Man Versus Machine: Breaking the Unbreakable High Score

Illustration for article titled Man Versus Machine: Breaking the Unbreakable High Score

As you read this, history is in the making. Asteroids is being played with great verve. High scores will topple.

Right now John McAllister, a Washington state locksmith, sits in a game room somewhere in Seattle playing Atari's 1979 arcade classic Asteroids while cameras and a friend watch on.

He's been playing since Saturday, now roughly 45 hours later McAllister is within a day of toppling an arcade high score set back in 1982 by Scott Safran. Safran managed to rack up an impressive score of 41,336,440.


McAllister, as of 9:30 a.m. Pacific time was at 33 million, within striking distance of the hair-over-40-million record for the Asteroid high score number two spot, according to Twin Galaxies.

It is a grueling task McAllister has set for himself. Guiding a virtual ship through endless asteroid fields as he manages thrusters and slaps the button non-stop to blast away the floating rocks.

Lives are lost when McAllister stops his endless button mashing to use the bathroom or take a breather. This isn't literal death, but dying in the vernacular of gaming. The classic Atari arcade cabinet McAllister is playing on has no pause button and even if it did he couldn't use it, not and make the high score count.

So instead when McAllister wants to take a break he just steps away from the machine and leaves his tiny triangular black and white space ship to the whims of fate and fortune. In the live video streamed across the Internet during the record attempt McAllister, dressed in a black t-shirt and shorts, can be seen wandering in and out of the shot, pacing, eating chicken, not playing Asteroids.


After these short, five to ten minute breaks, McAllister returns to the game, boasting once that he could run a marathon after beating the high score. As he plays, McAllister chats about everything, everything but the game.

All the while the score continues to build and zero out, build and zero out (they have a counter to keep track) and the number of leftover ships he has to play with continues to rack up, spreading nearly all of the way across the top of the screen.


Watch the play live below and see a record topple... or maybe just a man.

Click to viewWatch live video from johnmcallister on

Easter Marathons [Aurcade, via Examiner]

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Kiyobi the Shibuya ESPer

When does the score counter zero out anyway? 100,000 points?