Joust 100 Million Point Gauntlet

 Can you beat the Joust challenge by reaching 100 million points?

  • Any romset, and any platform such as real arcade machine, 19-1 PCB, JROK PCB
  • Any version of MAME is acceptable, but older versions are harder than newer versions of MAME.
  • Default settings, 5 birds to start, 20,000 per bonus life
  • 1 credit play, no added scores
  • No assisted gameplay
  • No pausing of game
  • No Pterodactyl hunting
  • Attempt must be available as public recording via Youtube or TwitchTV, etc.

Lon McDonald- Joust Master: The Thrill of Victory!  The Agony of Defeat?

The Challenge:

Kansas City businessman, Lonnie McDonald is no stranger to success, in fact he bathes in it on a daily basis.  So what does a man need to do in order to challenge himself after a string of success in conquering the classic 1982 video game title, Joust?  How about playing against the aggressive computer generated enemies for over 50 hours on 1 single quarter?!  You might even call it the ultimate way to stretch your money in this tough economy.

The History:

Lon has been playing Joust since its’ debut in 1982 when the arcade was king to America’s youth.  Mastery of the challenging medieval simulation came quickly, culminating in an epic 24 hour game of Joust which garnered recognition by the manufacturer, Williams Electronics, that indeed Lon was the best player in the world.  A true Joust Champion arose from the ashes of the lava pit!

Paying Dues:

Fast forward to 2011, Mr. McDonald set out on a journey no one believed possible, (no , I don’t mean returning the ring of Sauren to the flaming depths of Mordor…) playing 100 different Joust machines around the United States.  By playing to 10 million points, a counter in the game code overloads which resets the score back to 0.  The game admits defeat and allows the player to enter a score of 9,999,999 in the High Score table.  100 machines, 10 million points, equating to a 1 Billion point conquest!  Ultimately, this project would take 2 years of untiring effort, and many thousands of miles of wear and tear on his vehicle.

The Accolades:

During this epic 1 billion point conquest, Lon achieved a “World Record” by playing cooperatively with Steve Sanders.  Later, to honor the 30th anniversary of Joust’s release to the public, he broke the “World Record” on a Joust emulation for PCs called MAME.  This task being notable as he was the first person, since the mid-80s, to play a classic video game inside the original Twin Galaxies arcade location at 226 E. Main St., Ottumwa, Iowa.

The Mountain:

Only 3 people in the history of competitive Joust play have ever achieved the coveted 100 million point mark in one sitting.  And one person in 1983, Christian Gingras, came very close at 98,565,550 points.

  • Ian Girouard and his twin brother Yvan helped me on this challenge. We predicted that every 3 hours, I would saturate at 255 bonus players. I could then take a break for 10 minutes, while the pterodactyl liquidated my left alone bird. The twin were such exceptional Robotron players that they demonstrated that the bonus count revert to zero when reaching 256 (no saturation to 255), technically a 8 bit overflow.
  • Playing Joust with all birds mounted by a blue chevalier is almost a different game than what a average mortal is trying to fight. Paradoxically, the highest difficulty level help by triggering the Shadow Lords to adopt the predictable, easy to defeat fixed pattern.  Once graduating to the select group of players who reach wave 56 (the last with unpredictable gray chevalier), the game become a challenge of staying awake… for 3 days per 100 million score… presumably using only caffeine as chemical helper, the only substance I knew at that time, in 1983.
  • I remember after about 48 hours of playing Joust non stop, I felt that the image on the screen lost the 3D created normally 8n our visual system. The bird was interpreted as a spot of light moving with my flap button and the left/right joystick, but not as the gracious bird. The shadow lord, flying like crazy insect, bouncing on the top of the screen where more moving illumination on the Cathode Ray Tube. Ian took me for a motorcycle ride. He made a few fast acceleration and sudden break to try to wake me up. Returning to the game, I was able to continue to play, the visual hallucination were gone.
  • People asked why I stopped at 98 Million ? Why not go to 100 millions. It was simply that I was tired and was getting some kind of visual hallucination again, then my number of player showed on the screen that I was loosing more than winning. Finally, it printed “Thy game is over” in good old english. That was enough for me – Christian G. May 2013
  • Christian with Eugene Jarvis and Joust programmer, Bill Pfutzenreuter, at Williams headquarters in 1987

John McAllister exceeded the 100 million threshold in 2010.  His marathon statistics can be reviewed HERE

Saturday evening, May 5, 2013 (5:15pm central daylight time) Lon sat down at his immaculately restored Joust machine to test out a new stool.  Felt good.  Why not see about playing to 120 million points this weekend?  (Yep, he has a very supportive wife…I told you this guy was successful!)

  • I hadn’t planned to go for the record. I was testing out the hight adjustments on my Steelcase Drafting stool/ chair. It does both.  It’s sweet.  I was playing 5 man and my schedule cleared on Monday so I thought I’d take a run. – Lon M. May 2013

The first 10 million points went by, the next 10 million, and next thing you know it is Monday evening.  He is still playing.  The normal person starts having mental deficits at 24 hours without sleep, the above average person can last 40 hours, yet Lon is still alert, focused and aware almost 50 hours after the start of the game! Amazing!

And that is exactly when life can turn bitter sweet- every true champion knows the sour taste of failure, the rich aroma of “humble pie.”  At 96 million Lon was going strong.  At 98 million, the rate of deaths were outpacing the rate of acquiring new lives.  And by 99 million the gauntlet was bearing down with ultimate pressure.  How does one survive after being awake well beyond the norm for a human being?  Can the devilish enemy dynamics being tirelessly generated by the computer code be outwitted?  …by 99,987,900 the anxious onlookers, in the virtual coliseum of “teh Internets,” had their answer.  The last ostrich had flown, the war of attrition was decided, and when the dust settled it was the game who won this battle.

  • I had never played that far before.
  • At certain points I was seriously bleeding men and was quite concerned.
  • I don’t generally play conservatively because I don’t need to.
  • Many times I had to adjust the game play because of the controls floating from “carbon” build-up.
  • I finally slowed down really slow to try and maintain the few men I thought I had left.
  • That action was just too little, too late. I kept thinking about Chris M. keeping track of John M.’s (107 million game) men wishing I had done that.
  • I had my wife present when I thought we would be at 100mil, instead she was there to comfort my disappointment.
  • I got a bit down on myself as there was and is no doubt that I should have secured 120mil had I kept track of men

In victory, one learns about being adored by the masses, BUT in defeat one learns the steely sharpness of wisdom.  Lest it be that wisdom is the kiln in which the true spirit of a champion is forged.

  • As I collapsed in disbelief, My wife kept telling me said she was incredibly proud of me. I’m glad she was in the room. It meant the world to share it with her.
  • Steve (Sanders) called and spoke to Robin (Lon’s wife) as I was decompressing. I called him later and as always Steve was gracious and encouraging choosing to focus on the 50 hrs and 4th place (score) of all time.

Lon with Steve Sanders and Walter Day, in Ottumwa, Iowa circa 2011, when they broke the 2-player “World Record.”


On May 23rd, 2013 Lon has one more chance at redemption against his sworn enemy and nemesis, Joust.  He will return to the birthplace of Joust, by playing one last game to 10 million points inside Chicago’s famed Williams Electronics location (WMS) at 3401 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL.  What may prove to be the billion point crowning victory against his foe of 31 years.  Devastating defeat of man over code?  Maybe.  Will he have the gumption to try defeating Joust at a 100 million point gauntlet, again? Maybe.  Will Joust be there to challenge him every moment of the way.  Guaranteed.

  • As site 100 at WMS approaches I think it’s a fitting end to a 2 year tour. Poetic.
  • Truly “Survival of the Fittest.”


Watch Lonnie’s live streams over the internet at-

Side-Note for the casual observer:

  • Joust is a wickedly fast-paced game.  By wave 95 the enemies are Shadow Lords, the blue guys, and they are faster in every way than the player.  Outflying them is a lesson in futility.  It isn’t possible.
  • To overcome this limitation, you will observe Lon use the enemy’s flight patterns against them.
  • At all times he is thinking 3 to 5 seconds ahead of the game to predict where the enemies will be.
  • Notice he will position his bird to be ready to out-joust the Shadow Lords as they are on a downward trajectory.
  • Or he will position the bird at strategic ledges where the enemy has no choice but to bump into him on their quest upward.
  • He makes the game look surgically simple, even though it is anything but simple to someone who doesn’t understand the enemy dynamics and ledge layout.
  • If you are looking to experience one of the top classics of the early 80’s, it is highly recommended to hop on the nearest ostrich and give Joust a test flight.
  • Happy Jousting!

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