NEW YORK -- Racking up a couple of thousand points at the corner bar playing the video game sensation Space Invaders isn't bad but the score wouldn't stand a chance in the National Space Invaders Superbowl.
Atari, Inc., the American marketer of the home video version of the Japanese game, is running a National Space Invaders championship.
Thousands of button-pushing, electronic game enthusiasts around the country have flocked to enter the contest -- some travelling hundreds of miles to participate. And some of the scores they got in the regional eliminations were just out of this world.
Frank Tetro, 14, of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., notched an incredible 110,125 points in a game lasting more than an hour this weekend to win the New York regional competition and give him the highest score so far in the contest. He goes on to vie Monday in New York against four other regional winners from contests in San Jose, Calif., Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago for the Superbowl Space Invaders Crown.
Space Invaders, a video game in which the player must zap ever-advancing alien space ships while dodging their photon torpedoes and hiding behind laser bases, was first introduced in Japan in 1978. It caused an immediate sensation and the Bank of Japan had to triple its production of 100-yen pieces -- the coin used for the game in pinball arcades -- just to meet the demands of Space Invader-crazed players. One Japanese man poured $80,000 into the machines.
Atari spokeswoman Ginny Juhnke said the company announced the contest through mailings and posters, but the response 'still is not to be believed.'
One thousand competitors each played in the four regional contests and as many as 4,000 lined up to play in New York's competition at a shopping mall, she said.
'I've heard of a guy who said he had an $80-a-night habit,' Ms. Juhnke said. 'There's lots of people really addicted to the game. It's really fun.'
The five regional winners netted $150 each plus an all-expense paid plane trip to the finals if they needed it. The winner of the Monday championship will receive a $2,000 table video game, the second place finisher will receive a $1,000 home computer and the third place winner will receive a $500 check.
Not bad for zapping away those enemy space ships.