Long before the days of leaderboards, online competition and that sort of thing, the key to gaining merit in video games was to achieve high scores. Granted, doing so in arcade games and putting in your initials was one thing, but Twin Galaxies (working alongside Guinness World Records), for the longest time, has been keeping track of particular game records, as well as the players that set them.
But one particular record has come into question recently, as the group recently reported that the score for Dragster, an old Atari 2600 drag racing game, had been deemed “impossible.” As a result, the player, Todd Rogers, had his record stripped by both Twin Galaxies and the Guinness World Records, and has since been banned from participating in future competitions.
“Based on the complete body of evidence presented in this official dispute thread, Twin Galaxies administrative staff has unanimously decided to remove all of Todd Rogers’ scores as well as ban him from participating in our competitive leaderboards,” the team noted on its web page.
The record dates back to 1982, in which Rogers submitted to Activision’s fan newsletter at the time, noting he got a time on Dragster of 5.51 seconds. It became instantly recognized in print and got Rogers a spot on the leaderboards in 2001, as well as an honor by Guinness World Records in 2017 for the world’s longest-standing gaming record.
That said, he never actually submitted proof of his record. He did offer an explanation on his site as to how he got the time, and noted Activision’s certification.
But then Twin Galaxies noted a change to disputing scores back in July, and Dragster immediately came up in conversation. Several members disputed the time, saying, again, it was “impossible.” An investigation soon followed after several players tried to replicate the time, and could not do so.
“It seems like there are multiple witnesses and otherwise for this particular record, but based on the code of the game I do not see how it’s possible to hit 5.54, let alone 5.51,” noted Omnigamer, speaking in a recent Reddit thread. That lent to Twin Galaxies’ investigation, and eventually led to Rogers’ dismissal from the leaderboards.
Robert T. Mruczek, a former referee for the group, closed down the thread by noting, “It is with great regret that the foundations of my steadfast faith in this nearly legendary performance of 5.51 seconds on [Dragster] has been shaken severely by recent empirical and hard data accumulated by numerous sources and technical experts across the past several months.”
The staff has since noted how it will work on tallying new records to the leaderboards. “We cannot change Activision’s acknowledgement of this score but we have an overall responsibility for gaming achievements and can no longer accept their historical records as the sole justification for scores set at the time. We were not there, can not find any of the evidentiary materials they used at the time to confirm the score, and could not find anyone who would on-the-record testify that they directly saw the evidence that was presented to Activision.”
The current record time for the game stands at 5.57, by several players.
Rogers has since responded on the matter on Facebook, noting that he appreciated the group for its “strong stance on the matter of cheating.”
That said, though, he did note that the idea that he faked his racing time was “preposterous,” and went into even more detail. “If you wish to call me a cheat, a fraud, etc., you have every right to until you see evidence that says otherwise. Seeing is believing. But when the remarks become personal, and my friends and family are dragged into the mire, it is no longer about gaming. People are wishing ill will upon me and my family over what? A high score on a video game? If that is what the gaming community has become, then despite my love for video games and all of my contributions and experience to help the scene grow by playing live at events and supporting the community, it is not worth jeopardizing my personal life and family outside of gaming.”
And he continues to stand by his actions. “Who I am, and what I have done with my life will not be defined by a score that I produced live, that others do not believe because they were not there,” Rogers wrote. “For those who have shown me unwavering support over the last few months, thank you. I will continue play games I enjoy and have fun doing so. After all, isn’t that what gaming is about?”
Now the real question is if Twin Galaxies will go after other people with questionable records. Billy Mitchell, who participated in the hunt for the greatest Donkey Kong score in The King of Kong, has had such problems in the past, so fans will probably be wondering if it’s a matter of time before he comes under investigation. We shall see…
(Thanks to Polygon for the scoop!)