What nonsense is this?  The answer is very nearly, but perhaps not quite, in the increasingly crowded category labeled If You Have To Ask, You Will Never Understand.  What Juraszek, 15, recently did at an Arlington Heights, Ill., arcade called One Step Beyond was play Defender, one of those beeping, flashing, quarter-eating arcade video games, for 16 hours and 34 minutes on the same 25, ringing up a score of 15,963,100 before he finally made a mistake and lost his last ship.   Anyone who knows arcade games, and especially Defender, which is one of the most difficult, will agree that this is very close to being impossible.  It is definitely not one of those non-feats thought up by the untalented to memorialize themselves in The Guinness Book of World Records, such as eating seven miles of spaghetti, or riding an exercise bicycle for a week and a half.

Defender is an attack-from-outer-space game.  It is played on a large color video screen where nullity bombs and destructo beams are hurled at the player by the machine's computer. Increasingly rowdy sound effects suggest what James Joyce, under the influence of William Blake (who would have loved these gadgets), called "the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame." The Defender player controls a small cannon-firing jet plane that flies at varying altitudes and speeds over a barren landscape. He must shoot down a bewildering variety of alien bad guys, each with his own pattern of behavior; dodge an assortment of missiles; and rescue helpless spacemen, vulnerable to being kidnapped, who appear randomly on the planet's surface. He must have reflexive control of a joystick that determines altitude and of five separate buttons that fire the cannon, change forward thrust, reverse direction, make the ship skim off the screen into hyperspace and fire a limited supply of smart bombs, which blow up everything in sight. As is fiendishly true of all of the good new video games, as the game progresses, Defender shifts to subtler strategies and sends out it's alien waves with increasing speed. You play the machine and it plays you.

A neophyte has as much chance with Defender as he would if he were to take over the controls of an F-16. A reasonably good video-game athlete--that is how game junkies are beginning to describe themselves--will last it out for a few thousand points, or a couple of minutes. A superb player, the kind not seen in every arcade, may hit 500,000 on his best day. That is why when Juraszek began to close in on 1 million points towards the end of the first hour of his enchanted run, people began to notice. Darrell Schultz, one of the arcade's owners, asked Steve if he could set a record.

"I said, 'Yeah,'" Juraszek recalls,

Photo by Steve Hansen
A young Missile Command warrior defends her cities at a New London, N.H. pizza parlor

Photo bt Dan McCoy
Tense combat on-screen in Pleiades game
Photo by Dan McCoy
Pac Man scuttles about maze, eating dots
"and he said. 'Go for it!' " Juraszek is a gangly young man who began playing pinball when he was ten, before video games had hit the scene. "I could buy a car or something with the money I've put into games." he says, with no appearance of regret. He started playing Defender in June, and by August he was pretty good. On his record day he kept up his strength by snapping at pizza slices that people held in front of his face. He said later that he was so excited he never even thought about going to the bathroom. His mother Joanne Juraszek watched for a while, utterly unimpressed, and agreed reluctantly to let him play till he dropped. "I just wish," she said later, "that he was this good about doing his homework."

As the scornful cry "So what?" echoes from glen to glen, and as the unmoved Joanne Juraszek admits that she finds her son's new fame "very strange." Skeptical citizens might do well to pay attention to a peculiar clinking sound audible across the land. The noise is made by the estimated 20 billion quarters that poured last year into the arcade monsters. This is a figure that may be the public relations roar of a healthy young industry beating its chest. but one that investment analysis who specialize in the entertainment industry agree is not far wrong. While they spent this $5 billion, video-game addicts also were spending 75.000 man-years playing the machines.

These figures do not include an estimated $I billion that consumers paid for video-game consoles that hook up to home television sets. and for the expensive cassettes that make them work. For comparison, $5 billion is exactly twice the reported take in the last fiscal year of all of the casinos in Nevada. It is almost twice the $2.8 billion gross of the U.S. movie industry. And it is three times more than the combined television revenues and gate receipts last year of major league baseball, basketball and football.

From what vast aquifer of cash does this astonishing gush of money flow? From the lunch money of schoolchildren, say angry parents who are determined, so

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