Thursday, September 20, 2012

Classic Frogger arcade world record squashed once again

Both real-life and fictional champions of the classic arcade game Frogger are now looking across the road and down the river to a new champion.

The new champion is 45-year-old software engineer Michael Smith of Springfield, Virginia. The husband and father adds the world record score of 970,440 points to his resume, a goal he hopped toward for two-and-a-half years.

The new record beats the 896,980 point score set by Pat Laffaye in 2010. Laffaye gained international press recognition for that score as the first to beat the fictional "George Costanza Score" of 860,630 points from a classic episode of NBC's Seinfeld.
"I saw an article in the Arizona Republic on Pat Laffaye's Costanza-beating score," he said. "I honestly had not paid attention to the video game scene at all for many years, so I had no idea that George's score had not been beaten already. I got very excited and thought 'I can beat that!' I cut the article out of the paper and taped it on the side of my game."

Smith first became acquainted with Frogger when the arcade game was a brand new hit during the peak of the arcade game industry.

"During the summer of 1981 I was 14 and spent several afternoons a week at the arcade," he recalled. "I can't recall the first time I actually played the game, however I remember being attracted primarily to Frogger and Centipede at the time. I tried my best to do well at Centipede but could never get good enough to regularly get the top score. Frogger, however, I could get the top score on every visit. I recall the thrill of getting past level five and getting that extra frog. That is what I looked forward to every visit."

During his modern-day journey across the Frogger pond, Smith states that he had fun the entire time, even while studying his best path to the record score.

"I recall watching The King of Kong with my brother," he said. "When we watched Steve Wiebe draw arcs on the glass with a grease pencil, my brother turned to me and asked if I would ever get that analytical with my Frogger attempt. My response was 'no, I can't imagine becoming that obsessed.' I was right in one respect; I never used grease pencils. A while later I set up a tripod and recorded every level five I encountered and sat for hours afterwards analyzing what I did wrong and the best route to success. As I improved, I had to view those videos over and over, because my technique continued to evolve, and I needed to analyze each possible scenario every time I improved my game. This took a long time, but I enjoyed every minute of it and never tired of playing the game."

Smith also states that he hopes that former champs Laffaye and Donald Hayes will once again hop after the world record. He also had some words for Costanza himself.

"The most impressive thing about George is that he accomplished it on a machine at a pizza parlor," Smith jokingly stated. "There is no way I could have done that. It took me serious analysis to get that good. So, George, I have to believe that you are more of a natural talent on the game than I. My hat is off to you. I anticipate with a little work you will be able to beat my score."

While satisfied with the title of Frogger world record holder, Smith states that his current score still fell short of one of his goals.

"While the world record is mine for now, I am not completely satisfied after falling short of a million points," he added. "I am taking a break for the moment but will continue toward that goal soon."

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