This week, Nintendo News has journeyed through the lives of three qualifying Nintendo World Championships 2015 finalists ahead of the event this weekend. Our final story follows Jordan DeMarco from Alabama.
The light changed from solid red to blinking red. The Nintendo 3DS battery had little life left; its death imminent. Still, Jordan DeMarco refused to listen to the Nintendo representative who insisted he hand over the system to her for charging. There were only a few minutes left in the qualifying event, and he still had a high score to beat.
But Patrick Scott Patterson was clinging onto his high score with every sinew to his name. As the clock ticked down the final seconds, he swelled with renewed motivation. In fact, as DeMarco’s red light began flashing, Patterson extended his lead. It was his game to lose, and he had waited 25 years for his second chance.
All the while, Dr. Mario gave the two men pill after pill. Red-blue. Yellow-red. Maybe a blue-blue. His medicine would inevitably cure only one player and sicken the other, so to speak.
The Nintendo World Championships 2015 was looking for eight capable Nintendo fans to compete at Nintendo video games come June 14. It had been 25 years since the previous, and first ever, Nintendo World Championships in 1990. Its prestige remains legendary as the pinnacle of official Nintendo competitions. So on May 30, fans young and old congregated at eight Best Buy locations around the country to try and qualify.
Each potential contestant would be handed a Nintendo 3DS with Ultimate NES Remix loaded on it. Each player would run through a quick challenge that included scenes from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and Dr. Mario. The high scorer at the end of the day from each Best Buy location would earn a spot in the Los Angeles finals this Sunday.
For Patrick Scott Patterson, this was a moment he couldn’t miss. Patterson was the former world record holder for highest Super Mario Bros. score. He won a Milwaukie Dr. Mario tournament in 2011. He was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for his gaming talent and competed in Nintendo Powerfest in 1994. He is the top scorer on the Ultimate NES Remix Championship Mode leaderboards.
He was even a semi-finalist at the original Nintendo World Championships at the age of 14. Back in 1990, he trained for weeks before the big event and blew through the first round with one of the top scores. But come the semi-finals, the peering eyes of news cameras made his heart flutter. He choked.
“I would have felt a fool if I didn’t try this year,” Patterson says to me. “If nothing else, I wanted to come away feeling better than I did 25 years ago.”
Patterson was in line at a Dallas Best Buy at 4 a.m. when the sky opened up and raindrops cascaded down with the ferocity of a deluge, he writes. Jordan DeMarco and his closest buddies Joel and Will were on their way from Birmingham, Alabama. With windshield wipers sweeping past at rapid rate, they rain caught them, too. They were in line by 9 a.m.
DeMarco could hold his own in NES Remix, too. In fact, he consistently placed second on the NES Remix 2 online leaderboards behind one “PSP.” He had always dismissed the initials as a troll taking their name from the PlayStation handheld. But when DeMarco learned the truth, that PSP was in fact competitive gamer Patrick Scott Patterson and that his rival was at the same Best Buy, he had only one response.
“I can beat him.”
Patterson was 39, DeMarco 31. Both had grown up with an NES. Patterson was no stranger to competition, but this was DeMarco’s first official foray. Both had been playing NES Remix every day. Patterson’s high score was 7.5 million; DeMarco’s was 5 million, which he hit only the day before. Patterson’s t-shirt honored Pac-Man, while DeMarco brought his Skyward Sword tee.
Undaunted, Will and Joel rallied behind DeMarco, convinced he had what it took to win.
The weather dried up as the event started. The Nintendo reps made it clear that each player was allowed only one try. As the first round of contestants entered the store, a score of 5.5 million quickly became the top. Both Patterson and DeMarco were looking to beat it.
Neither did. Dr. Mario gave Patterson what he calls “one of the worst possible series of screens” he’s ever seen, and he walked out with a score of 2.6 million. His dreams were dashed a second time before they even began.
DeMarco hardly did better, posting a score of 2.8 million. Both outrageous scores in their own right, but not high enough to qualify.
“The layouts weren’t there. The combos weren’t there,” DeMarco says. “I walked away. I was done with it. I was cool with it. Whatever.”
DeMarco left to explore Dallas; Patterson went back home to Denton, Texas.
“I walked away. I was done with it. I was cool with it. Whatever.”
But then something happened. Nintendo disqualified the 5.5 million score. The new leader was just 2.8 million. When Patterson found out, he shared the news on Twitter. And by sheer chance, DeMarco’s friends checked out Patterson’s Twitter that afternoon.
DeMarco incorrectly thought that he earned only 2.7 million, and was disappointed to learn he had been so close. But his friends weren’t as sure, wondering if that 2.8 million score belonged to him. DeMarco begrudgingly went back to Best Buy, where Nintendo was elated to give him the good news. As the new high score holder, DeMarco posed for a picture. He left again to find champagne and celebrate.
The line had died down, all the serious competitors come and gone. Even the Nintendo reps were confident that DeMarco would win the day.
But that day was still far from over. After celebrating, DeMarco and his friends decided to return to Best Buy to ask a few final questions.
When they arrived, however, they were shocked to discover a new high score: 4.4 million. Patrick Scott Patterson was standing at the Nintendo table, playing yet another round.
As it turned out, the San Francisco event had a low turnout and began to offer competitors multiple chances as long as they wait in line again and fill out another form before each try. When Patterson caught wind, he dialed Nintendo directly to clarify the rule. Because there was nothing in the official rules against trying more than once, Nintendo contacted all the qualifying locations to inform them that multiple tries were now allowed.
Patterson and his wife drove back to Dallas, where he crushed DeMarco’s high score and continued to play the game throughout the day.
“We were just confused as to what exactly was going on,” DeMarco says. He was upset. But it was 4 o’clock, and Nintendo told him that he would have until 7 to try again as many times as he would like.
It was war. There was some heckling. There were very few breaks. “The Nintendo reps were fired up,” DeMarco says. “This had turned into a true competition. And if I didn’t think I could beat him, I wouldn’t have still been there.”
But Patterson’s 4.4 million score held. Both pressed on. DeMarco could only seem to pull scores in the 2 millions, and Patterson couldn’t manage to increase his lead.
It was 6:50, with ten minutes to go. The Nintendo reps were packing up. One run through required nearly six and a half minutes, so there was only time for one more try.
“This had turned into a true competition. And if I didn’t think I could beat him, I wouldn’t have still been there.”
“It’s hard to explain,” DeMarco recalls. “I was playing Dr. Mario, and something just clicked in me. I could see it in a different perspective. I set up some massive combos I had never set up before.”
When he passed Patterson’s score of 4.4 million, he still had over two minutes left in his run.
The battery light changed from solid red to blinking red. He refused to stop. If the system died, his score would be lost without any way for Nintendo to verify it.
Patterson finished a run of his own: 5.2 million. It was a new high score. When DeMarco saw it, he focused more intently on his own game.
DeMarco finished his run without the 3DS dying. He earned 6,103,800 points. Patterson’s high score was erased from the board, having stood for just two minutes. DeMarco posed next to his new score, still gripping the 3DS, its light still red.
It was 7 o’clock. Patterson walked up to DeMarco and shook his hand, which evolved into a massive hug.
“I got my closure from 25 years ago,” Patterson says of the result. “I just flat got beat, at the last moment at that. No choking, no bad random event, just flat out lost after a multi-hour battle. I can live with that.”
For DeMarco, it was an entirely different story.
“Everyone was clapping and cheering,” he says. “It felt like the final event. I could have gone home happy right there.”
But it wasn’t the final event. Jordan DeMarco will fly to Los Angeles for the big show on June 14. He’ll wear a bracelet from his late father. In the mean time, he’ll be practicing every day, going through his collection of Nintendo games across all platforms.
Ultimately, the qualifying event kept the same result it would have had if only one try was permitted. But both competitors agree that, regardless of the rules set by Nintendo, they were going to fight to the end for their chance to move on. It wasn’t a battle of luck after all, but one of sheer will, determination and skill.
The Nintendo World Championships 2015 will be held this Sunday, June 14. Other Nintendo E3 events include a Digital Event on June 16. Be sure to follow Nintendo News on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for the latest E3 2015 news coverage.