Hank Chien is no stranger to arcade classic headlines. He made international headlines in March 2010 when he took the Donkey Kong world record for the first time and again when he regained it in January 2011. Following that, the New York plastic surgeon topped his own record score in March of last year and won the multi-player “Kong-Off” contest in New Jersey. Even a short film was made about his early Donkey Kong exploits, Doctor Kong: Cutting Up the Competition.
Now Chien has turned toward another arcade classic in the form of Atari’s iconic Centipede.
“When I first appeared in the classic gaming scene I was only playing Donkey Kong. I was looking for something else to play on my Donkey Kong breaks,” Chien said. “In the beginning I was playing turbo Ms. Pac-Man since that was the only other classic arcade game I was any good at. However, after a while I needed more.”
Shortly after setting a new Donkey Kong record for Brooklyn, NY’s Barcade, Chien asked fellow arcade champ Ben Falls for suggestions for a new game. Falls suggested Centipede, a game Chien had never played before.
“Having never played a game of Centipede in my life, I remember being surprised at his response since the game looks very simple. ‘How could such a simple game have such a long learning curve,’ I thought. I couldn’t be any more wrong. I tried a few games myself and appreciated how hard it was.”
Several months later, Chien returned to Centipede as friendly competition between him and his girlfriend needed a new battleground.
“My girlfriend was frustrated at constantly losing to me in Tetris,” Chien joked. “She was looking for a game she could beat me in. I suggested Centipede as my weakest game. On her first game she was able to beat my first game. We were neck and neck for several months. The competition drove each of us to get better.”
To date, Chien has reached a personal best of 737,000 on Centipede on two occasions.
“Centipede and Donkey Kong are very different games,” he noted. “What they have in common is their long learning curves. Centipede is a bit more raw skill based whereas Donkey Kong is a bit more strategy based. The game gets very hard every 350-400K and that is the second hump where a lot of players get stuck.”
Chien is currently aiming to hit his first 1 million point score on Centipede, a point in the game where he states that the game cycles back to many of it’s original parameters.
“It then becomes a matter of endurance and consistency,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll aim higher since I’d consider myself lucky to hit 1 million just once.”
Chien states he is thankful for the support of several friends as he continues to aim for his Centipede goal.
“I’d like to thank Ben Falls and Donald Hayes who were probably my biggest mentors in learning Centipede,” he said. “I learned a lot by watching them play and bouncing ideas off them. They are both truly remarkable players and people. I also have to thank my girlfriend. Without competition from her I would have never given the game a second look.”
The author of this article can be reached at PatrickScottPatterson.com and on Twitter @OriginalPSP.
All quotes and information within was obtained by the author and first published within this article. Please provide credit and a backlink if reporting on this material within another news source.