Eighty-Year-Old Florida Video Gamer Looks To Reclaim World Record
Updated at 19:13 on August 4, 2005, EST.
(CP) - Doris Self is used to turning heads when she plays video games.
"To find an 80-year-old white-haired woman sitting at an arcade game, it amazes them," she said.
Self's expertise is even more remarkable. The Florida resident is headed to Croydon, England, later this month in search of a record Qbert score at the Classic Gaming Expo-UK.
Self first tried her hand at video games some 22 years ago in Plantation, Fla. Her husband had just died and she found herself with time on her hands. That changed one day when her daughter took her out to the movies and then pizza at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.
"After she ordered, she went over and started playing this game. I had never seen an arcade game before," Self said in an interview. "And she said 'Mom, come over here. I think you'll get a kick out of it.' Well mom got a kick of it. And mom started going to the arcade."
It was 10 minutes away from her house and open 24 hours a day, and soon Self became hooked on Qbert. It was too busy during the daytime so she went at night.
"I remember the first morning I came in at 7 o'clock and my daughter was just going out to work. She looked at me and shook her head. Then she said 'I don't believe it.' I said 'Well it's your fault, you showed me.' "
Qbert is a furry orange orb whose task is to hop around a pyramid, changing every piece to a different colour. The task gets more difficult as the game progresses, especially when assorted enemies get in the way.
Billy Mitchell, now 40 and a champion gamer himself, met Self in 1983 at that Florida arcade.
"Doris was the old lady who played Qbert," he recalled. "She was 58 years old, she was full of spunk. She was the old lady and we were all the wise-guy kids in the arcade and we got along great."
"It was not uncommon to see Doris walk in there at 11 p.m. and walk out at 7 a.m."
Mitchell compares her to Granny in TV's Beverly Hillbillies.
"Well she's far more stubborn than her and she's a little spunkier than her," Mitchell said. "She's a lot of fun to be around."
Mitchell helped Self get back in the gaming saddle again several years ago after a break, lending her an arcade version of Qbert. And when a 72-year-old New Hampshire man dethroned her as world champion, Mitchell convinced her to try again.
"I play every day," Self says. "If it's 3 o'clock in the morning, I just play until I feel like I can go to sleep and then I go to bed."
She is no fan of modern games, however.
"I've tried quite a few. I don't care for the newer modern games at all, but I do play a few of the classics because I got started on them. I always end up going back to Qbert.
"Well, it's a challenge that I can beat eventually if I work at it. Pac-Man I could never master."
Now that's Mitchell's game. On July 3, 1999, at the Funspot arcade in Weirs Beach, N.H., he scored a perfect game on Pac-Man. The score of 3,333,360 took him five to six hours.
He completed 256 mazes - "every dot, every energizer, every blue guy."
"You literally exhaust the game's memory," he explained. "The 256th screen, the left half of the board is normal and the right half is computer garble."
He has also set world records on Donkey Kong and Centipede.
Mitchell is part gamer and part restaurateur (his family owns the Rickey's restaurant chain in Florida and he sells hot sauce).
He counts several Canadian classic gamers among his friends and rivals: Hamilton's Rick Fothergill, known as Captain Canada for the Canadian cape he wears, and Dwayne Richard of Grande Prairie, Alta.
Their bible is the Twin Galaxies' Official Video and Pinball Book of World Records, which tracks gaming accomplishments (www.twingalaxies.com) under the guidance of Walter Day.
Self goes for her record - 1.8 million points - on Aug. 13.