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INTERVIEW
Todd Rogers


  Marathon gamer, Hi-scorer, Record breaker, Activision and Twin Galaxies spokesperson, member of the U.S. National Videogame Team, Game mag author, Joystick endorser, Life-survivor and more! Todd has many interesting tales to tell...

MT> Tell us how you beat the "perfect" computer simulated score on the Activision game Drag Race? What is the whole story??
TR>
Beating the "Perfect Run" was on Activision's Dragster. Activision's designer David Crane had programmed a Computer to perform a perfect run on Dragster so they can weed out the cheaters if there were any. When I submitted my 5.51 run on Dragster Activision reluctantly recognized that score and to my knowledge at that time I had no idea my score submission was under scrutiny. The reason why was that perfect run that David Crane programmed into the computer was 5.54 they had a way to simulate what they thought was the most possible fastest time. It would be by maxing all of the gears by shifting and not redlining at any point nor blowing an engine.

So when Activision called me on that eventful day it was sort of an ominous feeling, I remember it to this very day. Jan Marsella called me and she wasn't in her normal cheerful voice but she had more of a serious tone. She then began to ask me how I did my Dragster run I explained to her how I performed my shifting, she then asked me to explain once again in more detail EXACTLY how I shifted. So I repeated my shifting technique Jan said say it slower and I did but when I said it slower I started to think I was on a speaker phone. Once I got to the point of "I engage the clutch while the timer counts down till -0-"Jan said "You do…Oh that's wonderful that is really great news" at that point I still had no idea why all the mystery.

She then began to tell me why she had to be so serious and explained what David Crane had programmed, David never put in a provision in the program that engaged the clutch on the count down his program waited in -N- Neutral till -0- then it popped the clutch to first gear which gave the computer a slower run of a 5.54. To this very day I am the "ONLY person officially" to have beaten Activision's "Perfect Run" by beating their computer with my 5.51.

MT> Please describe your involvement at the 1982 Chicago Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?
TR> Well the answer to that question of my involvement at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in 1982 is Activision had the local Media Chicago's ABC channel 7 film my High School graduation and then film me at the (CES). I was a B+ student ranked 12 out of 453 students, they wanted to focus in on that I played video games for hours and yet still maintained that B+ grade rank.

I was submitting high scores to Activision since early 1980 you know the ones, Laser Blast, Dragster, Skiing, and Stampede. So in 1982 Activision decided to see if I was the real deal and at the (CES) where they showed off there video software in those days "NOT open to the public" I proved my self over and over again in those 4 days. So thus began the partnership between myself and Activision.

Activision was so happy with what I had to offer them that not only did they pay me for demonstrating there games at these (CES) events but they referred me to other companies as their High Score mascot for giving my gaming expertise.

MT> Joystik Magazine was and still is one of my favorite classic gaming magazines. Tell us about your contributions to Joystik Magazine.
TR> Joystik Magazine was one of my favorite companies to work for. They were one of the referrals by Activision and the classic book "How to Master Home Video Games" by Tom Hirschfield. Consumer Guide Limited was the parent company of Joystik and I was contacted by Jim Gorzelany and Mathew White to do a segment on the top 50 video games. They liked my slant so much they offered me a steady position with their magazine in doing video gaming reviews. I met such people like Consumer Guide owners Mr&Mrs Weber, The Centipede Champion at that time Eric Ginner, Video Game Designer Eugene Jarvis and Frank Zappa's daughter MoonUnit Zappa.

MT> What endorsement offers have you accepted? Have you denied any such offers?
TR> Some of the endorsements that I had accepted were Suncom's joysticks, The Slick Stick, The Star Fighter and the Unbreakable Tac2 which really wasn't unbreakable. I broke it during a game session of Decathlon, I told the designers at Suncom of my findings and needless to say they were not happy with my results.

I had declined endorsing a Joystick from Playboy/Playgirl Enterprise; since I had an affiliation with Barbie Benton the people at Playboy had this strange idea. The joystick idea was in the shape of a penis, pink and everything I sort of chuckled and said NO THANKS even though the money was tempting. I can see me now playing Decathlon with that so called stick…NOT…

MT> You have promoted several videogame contests over the years. What are the more interesting anecdotes to tell or memorable moments from partaking in these events?
TR> There are really so many funny moments but I think one of the most memorable ones was in 2002 at the Mall of America show. I was sharing a hotel room with Arcade legend Dwayne Richard, well we had to be at the opening ceremonies at 9am sharp to help Billy Mitchell and Walter Day do the set up of the show and to do media interviews.

I woke up and usually no matter where I am at I turn on the weather channel to see what the weather is going to be like, since I'm also a storm chaser. Well I noticed something odd….REAL odd it was 10:30am and I knew we had to be at the show at 9am. So I immediately woke Dwayne and said SHIT we are late ….. we are VERY late for the show. Dwayne said in his Canadian accent "No worries Todd It's only 8:30…. Yah we got a half hour ay!!! I said Ummm look at the TV its 10:30am on the weather channel and that's local time here…So Dwayne said "Ay I must have set the clock to Canadian-Pacific Standard time from my watch Ay" So needless to say we were conventionally 2hrs late because after all we still had to freshen up and catch the shuttle. Walter was going crazy at the thought that we were so late and wondered why so after telling him he laughed in the usual Walter Day way.

Well it didn't end all there then next day one of Walter's companions/helpers was switched over to Dwayne and my room. This guy must have been bugging Billy Mitchell so I guess Walter thought he would be better off with us. The next morning I look at the clock again and I'm starting to worry because the guy that Walter had bunk with us has been in the shower for 40 minutes and it's already 20 till the hour…..What the hell do you wash that takes 40 minutes…? So I bang on the door for the 5th time and say…HEY we are going to be late hurry up in there. As it happens this guy got out in just enough time to make it so I had NO way to dry my long hair and to be out side for the bus and the bus only runs at quarter till every hour ….. so I had to wait till the next departure which was an hour later…..So I was late 2 days in a row at the Mall of America show.

MT> Can you rattle off a list of games that you conquered of which the original game designers and programmers couldn't touch your high score?
TR> Well that is a sort of odd question considering that the developers of any given game can access the program and alter it to reach the end or final screen of their particular gaming titles.

But I do have to say other then the Dragster time the game Atlantis by Imagic for the Atari 2600 was one of the gaming titles that I had made an Impressive score on at the 1983 Electronic Thing Show in Detroit Michigan. Those folks at "Imagic" we not prepared when I entered their booth which was adjoining the Activision's Booth and continued on to make 800k on Atlantis first time playing it mind you. Activision was already use to my antics but it was really funny when the designers watched me play their highlighted game of the show and to play it like I did. I walked away at 800K and said "This game is way to easy" and walked back to the Activision booth where I was featuring Pitfall and Starmaster. The designers came over to the Activision booth and gave me and my late brother Scott one of their "Defend Atlantis" T-Shirts and proceeded to ask me if I could do work for their company by promoting their products like I was doing for Activision. I replied certainly what kind of ideas does your company have in mind. So here I am with yet another chance to become more recognized in the video gaming community.

Another instance was in late 1982 possibly November maybe December I was recruited by the "Marvin Glass Company" out of Chicago to test a new Arcade game called "Wacko" I don't think at the time Bally/Midway licensed the game yet. It was a weird game with a crooked cabinet, immediately I thought what a hell of a concept I hope the rest of the game is equally enticing. So I played this game and I asked the group of designers at the table behind me if I can play till I die, they said yes that I could, after all I was testing their game. The whole while I was playing this game all I could think about is these people have NO idea what they are in for, I'll give them one hell of a show and that is what I did. I played Wacko till 2,205,500pts I think maybe some of the designers were a bit weary of my length of game play and probably didn't want to see me break their designer's best score of just over 308,000. I think what they had in mind was just some kid to come in a play for a few minutes then analyze the game then they would pat them on their backs and send them on their merry way. The Marvin Glass Company was one of the few companies never to call me back for game testing.

MT> Why did you meet Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Olympic Gold Medallist?
TR> Well I met Bruce Jenner thru Activision at the 1983(CES) show; it was the premier of a game called Decathlon and at that time David Crane had no idea of how many joysticks his game would break. Bruce was on hand at the (CES) to show off his gaming skills at Decathlon and to show the viewers at the event how the game was played. Being a former "Olympic Gold Medalist", who better then Bruce to promote such a video game?

Meanwhile on the other side of the Activision booth I was playing Dragster and had no idea that Bruce was there. When one of the Activision people came up to me and asked me to go to the other side of the booth because the had someone there to challenge me on a special game I had no idea who they wanted me to play against let alone what special game it was. When I went to the other side of the booth and saw who it was that I was going to play against and I was thrilled it was Bruce Jenner.

Bruce began to explain the game functions to me and how to play it to be a champ, little did Bruce know that I was already a champ with "12" World Records under my belt and Activision's Mascot,… boy was he in for a surprise. Bruce went first as we played doubles and I watched his technique by holding the joystick between his index finger and his thumb he got a 10.97 on the 100meter dash not bad I thought as I've never played this game before Bruce really looked like he was trying hard at getting a great score. Now it was my turn I used a different technique to hold the joystick I which I place the joystick in the center of all four fingers for a far faster gaming response, I used this method in the Arcade on the game called Crazy Climber so I was well seasoned at having rapid movement in getting great scores myself. When I completed the 100meter dash my time was 9.61 very impressive to the folks at Activision that were watching me, Bruce was shocked and asked me if I've played this game before and I said NO Bruce remember you just showed me how to play it. Well Bruce wasn't going to be upstaged by me so he continued on to the next event at that point one of the Activision reps Ralph Giuffre asked if my mom who was around the corner sitting down if she wanted to watch me beating Bruce. My mom laughed and said that she was tired from the show and that she was use to me beating people of all sorts on these games that she will pass at this opportunity. So Ralph returned to see me take yet another event from Bruce, Finally Ralph and other from Activision let the cat out of the bag and told Bruce that I was their championship player and that it just wasn't anyone who beat him at Decathlon he was beaten by the worlds best gamer at that time. Bruce didn't find it funny and had a terse look on his face, I guess he didn't like getting a silver medal to my gold but after all it was a game.

MT> What other celebrities have you faced-off with?
TR> I'm sure there were a few more celebrities that I've faced off with, but off the top of my head here it goes:

Barbie Benton - Playboy Magazine
Boomer Esaiason- NFL
Chuck Norris - Actor
Curley Neal - NBA
Dan NITRO Clark - Gladiator
Frank Thomas - MLB
George Foreman - WBA
Joe Montana - NFL
King Kong Bundy - WWF
Marina Sirtis - StarTrek: Next Generation
Michael Jordan - NBA
Mike Tyson- WBA
Ox Baker - AWA Wrestling
Reggie Jackson- MLB
Richard Simmons - Fitness
Riddick Bowe - WBA
Robert Culp - Actor
Sting - WCW Wrestling
Sugar Ray Leonard J.R.- WBA
Vanna White - Television Game SHow Host
Warren Moon - NFL

MT> Aerospace and videogames collide! How did you acquire a remnant of NASA's Skylab space station?
TR> Activision was promoting another one of its famous contests, this particular contest you had to play Starmaster then send in your score to qualify for what rank you made. I qualified on that contest to win a piece of NASA's SkyLab and a poster.

The only down side of this contest was when the people that were running the contest "Blair Co. of Nebraska" came out to my house I had to play on their Atari gaming system with their Atari joysticks not that I was playing on anything other then a standard Atari joysticks but there's were not broken in like mine they were very stiff and their Atari console was a newer one, one that I had never used before they had a 4 switch back side difficulty Atari. Mine was the original HEAVY 6'r, with all switches in front. This caused a BIG problem, so I thought for a moment and then I had my game plan. I will play the game initially letting it start off as usual not leading on to what I had in mind, so after I started the game I would let it play by it self and do nothing …..just let the game end, and that is what I did. The Representative from the Blair Co. asked why I did that. I told him that I refused to play under their conditions when there was absolutely NOTHING wrong or modified with my Atari console I already have a piece of Skylab so what more can there be to make me continue. This is why I didn't take first place in that contest I was thoroughly disgusted, this also was one of two separate Starmaster contests that Activision had ran.

MT> For those unfamiliar with the US National Videogame Team, how would you communicate the group?
TR> Well I was hand picked by Steve Harris, he noticed that I was a big name in the video game industry already due to my skills on the home consoles and I was also a force to be reckoned with on the Arcade circuit. He wanted the best of the best players to represent the U.S. National Video Game Team and this select team was suppose to travel the country and go up against the very best of the nation on video games, in other words, we weren't ever supposed to lose at anything to anyone.

I and my late brother Scott mingled with the best of them players like, Perry Rodgers, Jeff Peters, Don Nauert, and Steve Harris. We went to video gaming conventions, Pinball Conventions and played all the games to the max, its like we were desperado's at a gun fight once we showed up everyone knew we were the ones going to be making the high scores and playing the games ALL DAY. If there were contests with prizes guess who won them. I suppose to a distant point to the novice gamers it really wasn't fair that they didn't have a chance at those prizes but it was fun to know that you could take down a high score at any given point. There was even rivalry between us "USNVT" players to see who the best of the best was but there is no real way to get that title. There are too many games with too many players to get an idea of who could be good at ALL games.

MT> What is it like to have been medically dead and flat-lined for 28 seconds?
TR> Well dead is dead but in my case they brought me back to life. It was a surrealistic sensation I felt nothing at all …I mean nothing I lost 7pints of blood so my whole body started to tingle and everything went black. I guess if there was any way to pass in life the bleeding or loss of blood was quite painless, not that I want to encourage anyone to do that. I woke to the burning sensation of shock paddles being lifted off of my chest. Yes the other kind of paddles not the Atari ones and I realized at that point something serious was very wrong with me. I mean I knew of the auto wreck because I was a passenger in my friends car and I knew the EMS 10 codes but I really didn't think that they were referring about me. Months passed and I progressively got better.


MT> So for over a decade, you were dormant on the gaming scene. Did you stop playing games during this time, or were you still active within the privacy of your own world?
TR> I was dormant as anyone could have possibly been most of the playing that I did do from 1993-1999 was at my parents house where my son was staying. I was in an abusive marriage and I certainly didn't want her to throw away what meant so very much to me at on point in my life when she was in one of her drunken tirades. As a matter of fact my late wife knew very little about my video gaming involvement. Only near the end of her life did she know a small portion. That was in 1999-2000 when I found Twin Galaxies on a new home computer that she had bought from the money that was given from our house fire reimbursement. Hell I didn't even know how to surf the web back then I had to ask her how to do a search on a task bar….Strange coming from someone who programmed back in the mid 80s. The internet was totally different then the programming that I did. But as to stop playing NO WAY when I found the time between working 85-105 hrs a week doing road construction, I played.

MT> Please describe your current association with Twin Galaxies?
TR> My current association with Twin Galaxies is performing the tasks of a senior referee. Meaning verifying scores at live events and reviewing video taped submissions from players on the platforms that I preside over. Making ruling judgment calls on games where there are cheating possibilities and making video gaming fair on any level of game play.

MT> What are your longest "marathon games," meaning what is the longest time that you have physically played a game with no pauses or breaks in the arcade and the home console setting?
TR> Well, where do I begin? Perhaps the longest video gaming session with out a break. I have Marathoned over 60 gaming titles over 24+ Hrs with out a break. The one that takes the cake is the 2600 Journey Escape world record at 85+ hours. I have a few that are in the 70 hr range and some that are in the 60hr mark. I have compiled a list of the games that I have marathoned to give me an idea of how many total hrs that I have invested in just those titles. In the Arcade for marathoning the game would have to be GYRUSS. I played one year at Haunted Trails in Burbank Illinois for 36hrs to attain just over 40 Million pts. GORF is marathonable but you have to slim of a chance to recover after many hours of game play not like in GYRUSS where you stock pile your reserve ships and sort of rest for a while.


MT> Any tips for those of us that wish to gain notoriety and max out even your high scores?
TR> Tips #1 Determination and #2 never give up, #3 remain focused on what you want to achieve, this will gain not only notoriety but respect among your gaming peers.

Maxing out my high scores well some of my scores players can beat me on and some they can only tie me on. So I guess maxing a score on a game that can be maxed would give you a world record... yes … but you can't beat me on it only tie me….but that's cool.

I would play that game that most inspires you the one that you feel most comfortable with when you play it. The game that gives you the most enjoyment because when the game begins to be more like work it takes the fun out and leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth and you don't want to play it anymore….

MT> Do you dislike playing two-player cooperative games? Perhaps the fact that others cannot keep up with your pace and "bring you down" so to speak might be a real downer.
TR> I don't dislike the two-player games I think that they are fun if you go into that game with the intent to have fun. I see no enjoyment in playing doubles with someone just to make them wait all day for their turn …Hell I could do that on my own on a single game.

If I am playing a cooperative game where the player relies on me helping them thru a gaming stage I always suggest to play where I'm most needed and to have them play where they are most needed …that's called balance that's how you conquer a game together. You don't go into a doubles/cooperative game set thinking your going to set a world record unless you train for it.

MT> Ever had any mechanical failures or other such disasters that affected you getting your game on?
TR> Certainly I think everyone has had that problem once or twice in their life time of playing video games. I had a friend of mine accidentally bump into the power switch chord while I was marathoning a game of Worm Whomper at 20million mark that's about 15hrs or more needless to say that game was forever lost.

Then there is of course now where I live the lightning capitol of the world where the power goes out in the blink of an eye this is why they make Minute Man Power Supplies. This little device gives you constant power even when there is no power from the power outlets enabling a player to have games that they can marathon on.

MT> What do you have "in your sights" to conquer next?
TR> I guess to conquer the newest and badest games that are available. I am one of the few classic championship gamers that have transitioned my self to the other gaming platforms. I play Classic Arcade, Classic Console , Modern Console , P.C., MAME, and anything that's new to keep up with the times after all I don't want to get rusty in my old age.

Think about it I have High Scores that have been in existence longer then the drinking age let alone the average age of the newer generation of video game players. For instance on the Arcade platform my world record has been standing since 1982, and my classic console world record since 1980.

I guess for me the next BIG thing is to replicate the Dragster's 5.51 on video tape for all to view and the continued pursuit to become a world renowned actor on the silver screen. After all I'm always being reguarded as "The Bad Boy of The Video Gaming World" why not convey a character like that in the movies.


MT> Sounds like a plan, Todd. Good luck with that and any other future endeavors. The GDG crew will be rooting for you all the way. That is until I personally enter into the ring...


Good Deal Games recognizes Todd as a true videogame champion.
We grant him this title not only because of his past and present achievements,
but more importantly for being a positive influence and role-model! Thanks Todd!

E-mail Todd
Visit Todd's "Beat the Champ" website
Visit Todd's Blog
Visit Twin Galaxies' website
Read even more about Todd Rogers

 

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