Star Wars Arcade record set - 54 hours solid on one credit!

Brandon Erickson '02 is one of the world's top players of the 1983 Atari Star Wars video game. Between 8 a.m. last May 16 and 2:10 p.m. on May 18, he played Star Wars for 54 hours and 10 minutes without a break at Ground Kontrol, a classic-video arcade in Portland, Oregon. During that time, he scored 283 million points, ingested no stimulant stronger than ginseng, took no break longer than the seven seconds between levels, played one level naked from the waist down (after an aborted attempt to change clothes between levels), and spent a total of 25 cents. Although Erickson set a record for the longest continuous play on any arcade game, he gave in to exhaustion still short of Robert Mruczek's 21-year-old record of 300 million points in 49 hours.

Erickson (who is acquainted with the author from college) took up Atari's Star Wars in May 2004 and quickly won plaudits from the gaming world for his speedy mastery. "He progressed the fastest on this game from inception to mastery of any champion I've seen," says Mruczek. After a game in which Erickson played for more than two hours on the hardest settings without taking a single hit, Mark Alpiger, a master of the Classic Arcade Gaming web site, was moved to declare it "one of the best gaming performance segments in history" -- surpassing even the legendary "Perfect Pac-Man" game that earned Billy Mitchell "Player of the Century" honors at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show.

"It is a skill, I guess," Erickson says. "It combines a fast-reacting, highly integrated nervous system with a drive to do things that aren't necessarily that important."

Erickson is one of a small subculture of players in the gaming world who specialize in the old coin-operated games of the so-called "Golden Age," before Nintendo crippled the arcade market. Under the supervision of Twin Galaxies, official scorekeeper in the video gaming world, the players pursue records on arcade machines such as Pac-Man and Asteroids.

Erickson's quest is part of a family tradition. His grandfather, the late Willard Centerwall '45W, '52MD, earned a spot in a local newspaper at age 10 by flying a kite for two consecutive days and nights, sleeping with the kite tied around his finger and floating out the window. Later, in the Army, Centerwall set an armed services record for sit-ups, wearing the skin off his back in the process.

Since the marathon, Erickson has begun studying for a master's in counseling psychology at Lewis & Clark College and has taken a part-time job. Despite these distractions, he insists that he will return to break the records that remain before him. "On some level, I feel like I'm the best Star Wars player, and I'll do what I have to do to prove it."