God of War Games

By Matthew Halverson May 11, 2010 Published in the June 2010 issue of Seattle Met

“ARCADE GAMER OF THE YEAR.” That’s what joystick jockeys were calling Renton’s John McAllister before he racked up a record-breaking 41,838,740 points in the classic space shoot-’em-up Asteroids in April. This month, when the machine he used is donated to the International Video Game Hall of Fame at the Northwest Pinball and Gameroom Show (June 11–13), they’ll call him a legend.


After McAllister’s high score, the second-highest point total anyone has reached in the last 25 years. Portlander Bill Carlton (the 2006 doc High Score chronicled his quest to break the Missile Command record) took aim at Scott Safran’s 28-year-old mark on March 15, 2004, but his machine burned up before he could get close.

Points McAllister hoped to log per hour. The analytical gamer didn’t just drop in a coin and hope for the best; he mapped out his record-breaking run by establishing an hourly rate, guesstimating that he could sustain it for two days, and then adding six hours just to be safe. And even then he undershot…

The number of hours, minutes, and seconds it took McAllister to complete his Asteroids assault. Physically, he says he was fine. But his brain took a beating: Forty-eight hours in, he was haunted by visions of people who weren’t in the room. “You’d be sitting there playing,” he says, “and then you’d kind of wake up and say, ‘Hey, what am I doing?’ ”

Years McAllister will attempt to hold on to the record. The newly minted Mr. Asteroids is girding his gamer loins for challengers, but he won’t defend his title forever. “If someone beats the score inside of the next year, I would make another run,” he says. “But if they beat it two, three, or four years down the road, it’s theirs.”

Number of high scores McAllister has set or broken. Even more OMG-worthy: He torched them all within 14 months. What launched his sudden war on the record books? Good old-­fashioned ­joystick-measuring trash talk. “Basically, my friends who have a couple records teased me for not having any,” he says. “So I said, ‘We’ll change that.’ ”

The record high score for Defender —unchallenged for 26 years—which McAllister might try to topple next. But it won’t be easy, even for the guy who’s mastered marathon gaming. “I’m pretty sure I could stay awake for three and a half days, which is what it would take,” he says. “But I’d have to keep my mind together.”

Filed under
Show Comments