The Twin Galaxies National Defender Championship, April 2-4, 1982

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Rick Smith’s Defender trading card

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per Rick Smith:

The score was in the first issue of Joystik.

  • Editor note- see page 65 of the PDF for Joystick magazine, Sept. 1982-  LINK

The downside of the period is I don’t necessarily trust a number of the marathon scores in that period.  As you know, Defender rolls over at 1 million, so it’s really honor system…  I think a lot of the scores were fake.

  •  Editor note- in 82-83 Defender was allowed to be a multi-coin cumulative scoring track [ via Walter Day’s Twin Galaxies fledgling scoreboard] with minimal proof other than a signature on a piece of paper, indeed there are some false scores as you check sources from the early 80’s publications
  • Historical synchronicity- Doug Mahugh played a 24 hour game of Defender earlier in the spring and went on to be the editor for Joystik magazine:  I was in Chicago meeting Larry and Eugene for the first time a couple weeks before then – a lot was going on in the world of Defender that spring.

Rick Smith Remembers Winning Twin Galaxies’ 1982 Defender National Championship

  • Editor note- posted on Sept 2014 when Rick was 48

Now 37 years old and living in Laguna Beach, California, Smith remembers beating 23 other top Defender players, representing 23 other arcades across America.

He was 15 at the time, living in Mission Viejo, California, and says:

”In April 1982, Williams decided to have a contest for everyone across the nation that thought they were the best at Defender. The contest scores were coordinated by Twin Galaxies. As time went on, people started to drop. I am on the west coast, so the East coast people had higher scores (since they started earler).

”Finally the last person dropped out. I passed the score, then beat it by 1 million more, at the urging of the arcade owner, just to make sure. I quit with over 100 ships and about 30 smart bombs.

Later, Rick Smith wrote the following in an essay for a business school application. He said:

“Many of my friends and I shared a passion for video games during the 80s. My high school years of 1980-1984 we called the “golden age” for the video game industry. I was a big fan of videogames of the day, as most teenagers were. I ended up taking that love of video games to another level: When I was 15 I was the world record holder for Defender. Defender was the most complicated game of that or any time. One control stick, plus 5 buttons made it quite a challenging game. Although it was terribly difficult, the challenge seemed to inspire loyalty from the kids in the arcade. Only Pac Man drew more quarters from the public’s pockets than Defender.

”At the height of Defender’s popularity, the manufacturer of the game decided to have a nationwide contest. I decided to give it a shot. The challenges weren’t entirely related to gaming skill. I had to convince the arcade owner to keep the store open all night. In exchange for his effort, I convinced the owner that I would be able to get some nice publicity for his business, and convinced one of the employees to work the overnight shift for free. In addition to the contest, I wanted to liven up the event with another element. I solicited pledges for charity, based on the number of hours I played, plus a bonus if I actually won the contest. This charitable element helped generate publicity while helping a good cause at the same time.

I knew the contest would be a marathon, but I underestimated the physical difficulty of the event. The constant repetitive motion was very difficult to maintain, and the eyestrain was tremendous. Sustained by sandwiches and Pepsi, I played one game from 9:00 A.M. Saturday to 11:00 P.M. Sunday, 38 hours, to set the record. After I finished, I was interviewed by two magazines and by the local Los Angeles channel 7 news (but got bumped!).

”I still have occasional reminders of that experience when my young nephews come over for a visit. They are fascinated by the old arcade game that I purchased on Ebay. Soon there will be a time when they will beat their uncle, but not just yet.

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