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Missile Command record falls after 31 years

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Missile Command (Credit: Atari)

If Earth ever comes under alien attack, we can rest easy knowing that Victor Sandberg is on our side.

Sandberg came out of nowhere this weekend to apparently shatter one of gaming’s oldest records: the 31-year old high score for the coin-op classic Missile Command.

Sandberg's high score came after an epic 56-hour play session posted live to his TwitchTV feed. Hi score? 81,796,035 points, just enough to squeak past the old record set by Victor Ali all the way back in 1982.

The record won’t technically be official until it’s been certified by Twin Galaxies, which oversees gaming records and dictates the conditions under which those records must be met. No matter what the official record keepers say, though, it's an impressive feat, one made even more impressive since Sandberg wasn't a big fan of the game to begin with.

"I believe my approach to the record was somewhat different than other players," he told The Examiner during a record attempt in February. "I made a deal with myself to go for the world record before I had touched the actual game. In other words, my inspiration didn't grow out of the love and passion for the game. I consider myself a very competitive individual and I have always made statements about my ability to become the best about this or that, so beating a classic arcade record was my way of putting my attitude to the test."

There are a couple things to keep in mind as you hearken back to Missile Command's quarter-gobbling heyday. First, the version Sandberg played uses the 'marathon' settings, which allow players to earn extra cities as opposed to the classic/tournament rules. That allows for much higher scores -- and gives players a chance to take care of things like eating, drinking and going to the bathroom.

Sandberg counted on that, building up extra cities and sacrificing them when he had to step away for a few minutes. Doing so, he said, conceivably would let him take breaks up to 30 minutes, but he rarely was gone more than six.

The Missile Command record is one of gaming’s most resilient marks. In 2006, documentary filmmaker Jeremy Mach unveiled "High Score," a film about one man's quest to claim top bragging rights for the game. The film won the audience award at both that year's SXSW Film Festival and Brooklyn Underground Film Festival.

Sandberg isn't the only gamer to take down a landmrk record this year. In February, George Leutz conquered the 30 year-old Q*bert high score during a ludicrous 85-hour session.

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