We hear a lot about marathon gaming sessions and urban legends about “some Korean guy” dropping dead after driving 54 straight hours of Zerg rushes from a Baang in Seoul, but we computer gamers aren’t actually that hardcore. After all, we’re sitting down and using ergonomic controls, we’ve got food and drinks, we can pause the game or pause between games any time we need a a break, etc. You know who can’t? People doing marathon runs on old school arcade games; no pause buttons, no comfortable chairs, and the added discomfort of pockets bulging with quarters.

    I engaged in some pretty length arcade gaming marathons in my youth, but nothing to approach the times these record setters are putting up, as detailed in a great article on Grantland.

    …He played for 16 straight hours, building up 600 additional Q*berts, and then he ducked under a Roller Disco pinball machine, set his iPhone alarm for 30 minutes in the future, laid his nest of hair on a pillow, and took a nap.

    Over that time, he lost a sizable chunk of his Q*bert reserve, but he woke up and built back his army, fending off red balls and purple snakes and green gremlins, hopping from square to square, changing the colors on the pyramid in a game that often feels like the residue of a bad psilocybin trip when you try to play it for 10 minutes, let alone until your synapses foment a revolution against themselves. He lay down under the Roller Disco machine roughly every eight to nine hours, snoozing peacefully and restoring himself to life until he’d broken the all-time high score, and then, because he knew a man in a Florida garage was simultaneously chasing after the same record he’d just broken, he kept going, past 70 hours, into territory that no upright arcade gamer had ever approached.1

    Soon after toasting the high score with a glass of champagne, he felt a sore throat coming on, took another nap, and when he woke up he’d forgotten everything about how to play. “I think I want to stop,” he said, and the people around him assured him that the man in Florida was still going, so he had to keep going, too. He walked outside into the cold, cleared his head, and soldiered on. He figured he might last another three hours. He went another 10.

    He started seeing things: His Q*bert appeared to be at the center of the screen, no matter where he actually was; the pyramid appeared to tilt to the right. When he passed 30 million points, Ed the Human Kill Screen mimed like he was going to unplug the game again and their mutual friend, a guy they call Freako, threatened to cut off Ed’s hand with a ninja sword he keeps in his car. Leutz’s guilty pleasure is conspiracy theory, and at one point deep into the third night he began to think the game was actively plotting against him — he called it his “Evil Kirk” moment — and when he broke through the 75-hour mark he started to wonder if he might be summoned by the Illuminati.

    The guy set the world record of 84:48 before he called it quits (not by dropping dead, surprisingly) so now the new goal is 100 hours, and it doesn’t have to be just on Q*bert, though I guess it does have to be a game that you can’t just pause or hide in a corner indefinitely, since then anyone could do playing 8 hours a day, barring a power failure.

    Naturally, this article put me in mind of the Diablo games, and I tried to remember the longest non-stop play session I’d ever managed. I think I did a few over 12 hours back on Diablo I, which makes my head hurt to remember it, since I was just endlessly clearing the same 4 levels of Hell, in games of 15-20m, or less. (Eventually it was more like the same 2.5 levels, since as you got closer to level 50 you stopped getting good exp on level 13 and 14, depending on which monsters spawned there.)

    The longest straight session I ever did of Diablo 3 was the first one, when Elly and me played for about 8 hours straight on launch day — going from the time the EU servers went online until the US ones went up and streaming the whole thing mostly for the benefit of our US readers/viewers. And I remember being exhausted after that, hungry and feeling brain dead and ready to do something other than play a video game.

    Admittedly, I’m old now, and one of the problems (or is it a benefit?) of being into your 30s is that you no longer have the focus and attention to spend (waste?) dozens of hours on the same repetitious task. I definitely appreciate more the style of modern computer games, where it can be intense and time consuming, but it’s not just a forever grind; you do some amount of things and reach a break point, and you can repeat it or vary it, but it’s nice to have a starting and stopping point.

    So how is it for you guys? What’s your longest video gaming session ever, was it on a Diablo title, and what’s your longest single play session on Diablo 3? If you had the free time, would you consider marathon sessions, or do you prefer getting in an hour or two and then moving on to some other task.

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