The all-time high score of 33 million set 28 years ago on Q*Bert has this year proved to be one of the most unassailable marks in video game history.
Last night, Rob Gerhardt's record, set in 1983, survived a third assault this year when iron-man gamer Rick Carter—who in August racked up a billion-point world record performance in Nibbler—faded after a 59-hour performance and ended his bid at 28 million.
Scott Patterson, who carried Carter's attempt live on his website, noted that Carter's marathon effort followed a 16-hour drive to reach the event, in Ottumwa, Iowa. That's one hell of a biathlon.
Two attempts earlier this year by George Leutz ended in disappointment. In April, someone kicked a power cord elsewhere in the arcade, creating a surge that reset Leutz's Q*Bert cabinet after 36 hours of work. In May, Leutz went after the record again and he succumbed to fatigue at the 54-hour mark.
The all-time high score of 33,273,520 is believed to require 70 hours of gameplay, and if you're thinking there's some exploit where you can stick Q*Bert in a corner of the board and go take a nap, there isn't. That is straight-through gameplay. The fact Carter was going to try that after a 16-hour drive is astounding to me.
Bad luck didn't strike just Carter. At the same marathon event, hall of famer Tim McVey was eight hours from reclaiming Nibbler's world record mark from Carter, Patterson writes, when a motherboard failure struck. "The game drew the maze in an odd position where the Nibbler snake was outside the maze. They tried to see if they could correct this and keep the game going but no luck." McVey recorded the first billion-point performance on the game back in 1984.