parfrey's book Apocalypse Culture II, Shildt reckons that after receiving it Madonna actually called him on the phone. He also speculated that the millionaire pop star had a "desperate need" for his sperm.
While it would be easy to assume he then rapidly fades into insignificance, or perhaps even some kind of institution, Shildt's Missile Command record stood for over twenty years, and was beaten only in 2006. He's still one of the world's best players of the game, and is still shooting his mouth off, like when he was kicked out of the gathering of the "International Video Game Hall of Fame" in 2010 for shouting crap at Billy Mitchell.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends. This article originally ran April 17, 2012.