Coronation Day Video Game Championship held at Funspot
over the weekend was a homecoming of sorts for Doris
Self, the world's oldest video game record holder. Now
74, Doris learned to water ski at Weirs Beach in the
1940s, taking lessons from Bob Lawton, Weirs Times publisher
who, at that time, was giving water ski lessons at the
Weirs. Self made history when, at the age of 58, set
a new world record on Q*bert, one of the most popular games of the Classic Era
of video games. Born in South Boston, Doris said that
she was always active, having been a tennis player
from an early age, and she says that there are few
experiences in life that she missed out on. She has
gone bungee jumping, parasailing and celebrated her
40th birthday by going surfing at Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, a few miles from where she currently lives.
"I've lived a very lucky, charmed life,"
said Self, who says that she can't believe how much
the Lakes Region has changed from the 1940's when
she first visited the area and learned how to water
The one-time airline stewardess with Eastern Airlines
says her interest in video games was sparked by a
visit to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Florida in
the early 1980's. "My daughter started playing
a video game while we were waiting for our pizza and
came over to me and said 'Mom, try this. You'll like
it.' So I started playing Q*Bert and that was the
beginning of the end. I was hooked. My husband
had just died and I was looking for things to do,
so I zeroed in on Q*Bert," said Doris.
She said that a 24-hour arcade was located only 10
minutes away from her home and she began making nightly
visits there to improve her skills. "I'd
wait until 11 at night and go over there and play
the game. There were a lot of young people there and
I had so much fun with the older teens. Sometimes
I wouldn't get home until seven in the morning. But
that's the way I am. When I get into something I go
all the way."
And she discovered that the common perception of
older adults regarding teen video game players was
totally at odds with reality. "I never saw
kids on drugs playing video games. They were a bunch
of good kids, really bright and friendly and just
fun to be around," says Doris.
She was such an intense competitor that she once
broke a bone in her foot while playing and continued
on despite the pain. And she kept getting better at
the game. Even though she had no intention of becoming
a competitor when she first started playing video
games, she soon became so good at Q*Bert that
by 1983 she owned the world record high score on the
game and was honored for her feat at the Coronation
Day Video Game Championship sponsored by the Twin
Galaxies Arcade of Ottumwa, Iowa.
Doris says that video game legend Billy Mitchell
and Walter Day of Twin Galaxies, the official video
game scorekeeper for the arcade industry, and other
video game players have stayed in touch with her over
the years and that she still enjoys getting out to
an arcade and having fun.
"My bridge partners think I'm crazy but I tell
them they don't know how much fun they're missing,"
says Doris. She said that she traveled to Georgia
for a video game tournament in the 1980s and ended
up being put in the same hotel room with a 14-year-old
contestant. "When we registered for the competition
all they had was my last name and first initial. They
didn't know there was a woman contestant. But
there were no more rooms so we stayed together. I
just told him to think of me as his grandmother,"
recalls Doris. When the competition was over both
she and her 14-year-old friend took home prizes, a
color television set and a giant panda bear.
Guess who took home the panda bear? Doris, naturally.
Doris attended the Coronation Day Championship at
the Funspot Family Entertainment Center this
last weekend not as a competitor but as the recipient
of a special honor for being the oldest video game
record holder. She said that the new records in Q*Bert
have been set in marathons, something she's not about
to attempt at her age. "I can keep up with the
younger people in a regular game but I'm afraid I
would fall asleep after a while," says Doris.
Her life has been full and filled with a lot of travel
to the far parts of the world but she also knows the
other side of the coin, having lost her 47-year-old
son Randall to diabetes last year. During the last
four years she was his constant caretaker and says
that it was a terrible experience to see the suffering
he endured during that time. "He died while undergoing dialysis when I was
out at a fast food store shopping for things for our
next meal," says Doris, who said that she only
realized after his death that the caretaking position
had taken over virtually her whole life. She says
that she plans to continue to travel and to have new
experiences and to enjoy herself by getting out to
play video games whenever she can. "I feel like
I've packed four lifetimes into the years I've been
around and don't plan to stop now," says Doris.
By Roger Amsden
- Reprinted from The Weirs Times, Vol. 9, No. 2, January
Editor's Note: Doris Self died on October 3, 2006.