American Classic Arcade Museum
Located at Funspot
"Best arcade in the world!"
Paul Drury, Retro Gamer Magazine
Doris Self playing Qbert
World's Oldest Video Game Champion Still Young At Heart
By Roger Amsden - Reprinted from The Weirs Times, Vol. 9, No. 2, January 13, 2000
The 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 ski.

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.

Doris enjoying a game on a Q*bert cocktail unit.
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.

Doris practicing her Q*bert skills.
"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.

Editor's Note: Doris Self died in an automobile accident on October 3, 2006.