Gaming Marathons for the Old School

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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21 thoughts on “Gaming Marathons for the Old School

  1. My longest marathon was back when Diablo 2 first came out, about sixteen hours straight, give or take, on a pure Dexterity archer Amazon. I still remember my build too, before I really knew much about the game. I had maxed Magic Arrow so I almost never had to worry about ammunition, and then worked on maxing Multiarrow and Freeze Arrow (the AoE cold one, I think that was freeze?). The only other skill I tried to aim for was the various dodge passives and the Valkyrie. It actually did pretty well back in the day, before the cookie cutter builds came into existence.

  2. My longest stint was on Civilization I, about 12 hours plus, as for Diablo, I think I went about 8 hours on D2 once

  3. WoW was responsible for a majority of my longest sessions. As a member of a raiding guild, I participated in 4-hour raids 3 times a week. Eventually, I realized I was actually looking more forward to the evenings when I *wasn’t* scheduled to raid, so I quit.

    That was a number of years ago, though. These days, I seldom play more than 2 hours at the time, partly because my WoW days resulted in a strong aversion to long, planned gaming sessions, but also because my current work/commute schedule doesn’t allow for longer sessions anyway.

    I don’t recall what my longest D3 session has been. I’m guessing 3 hours… ish. I could never do a 10+ hour session, that’s just unhealthy.

  4. This wouldn’t work. Q*bert is much more exciting than Diablo 3. You would drop dead of sheer boredom after the first hour.

  5. I think the longest time was the first free weekend I had after LoD came out. The Druid had captured my heart instantly, although I was a bit disappointed that the Phoenix-form hadn’t made it into the game. IIrc the result was around a straight 35 hours session (, with only food, drink and toilet stopping me from playing the game), then sleeping around 4 hours, before going right back for another 15. (Actually, when I played Civ1 I might even have played for a longer time. But as my memory doesn’t provide enough references to fixate the hours played, I’ll go with what I remember 😉 )

    My longest session on D3 was “only” around 20 hours straight and, ironically, at a time, when the game felt like being at work. The friend who owns the paypalaccount I’ve registered – yeahh… I’ve asked Support before doing so – was short before moving to his girlfriend to Hong Kong. And I was around 10 € short before I got out the money I’d payed for the game.

    I know, this explanation will have a bashing as a result again. But I still prefere telling things as they were – the rational in a rational approach and the irrational in … well … quantifying irrationality is possible, but the source of my statistics is just one person ^^

  6. D2, 20-21 hours. As a kid (now in my 30’s also), time just melted. The only thing to stop a marathon session was fear that a relative would wake up, come downstairs for coffee and find me still unmoved, riddled with DVT’s and looking like I had a tight relationship with a crack pipe.

    Sometimes, less than 15 minutes after creepin up to bed at 7am, the inevitable:

    \Siiiiimon! You’re going to be late for school.\

    \Sorry mum, I’m dying of flu or something, I feel well rough.\ (head back downstairs ‘Walking Dead’ style)

    \Yes, you look like you’ve had a terrible nights sleep. Go back to bed, I’ll call school.\

    \Thanks mum, I’ll just check the PC first.\

  7. Probably playing hotseat Heroes of Might and Magic in middle school for entire weekends at a time.

  8. The downside of getting old is that the memory fades. I’m pretty sure I had some long D1 sessions-I remember one “night” hearing a strange noise outside and realizing it must be the garbage truck doing its rounds. The first such session I do remember specifically: I had an…unofficial version…of a Commodore 64 game named “Ace” that would not load a saved game. So I played 6 1/2 hours straight to get the furthest into the game I had ever been. Fun times.

    I’m sure there were some marathon sessions in college as well: Ghouls & Ghosts on the Genesis, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, and Warlords 2 on PC.

  9. 24+ hours many a time… i remember closing my eyes and seeing nothing but chrono trigger… diablo II i am sure resulted in many of the same delusions. Nice life…. nice life…

  10. If the article was interesting to you, might I suggest viewing the documentary, “King of Kong.” Friggin’ awesome.

  11. Longest play session I had was with Fable when it first came out. I had been following development on that game for a long time, and bought an Xbox exclusively to play it. I was a bit angry when it came out on PC with additional content though. That play session lasted 24 hours then I went to work for 6 and played for another 24 when I got home.

    As for D3 I can only do short bursts, I’ll be playing most of the day but I stop every hour or so to do something else. If I was actually creating a profit in the game (I blame the terrible item variance) then I could most likely play for an extended period.

  12. Our local morning (shitty) radio show on 101.1 Drew and Mike had the Qbert guy on last week and it was a pretty good interview.

    Also, if you haven’t seen King of Kong) the documentary about the high score of Donkey Kong) then you haven’t lived.

  13. I pulled some pretty decent stretches with D2 over the years. I have got up on plenty of Saturday’s and Sundays and played D3 all day late into the night, so that’s at least 16 hrs. I have not been doing that the last month or so cause I started working on an old car with my dad. It’s a good thing since I was starting to get burned out on D3 a little.

  14. Numerous sessions of counter strike that started at about 10am and ended at 5-6 in the morning. Usually coming to a abrupt halt when the alcohol and lack of sleep made navigating the level impossible…let alone shooting someone.

  15. I can’t remember what my all time longest was, but I’ve done LAN’s playing various games (with some breaks) from friday to sunday. I want to say I didn’t sleep any from friday until sometime saturday night, then got a few hours of sleep before packing down on sunday. Got home around midday, then slept until school the next morning.

    I do remember playing Rift for almost a full day, with only food, drink and toilet breaks. At the end of that we recorded a video of one of the instances, and it was uploaded somewhere on Incgamers. Rushster should remember this I think. Wasn’t so surprised when checking out the video a couple days later, to learn I sounded like a zombie in the video lol. >_>

  16. Have gone around 24h with both Q3, CS and D2lod. Could probably still do that, but there aren’t any games available to keep things interesting for that long anymore.

  17. honestly, I can’t recall ever going that long playing a video game. I routinely clocked 4 hour sessions or so playing counter-strike back in the early betas (like beta 4 or 5), or xenogears, final fantasy vi, diablo 1, diablo 2. But after about 4 hours, I’d start getting a headache and feeling sick so i’d always stop.

    And that was in my teens. Now that I’m very near my 30s, honestly, anything more than 2 hours and I start to get tired.

  18. Diablo 2 LOD for sure. Too old now to even consider putting the time into D3 I put in now, but the best was the Summer, when you are old enough to know you should get a job, but aren’t pressured by the parents (yet). Me and a couple buds would start afternoon and go all night, cow running rushing chars, or mfing, or just damned playing. It was so much fun. I too remember crawling upstairs at 7am and seeing people up getting ready for work and being like “I’ll go get everyone donuts” haha

  19. I would never do such a thing, but way back when Robotron was new in the 80s:
    “This game is physically brutal. After three hours of play, my hands are wrecked with blisters and my shoulder are screaming. The “official” world record is 370 million and change, a game that would take over 70 hours to complete on the official Twin Galaxies Marathon setting (Difficulty level 5, 3 man start, new man every 25K points). I cannot concieve of any single person being able to do such a thing.”

  20. Hm, I can’t really remember sessions from my youth because I have a terrible memory, but I was big into D2:LoD and all of the Playstation era Final Fantasies so I’m sure I did 16+ hour sessions of those games and maybe double that over the course of a weekend, only stopping to do homework, eat, or sleep since my parents were crazy strict and hated video games.

    In regards to D3, I can’t recall which patch it was, but when the one came out that made Designs for gems a rare colored drop, that next weekend I decided to go for my record of consecutive hours awake and made my activity to stay awake during the time playing D3. I woke up on Friday at 7 AM, went to work, came home around 5:30ish, and started playing. Only took short breaks for food and coffee, but eventually made it to 7 AM on Sunday, which was a new record by like 8 hours or something and played D3 for something like 36+ hours. Good times! 🙂

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