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Atari Achievement Award
Atari Achievement Award

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Brad Johnson (Ze_ro)
AtariAge High Score Club

Growing up, I was an only child living in a very rural part of my state. The closest friend was ten miles away. Finding someone to play video games with could sometimes be a challenge (my parents loved the Atari, but like most grown-ups also had to work and pay the bills, so they would play with me when they could). It didn't do me much good to roll the score on Frostbite if no one else was going to be there so I could say "In your face, fool!" Some of you can probably relate to this story, if not from your childhood, then perhaps today. While the classic Atari community is of good size, it is also a bit scattered. I know people from at least four continents that share my love of Atari. I have invited them all over for a game of Warlords, but it just hasn't happened. There are Atari players in almost every state in the U.S. and most countries of Western Europe. And with a fan base that dispersed, it is hard to get together on a regular basis and just play games.

That is, until now. While you may not be able to physically "get together" to play games with your Atari-lovin' buddies, you can still face off against them at your favorite games. That is what the AtariAge High Score Club is all about. The AtariAge High Score Club was created to give Atari enthusiasts in any location, at any time of day, the opportunity to square off against their peers at a wide variety of 2600 games.

It all started on April Fool's Day, 2004. Brad Johnson posed the simple question: "Would anyone be interested in forming a "High Score Club" of sorts for the 2600?" The response was overwhelming. Atari lovers came crawling out of the woodwork in support of the idea. Four days later it would begin, with Circus Atari, no less.

The set up for the High Score Club is simple. Each week a game is chosen by the previous week's High Score Club winner. Details for the new game are posted, including which game variation to play, links to game manuals, hints and tips, and a score board updated daily. Then, the gaming begins. Throughout the week, players "compete" to see who can pull off the highest score for that game. Scores are submitted by screen capture or photograph (or the occasional honor system) and posted in a continuous thread where players can discuss scores, strategies, and generally share experiences regarding the game at hand. At the end of the week, the player atop the score board is declared the winner and receives "points" for the win. The "points" are later applied to a prize to be given out at a future date. The winner also gets to select the game for the next week, and the process begins all over again. However, if you are just having too much fun playing the previous game of the week, you can still post scores and discuss the game in the thread, you just don't get any points for it, nor will you move up in the standings.

You don't have to do or be anything special to be a part of the High Score Club. You just have to show up, love Atari, and post a score. There is a Rules and Information thread for more information.

Pretty simple, right? Well, from the player's standpoint, yes. But from an administration standpoint, it's a bit more, involved. Getting together all of the information for a new game each week, compiling tips and strategies, updating the score board daily, it's all a lot of work, particularly for something that is a hobby. And Brad does all of it for the love of Atari, and the good of the community. As a matter of fact, it is so much work, it was actually taking away from his everyday life. So much so that he had to turn partial control over to AtariAge member kielbaca for several weeks until Brad was able to once again assume full responsibility. Without the tireless work of these two fine people, the High Score Club would have folded long ago. Yet the High Score Club is going strong today, well into week 37 (the game is Pressure Cooker) as this was written, with over a hundred members and no end in sight.

I don't have to tell you why this is so significant. What Brad Johnson has created here is an oasis in the desert. The High Score Club brings Atari players together from all over the globe allowing them to match wits and skills and above all share in the love of Atari. Brad is a great ambassador for the hobby. People are playing games they might have never even considered before. New players are being introduced to a whole new world of classic gaming. And it is all being done in a friendly, supportive environment. Exactly the kind of place you would want to get together and hang out with some pals. I can think of nothing that promotes the love of Atari more than the AtariAge High Score Club. So kudos to you Brad Johnson for giving us all one big on-line game room to play in. And here is to a hundred and thirty seven weeks of High Scores!

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