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My 40-Hour Defenderthon

Back in the October issue of VIDEO GAMES, 18-year-old Dale Rees, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., slapped our wrist for printing an erroneous Defender high score.  Rees added that he would be going for the record - 33 million points at the time - and asked if we would like a report on "the event."   "Certainly," we replied.  Two months hence the following article article arrived in the mail.

At the age of five, I was told that my coordination would never be right.  I couldn't even touch my nose with my hand.  And here I am preparing to top the Defender high score.

It's 10 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 28, when I pop my quarter into the machine at the Game Tunnel in Merrit Island, Fla.  My first ship goes down at 62,375.  My first soda goes down as I start to climb to the big bonus level of 990,000.

I'm well into the fourth million when the game room begins to fill up.  It's already way past dinner-time when someone brings me a burger; another friend supplies Pac-Man cookies for some quick energy.  By 11 p.m. - as I pass the 14 million mark - the spectators are beginning to thin out.  A leather pad I designed is doing a good job keeping the cabinet's hard edge from gnawing at my wrists - no soreness yet.

Dwayne Coffman, my Defender-playing partner, talks me through the wee hours.  By 6 a.m. (Wednesday) my score stands at 22 million.  I'm hungry again.  Dwayne feeds me an Egg MacMuffin and coffee.  Suddenly, nature calls - I hold off until the last

moment, make a mad dash to the bathroom, throw some cold water on my face and race back to Defender.  Incredibly, only three of my well-stocked ships have been lost.

By noon, Milt Salamon, a local newspaper reporter, arrives, followed by the local TV crew.  Soon the room is

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flooded with bright lights, and I'm being asked lots of questions.   In the background, I hear a live radio D.J. informing all of Cocoa Beach what I've accomplished so far.  Then my mother arrives and spoonfeeds me chili in between attack waves.  Even in three-second gulps, the hot food is calming.

At 5 p.m. I reach the magic 33 million point.  While friends whistle congratulations for achieving the goal I set, I decided to run the machine up to 34 million before quitting.  Then I get some shocking news.  According to the Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard, in Iowa, the Defender high score is 52 million!   Even though I hadn't planned on a second night without sleep, I keep going.

By 11 p.m., at 39 million, I'm in pain.  The ice packs scorekeeper Guy Kent has been putting on my knuckles are no longer helping; my right foot,
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which has been supporting me through this ordeal, is throbbing.  At midnight, my concentration starts to lapse.  My hands seem to be moving independently of my brain.   Suddenly, at 41,410,000, I drop to four ships.

I feel like a boxer who's down for the count.  Three, two, now one ship left.   I'm smart-bombing everything just to stay alive.  A new wave begins.  I smart-bomb the pods and regain another ship.  Have I weathered the storm?   Hardly.  My smart bomb stock is down to two.  Did I overplay them in my previous panic?

The final moment arrives at 42,335,225.  I am, in fact, relieved.  I let my head drop into my hands.  I could cry, but I am just too tired.  Forty hours is a long time Defending.

-Dale Rees

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