Pinball record holder gets news 19 years later

By Hayley Ringle, Tribune
June 29, 2006
It was in a Mesa video game arcade on June 28, 1987, where a “pinball nut” received a world-record score of the Mad Planets video game.
LifestyleThe record score of 349,769 points held its place in video game history for 14 years, although the winner never knew he was the record holder — until Wednesday. “Your telephone call today was what I had been waiting to hear,” said Tim McMurray, a retired IBM software engineer. “I won! I am a video game master!” McMurray, 54, of San Jose, Calif., said it’s a “wonderful surprise” to hear he was the world-record holder. He remembers driving more than 700 miles to the Mesa arcade, which was the closest Twin Galaxies tournament where he could compete on his favorite video game, Mad Planets. It was the Video Game Masters Tournament in an Aladdin’s Castle arcade at Fiesta Mall. “Mad Planets was great in that the intensity of the game increased. It just got madder and madder,” said McMurray, who is married with two children. “I liked the spacethemed games and the amount of physical as well as mental effort to play that long.” McMurray remembers getting the high score, which beat the threshold score by more than 2 1 /2 times. He often wondered about the official results, and even wrote a letter to the U.S. National Video Game Team inquiring about it. But he never heard back. “That was such an adventure,” he said. “I figured someone had squeezed by my score.” Walter Day, the chief scorekeeper at Twin Galaxies, the official record book for the worldwide electronic gaming industry, contacted the East Valley Tribune seeking help in finding the Tim McMurray who received this high score in Mesa. With the upcoming 25th anniversary of Twin Galaxies, and the second edition of Twin Galaxies’ Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records coming out later this summer, Day wanted to congratulate McMurray for playing a part in video game history. “Even if he didn’t know it, we wanted to make sure that his goal in video game history is acknowledged,” said Day, talking by phone from the Twin Galaxies home office in Fairfield, Iowa. He wanted to present McMurray with his retroactive certificate for holding this world record for 14 years. (Jean Baudin of California now holds the official Mad Planets record with 507,710 points, which he received on Sept. 27, 2001.) The mystery was solved with the help of Scottsdale pinball guru Dann Frank, who restores pinball machines and modifies existing games out of his house, dubbed The House of Pinball. In 1994, Frank created the Wild West Pinball Fest at a Scottsdale hotel, and pinball enthusiasts from all over came to try their hand at Frank’s custom games. Lo and behold, McMurray was the first Pinball Rodeo champion. Frank still had the mailing list with McMurray’s information and an original trophy with McMurray’s name that jogged his memory. “It’s kind of funny this is the same guy that won the Pinball Rodeo,” said Frank, who also helps people build home game rooms. The coincidence of it all is Frank is sending his custom games next week to San Jose for the California Extreme, a classic arcade games show. Frank is reviving his Wild West Pinball Fest, and McMurray said he plans to attend the upcoming tournament, for old time’s sake. “I still put that I was the Pinball Rodeo champion on my résumé,” McMurray said. Mad Planets Gottlieb, 1983. Called “Rasteroids” by many classic game fans, Mad Planets used a joystick and a spinner knob to give the player control of his spacecraft. Malevolent planets bounced around the screen and became more and more dangerous as their circling moons were stripped away by the player’s gunfire. Tiny astronauts that needed rescue injected a “Defender-esque” element into the game play.

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