In 1982, video game score-chaser Todd Rogers supposedly set a world record time of 5.51 seconds in the Atari 2600 racing game Dragster. Last year, speedrunners called that score into question. After a lengthy arbitration process, Rogers’ score was removed from Twin Galaxies, an organisation that tracks video game records and high scores.
An image of a high score from Highscore.com. Photographic evidence of Todd Rogers’ time can no longer be found.
“Based on the complete body of evidence presented in this official dispute thread, Twin Galaxies administrative staff has unanimously decided to remove all of Todd Rogers’ scores as well as ban him from participating in our competitive leaderboards,” Twin Galaxies’ staff said on their message boards. “The presented software analysis model concluded that achieving score times of less than 5.57 seconds is not possible under standard and normal play conditions.”
As of this morning, the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognises Todd Rogers’ Dragster record as the longest-held video game world record. His score has sat comfortably at the top of Twin Galaxies leaderboards for decades, although observers have long questioned whether it was really possible. Dragster, a game about racing a dragster car to a finish line as fast as possible, is completable in such a short amount of time because it simulates the speed of a road race. Completing a race takes anywhere from a few seconds to one minute.
When reached by Kotaku this morning, Rogers declined to comment.
Last year, speedrunner Eric “Omnigamer” Koziel called Rogers’ Dragster record into question. By Koziel’s account, the fastest achievable time should be 5.57 seconds. Using editing tools to allow optimal performance, he created a tool-assisted speedrun and was only able to hit that mark, rather than the 5.51 that Rogers claims. Following that initial dispute, Koziel and other speedrunners began the process of trying to achieve 5.57 themselves, without tools. Koziel achieved the feat last September. As of today, 13 speedrunners have the 5.57 record, and nobody has hit 5.51, despite Rogers’ claim. Activision’s internal testing during the 1980s gave them a theoretical optimal time of 5.54 seconds, which makes 5.51 seem unlikely.
In addition to the Dragster record, Rogers held records in multiple games, many of which were thousands of points greater than anyone else on Twin Galaxies’ leaderboards. These included a 15 million-point score in Atari 2600’s Donkey Kong and a score of 65 million points on Centipede for Atari 5200. These scores drew criticism in the past, although Twin Galaxies had allowed them to stand until today’s decision.
Rogers was not the only one who said he’d logged a 5.51 in Dragster. The spring 1983 edition of Activision’s newsletter also listed two other individuals who said they achieved the time, although nobody has been able to find them. Dragster creator David Crane told Kotaku last July that he did not doubt that Rogers achieved the record using the validation methods at the time. He reiterated this position to Twin Galaxies last week.