Lately, one local musician, Steve Kleisath (best known for his work behind the kit for pioneering emo group Further Seems Forever), has been making national headlines -- not for his stage antics, but rather for his exploits behind a gaming console. Last September, we mentioned that this locally-celebrated drummer had emerged as the second highest ranked Mario Bros. player in the world (scoring 3,784,050 points on the original Mario Bros. game, the second highest score ever, as by video game world record-tracking website Twin Galaxies). Well he's kept that momentum going. It was announced on January 5, that he was no longer second fiddle, but, in fact, the top scoring player of the game in the world.
Yes, Kleisath sits alone atop the Mario Bros. charts. He amassed an incredibly impossible score of 5,424,920 on the classic arcade version of the game, as verified by Twin Galaxies, of course.
Between touring and gaming, Kleisath also finds time to host local old-school gaming night Retro Arcade Night, which is set to become a monthly event now at Oakland Park's arcade game mecca, Arcade Game Sales. We spoke with him last week to find out how it feels to sit atop of the Mario Bros. throne and see if he is ultimatly replacing the drum stick for the joystick.
New Times: Our most obvious question, how long did it take you to wrack up that score?
Steve Kleisath: The game took five hours and 43 minutes roughly.
What does one do to practice for this kind of record?
Well in my case I have the actual arcade cabinet of the game in my house, however you can always play the game through MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) on your computer too if you don't have the luxury of having the actual arcade cabinet in your possession.
Do you get a lot of callouses on your fingers from playing so long, and if so, can you give us some tricks on how to prevent them?
I actually do not. I would probably get that playing on a keyboard through MAME on the computer. But the actual arcade cabinet is just the joystick and jump button, so you are using your wrist and full hand more on the joystick and just one finger for the jump button. After playing a couple hours on it, I do experience other ailments however, such as shoulder and back issues.
Do you think your drumming skills have given you an edge, perhaps the extra dexterity in your fingers makes you a better player?
I definitely think my drumming skills help with the timing and rhythm of running, jumping, and hitting underneath coins and animals on the game.
Could one make a living doing this full time?
I do not believe so, unless you are in the business of buying, selling, and refurbishing classic video games maybe. However there are competitions throughout the year for now Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, where if you finish in the top 2 or 3 places in a tournament, you can definitely make supplemental income.
Any other games you have your sights on?
Yeah I am currently #3 in the world on Turbo Ms. Pac Man. I would like to eventually break the world record on that title. I would like to get better on Donkey Kong and Joust as well.
Are stand-up retro arcade games making a comeback? Is it like the gamer version of vinyl records?
Well vinyl is a lot easier to fit in your apartment or house (laughs), but I think from the popularity of documentaries like the King Of Kong, etc., it seems that over the past few years, more people besides collectors have wanted to purchase stand ups for their house to practice and eventually compete on some classic arcade titles.
Talk to us about how Retro Arcade Night went last weekend, and what's in store for the future?
Retro Arcade Night was a fun time indeed this past weekend. We had over 100 people show up throughout the night, and you never know who may walk through that door, as we had appearances from Billy Mitchell and hip-pop mogul Rick Ross for example.
Our next one will be either end of February or the last Saturday in March. We may take a month off next month to join forces in attending the A.P.E. (2015 Florida Arcade and Pinball Exposition) happening at Nova Southeastern. But please people, hit up Steven Kleisath and Arcade Game Sales on Facebook, send a friend request, and get in the loop of receiving notifications about upcoming Retro Arcade Nights!