Matt: Hi! I’m a big fan of competitive video games, I’ve been spending some time trying to dig up info about the 1990 championships but everything seems to link to a few sources that have conflicting details. I’m hoping your crew of experts can clear up some things, or point me in the right direction.
Erik: “Will do our best”
Matt : Specifically, I’m confused about this:
“There was no official competition round to crown a single winner. However, after the competition ended there was an informal face-off between the three winners, with Thor Aackerlund taking first place, Jeff Hansen taking second, and Robert Whiteman finishing third.”
Matt: Jeff Hansen went on as America’s representative to Japan to win the World Championship title again in Tokyo, Japan, and again in Las Vegas at a rematch with the Japanese champion, Yuichi Suyama.”
Do you happen to know where I could find information about the Tokyo competition? Everything I’ve been able to dig up points back to that same passage in Wikipedia, which doesn’t cite a source so I’m not even confident the Japan competition existed. If it did, do you have any idea why Jeff Hansen (11 at the time from what I can tell) went to represent?
Thor: “No idea on why Nintendo choose Jeff Hansen.”
Erik: “There was very very little in the media when it was happening, I think Nintendo wanted to control it, and keep it close to the belt, we did not even know about it until well after it had taken place, it was not on the scale of the massively publicised 1990 Nintendo World Championships were.”
Matt: Wikipedia also claims the winner won a car and a TV in addition to the savings bond. The savings bond I’ve found other evidence of, but again no source on the car/tv thing and no mentions of it aside from this wiki article that everything seems to copy. People are fond of citing the time Carmack gave away his Ferrari as the first instance of a car being won in video games, which makes me wonder if that is true also.
Thor: “The winners also recieved a 1990 Geo Metro Convertible, this would predate Carmack giving away his Ferarri. They had a GeoMetro convertible in yellow for all of the contestants to ooh and ahh at, just out side the StarTrek Theater at Universal Studios, A bunch of the contestants at one point decided to lift the car off the ground!”
Erik: “If I remember right the savings bond was for $10,000, which had a pretty low cash value, the TV was a Panasonic 42″ it replaced Thor’s 13″ Color TV of the time. There were some other things the winners got, A Mario trophy, and a Panasonic Boombox. ”
Matt: I know these are weird and specific questions, and appreciate any insight you can give. Hope the gaming blog goes well, I love reading about all kinds of game competition and retro gaming.
Thor: “Thanks for your great questions, keep them coming”
Robin Mihara – As a NWC (Nintendo World Championship) finalist, the contest has always stayed with me. It has been a part of my identity in a way. From completely defining me in my younger years, to being an amusing tale in bars as an adult, I never shed the connection. Tetris was the most important game in that contest, and to this day, I believe the most challenging NES game ever. Even the greatest players still struggle with it’s sadistic timing.
About 2 years ago, I looked at a NES Tetris game on Youtube played by Trey Harrison with a score of 801,222. My high was somewhere in the 550k range I believe, and seeing this guy play was unbelievable. I had seen 3 players clearly better than me in the NWC, but those players (Thor, Jeff Falco and Kenny Welch) were always playing at the slower speeds (due to the time limit)… never to get passed level 12 or so. Trey got to level 29 that game (my highest was 26 I think) where I saw the “kill screen” for the first time (where the speed goes so fast you cant even get a piece to the side). On Trey’s description he wrote that he first became obsessed with Tetris during the 1990 NWC! I didn’t remember a Trey there, so I wrote him and asked what his story was.
He replied that he had come in 3rd and 2nd place in the final two cities and never won a regional contest of his own. He went on to say that he had even broken 3 million points (NWC cart score), which as far ask I know was only the 5th person to do so at the time (the others being the previously mentioned greats, and Jeff Hansen the eventual winner of the younger age group). Trey then said that if I wanted to see the greatest player he had ever seen, to look up Jonas. Jonas had maxed out the score at a million and had done it starting on level 19. Level 19, for those of you who don’t know, is the speed where Tetris gets really really hard. Impossible for most. Once I hit 19, I just scramble to survive, with an occasional Tetris from luck and inevitably a sad miss drop or brain hiccup that kills me 2 pieces later. It’s a nightmare usually, and I’m pretty darn good.
Trey and I emailed back and forth for a while, and both remembered Thor (a friend of Trey’s, and recent Nintendoage acquaintance of mine) claiming that he could get past level 29 into the 30s. It was that night that I realized that I really needed to see these guys play each other. To me Tetris is the thinking man’s game of today. The ADD version of chess if you will. Thor vs. Jonas would be like the Bobby Fisher vs. Boris Spassky of the 21st century. Even if not taken seriously today, the game would some day be talked about as the first true legendary heads-up contest* for the most played video game of all time.
There was only one problem: Thor was now a keyboard player (due mostly to convenience), and Jonas didn’t play anything except the NES version.
That was about the time I met Adam Cornelius. Portland filmmaker and Tetris player himself, Adam was already starting a documentary about Harry Hong – The first official maxout player according to Twin Galaxies record keeping. Adam was under the impression that Harry was the reigning king of NES Tetris (Harry had a small amount of internet fame from his climb to the million-point grail) and had started a low budget documentary about the maxout and Harry funded by Trey Harrison! I excitedly (and nervously for fear that my news would break his dream project) told Adam that there were 2 players that may even be better than Harry. He took the news well, and from there we fantasized about holding a live contest with all the greats, and having big screens, announcers, spotlights, all like we did in 1990. The next day I got a call from Adam. “OK I want to do it. You’re my star. You put it together” I was in my car speeding to his house in 30 seconds.
to be continued….
* no disrespect to the hard drop/hold chamber players of today. I just consider that version a different game entirely from the NES/Gameboy version I know as Tetris
Erik Ackerlund -Here is an unusual find that turned up on Ebay. A replica poster signed by Thor at the Nintendo AgeExpo. You never know what your going to find on ebay. Too bad it is not actually vintage. How many of you NWC veterans out there still have your original?
From the seller’s description, “The poster is 9″ x 15″ and is perfect for any Nintendo collector!!! Frame it! stare at it! love it! Definitely, a one of a kind item. The poster itself was fabricated in 2008 and came with the NWC game cartridge re-release from Retrozone, it has the retrozone seal of quality on it, it was signed at the AgeExpo 2008 in Knoxville, TN – brand new never used. ”
Find out a little bit of what Thor is up to and his recent accomplishment when he met up with Scott Patterson. Thor spent the day with Scott of “Twin Galaxies” fame, multiple world record holder, gaming fan and writer for the Denton Examiner. More after the jump.