With Christmas all wrapped up, and as we burst forth into a shiny new decade all shrouded in optimism, it is perhaps the perfect time to take a trip with the ghost of gaming past, pausing for a peep at some of the most historic, amazing, and downright bonkers achievements from the world of video games.
As an ever-evolving media with boundaries and extremes that are always being challenged, it can be difficult to keep up with developments in gaming. Thankfully, though, the diligent folks at Guinness have been keeping their beady Irish eyes on things, allowing Gamer Limit to bring you some of the more remarkable world records in video game history.
Does size matter? Codemasters seems to think so. Last year, it proudly brandished a game boasting record-breaking length and girth, as Fuel claimed the world record for the largest playable environment in a console game with a mammoth 5,560 square miles (14,400km) of open world to explore. And you thought Grand Theft Auto IV’s map was big!
Speaking of which, Rockstar’s sandbox masterpiece holds a rather surprising record of its own, considering the number of music-based titles saturating the market; with a very impressive 214 licensed tracks played over its 18 in-game radio stations, GTAIV boasts the record for largest in-game soundtrack. The title’s monumental release, on 29 April 2008, is also the most successful entertainment product launch ever, having generated a whopping 210 million US dollars (£159 million) in worldwide first-day sales; it proved just how big the video game industry has become.
Whilst the GTA franchise is big, it’s not the biggest; having sold a staggering 200 million copies in his lifetime, the Mario franchise is by far the most successful franchise in gaming history. An interesting fact about the vertically challenged plumber is that his trademark moustache was actually a “forced design decision.” As his character sprite in Donkey Kong was so small, it was near impossible to fit believable lips onto his tiny face, and the blocky, black facial hair was an “elegant solution to a tricky problem.”
However, despite Mario’s unrivaled success, the midget Italian stereotype is merely the second most recognizable video game character. He is currently recognized by 93% of American consumers, according to a May 2008 poll by the Davie-Brown Index (DBI). With 94% of Americans able to spot Pac-Man (Namco, 1980), the veteran sprite’s fame exceeds all others. Other notable additions to the index include Lara Croft, Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog and Link from The Legend of Zelda.
Pac-Man’s superstar fame is not surprising when you learn that he plays the lead role in the most successful coin-op game of all time, with sticky-fingered gamers having collectively amassed a stupendous 10 billion plays of Pac-Man over the decades. It wasn’t until 1999, however, that gaming guru Billy Mitchell (often described as the “greatest arcade-video-game player of all time”) achieved the first perfect Pac-Man score, meaning he ate every dot, bonus fruit and blue ghost possible over the 256 levels before the game runs out of memory and the screen glitches and splits in two.
Since their conception, arcades have been a hive of score-hungry gamers flexing their finger muscles in attempts to get the highest scores. What better accolade for all this dexterous, frantic finger-work than to become the first gamer to score 1 billion points? This honour was given to Tim McVey (USA) at Twin Galaxies in Iowa when, at the end of a 44-hour 45-minute marathon game of Nibbler in 1984, he had amassed an incredible 1,000,042,270 points. What’s even more remarkable about his feat is that McVey used just one quarter to achieve his record-breaking number!
McVey’s score pales in comparison to the highest video game score ever, though. In 2004, J.C. Padilla (USA) obtained a mind-boggling 2,181,619,994,299,256,480 points playing GigaWings2 on a Sega Dreamcast (Score Attack Mode – Stage 2). In contrast, the world record for Cinematronic’s Space Wars – released in 1977 – was just 19 points; it’s a record that still stands!
It’s not only point-based records that can be achieved on arcade machines. In 1985, James Vollandt (USA) played Joust for an incredible 67 hours 30 minutes, which earned himself the world record for the longest continuous play on an arcade machine. In the process, he also set a high-score record of 107,216,700 points on the title.
You have to admire the dedication of some gamers, not least Richard Lecce (USA). As of August 2008, Lecce had amassed 483 unique video gaming systems, including a variety of hand-held games, home consoles and LCD mini-systems, meaning he has the largest collection of playable gaming systems in the world. Equally as dedicated is flight-sim aficionado Matthew Sheil (Australia), who spent eight years and $300,000 constructing the most expensive home flight simulator cockpit. Based on the 747-400, Sheil’s construction features 12 computers controlling motion, audio and the flight simulation game itself, but most impressive is the hydraulic motion system fitted to the cockpit.
Does “UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A” sound familiar to you? That’s probably because, having featured in 151 games to date, this cheat code (the Konami Code) is the most popular cheat code in gaming. Debuting in the 1986 NES version of Gradius, the code’s effect varies from game to game, but in most cases, entering the code when the game is paused grants the player the majority of the title’s power-ups.
One of the most prestigious records in gaming has to be best-selling video game, a title recently claimed by Wii Sports, which has sold more than 43 million copies since its 2006 launch. This eclipses the previous record held for over 20 years by another Nintendo favourite, Super Mario Bros., which accumulated worldwide sales of 40 million copies. Clearly Nintendo is doing something right when it comes to marketing!
Another of the Japanese veteran’s titles, Donkey Kong (1981), is certainly one of the greatest arcade classics and home to one of the fiercest ongoing battles for supremacy. Billy Mitchell (yes, the very same Billy Mitchell who achieved the first perfect Pac-Man score!) set the highest score for an original Donkey Kong arcade game in 2007 (2hrs 39 min) with 1,050,200 points, beating Steve Wiebe’s score by a mere 1,100 pts. The high-score leapfrogging by the pair of gaming titans is also the basis for the highest grossing video game documentary, The King of Kong.
If I were to meet Victor De Leon III (aka Lil Poison), I don’t know whether I’d prefer to shake his hand or give him a jealous clip round the ear. Born on May 6th, 1998, Lil Poison became the youngest professional video gamer at the tender age of 6, having been signed up by a gaming league. Now signed by Gameology, who represents him as his agent/manager, he has participated in over 200 major gaming events.
The gaming grandfather Tetris currently holds nine world records, including the very impressive, but nonetheless unsurprising, accolades of most ported game (ported 70X as of 2007) and game with the most official and unofficial variants. Interestingly, it also features in the world record for longest prison sentence for playing a video game, after Faiz Chopdat, on a flight to Manchester, England, refused to stop playing the game on his cell phone, despite repeated warnings by cabin staff. He was jailed for four months for the offence.
What better way to round things up than with an oversized novelty joypad? Yes, even my shortsighted grandmother could just about see the buttons on David Randolph and David Ledger’s colossal NES pad, which weighs in at a whopping 68kg. (Marginally larger than the original Xbox pad, then!) The 2.43m x 1.01m x 0.22m fully working contraption is the largest joypad and is accurately scaled up, requiring two people to operate it – one on the d-pad and one on the buttons – bringing a whole new meaning to the term “co-op play”. Right, I’m off for the longest gaming session in underwear – it’s not for a record, it’s just how I spend my afternoons. Toodles.
Source: Guinness World Records