Retro Magazine Writer, United Kingdom
with Paul Dean, Spy Hunter Champion
1 up High Score
Stories behind the scenes
Retro Gamer Magazine - Issue #18
(Paul Dean - Spy Hunter Interview)
June 28, 1985
The story behind the score
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Retro Magazine Retro Gamer
JULY ISSUE 2005
July 4, 2005
Retro Gamer Issue #18
Delivering high kicks to your head! Link
Posted 04 July 2005 10:41 AM
Live Publishing Staff Member
Retro Gamer is the UK's first regular retro magazine. Published monthly, each
issue delves into the glorious, ever-growing retro scene and covers all the
classic games, computers and consoles from your misspent youth.
Coin-Op Guinness Book High Score Players
By Paul Drury
1UP HIGH SCORE
The stories behind the scores
Topping the Spy Hunter high-score league is Paul dean with a score just
shy of 10 million. With the help of a well-placed oil slick, Paul Drury
stops him in his tracks and asks him a few questions...
James Bond, 007 Secret Agent
"There's nothing more cool than James Bond," enthuses Paul Dean, explaining
his devotion to spy hunter. "just to step into his shoes, even for a few minutes..."
Spy Hunter Sit Down Coin Operated Video Game
Paul spent more than a few minutes in 007's shoes - 11 and a half hours to be
precise, on 28 June 1985, amassing a cool 9,512,950 points and setting a new world
record that still stands today. And there's something rather Bond-like about the
story behind that score... daring deeds, intrigue, villains, the hero fighting
against the odds and triumphing in the end, even if he doesn't quite get the girl.
But, just as James had to attend spy school, Paul put in many hours of concentrated
effort before he became a spymaster. A regular player since the4 game's launch in
1983, his practice regime became two hours a day, Monday to Friday, in the months
leading up to the Guinness Tournament in 1985 where he'd achieve his record score.
He developed a range of tactics - a 'see-saw' pattern of slowing down and speeding up
to avoid the double-barreled gun of the Lethal Enforcer, one-shot kills of enemy cars
to minimize debris on the road, a non-aggression policy on curvy or icy roads, and
judicious use of oil on water to take out the malicious Dr Torpedo during the boat
sections, to name a few - until the game became as servile as Miss Moneypenny.
"It's a game of risk management. You have to be careful with only six lives in total,
but it does plateau around 800,000 and once I'd perfected the strategies, there was
nothing it could throw at me I couldn't handle."
Phil Britt (1985 - Player of the Year)
So Paul sat down at the cabinet in the Huish Family Fun Arcade in Upland, California
on that day in June, and - with his friend and mentor Phil Britt, who had recently
been crowned Player of the Year, at his side spurring him on - Paul turned in a
marathon performance on a game that it simply shouldn't be possible to marathon.
The camaraderie is touching, as Paul describes how Phil used a few white lies to get
the best out of his protégé.
Jeff Peters, Classic Era Referee (Twin Galaxies)
"He kept telling me that Jeff Peters, the Twin Galaxies referee for our area, was on
the phone, saying there was some guy in Alaska who was only a few million behind me.
It was a clever trick and really pushed me on."
I can't resist asking the inevitable bladder question. How exactly could he make a
bathroom pit stop without a cache of extra cars to sacrifice? "You can't. You have
to suffer," he winces, as if still recalling the grueling ordeal of all those hours
without a toilet break and just one Coke and a hotdog to see him through. "You just
have to put it out of your mind."
Exhausted, but ecstatic at getting his name in the Guinness Book of Records, Paul
walked away from the machine for good. "I retired after that game. It had been so
long and very stressful. I said I'd come out of retirement if there was any
competition, but there wasn't."
And there still isn't, two decades later. In fact, no one has even come within 10% of
his score and cracked one million points.
End of the road?
Paul Dean poses near Neo Geo Coin-Operated Video Game
Though his days playing games competitively had ceased, Paul remained involved with
arcade gaming, working for a chain of pizza parlors called Little Caesars and
installing Street Fighter cabinets in their 123 restaurants during the early nineties.
He even managed to sneak his own beloved Spy Hunter machine into one pizza joint, but
confesses that "no-one could really get the knack of it."
Street Fighter II (1991)
Paul continued to live in Riverside, California, in the home he grew up in, which he
shared with his father, still intensely proud of his enduring record and occasionally
checking the Internet for any challengers. Then unexpectedly in 2003, he came across
a news story, declaring a new Spy Hunter World record, yet strangely omitting his
own score. His sense of injustice grew when he found his score had been removed from
the official Twin Galaxies scoreboard and replaced with the considerably lower 832,620
turned in by one Mark Little.
"I tried to find out why my score had been pulled, but Twin Galaxies is a big
organization and I'm just a little guy with no money. I wasn't getting any answers,
so I had to set up a website to try to get my voice heard. Basically, Mark Little said
my score was impossible and challenged me to repeat it, but I had a fall at work in 2001,
which left me with nerve damage in my back. I can't sit for more than half an hour or
walk far because of my injury."
Things quickly grew ugly. Paul had to contact people who'd witnessed his score nearly
twenty years previously and could verify it, but still he failed to get recognition
and thus was forced to threaten the involvement of the Attorney General on the grounds
of disability discrimination.
"At that point, I had no choice but to make it a legal matter. It was unfortunate. I'm
a nice guy and it was a terrible thing to threaten."
Thankfully, the powers that be at Twin Galaxies relented before medical certificates were
required and accepted the testimonies of Jeff Peters and Phil Britt that Paul's 'impossible'
score was indeed genuine. The whole affair is documented on his website www.spyhunter007.com,
the one good thing to come out of all the controversy. He's once more in contact with
fellow players from the old days and, with his score reinstated, can again call himself
the rightful Spy Hunter World Champion.
One last question. Having spent so many hours playing Spy Hunter, I wonder whether the
Peter Gunn theme tune that plays throughout the game is so lodged in his head that he's
forever cursed with hearing it as the background music to his life?
"Actually, I have that tune on my site and play it back to myself at least once a week,"
Paul confesses, "It reminds me of that time in my life. Such a great time. You can't go
back, but you can have memories."