Friday, January 1, 2010

Special Twin Galaxies update.

Make sure to take the time and read the newspaper articles above after clicking them to enlarge. This is the first in a series from Twin Galaxies that will shine a light on past champions.


Andy, thank you for sitting down to chat with us, we can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to. So what started your passion for gaming?

Not to date myself, but I was a youngster when Pong first came out. What can I say? I was a kid who liked to play, and had to be one of the first on my block to get the Atari 2600 after first enjoying the Atari Video Pinball console.

What games were you playing early on?

I played anything I could get my hands on back then. I probably bought every Atari 2600 game there ever was... even chess. I enjoyed any game of reflex and skill... actually thought I was better than anyone at football and soccer. I'd go hang out with friends that had other game systems such as the Fairchild Channel F (which had a game called Dodge It) and other computer systems such as the Apple, or Atari 800. If I recall, there was a game called Pathfinder (perhaps by Gebelli Software) that I enjoyed more for the music than the game itself. I would LOVE to get a copy of that if anyone has connections.

In 1981 you became the international Asteroids Champion through an Atari sponsored competition. Tell us about that experience.

I believe it was 1980, I participated in the Space Invaders competition. I remember not making the Video Etc. team, and being impressed by some of the "heavy hitters" of the day like Steve Marmel and Frankie Cardulla. 1981 came, and I really didn't feel I was any better at this game than Space Invaders. It certainly wasn't an accurate recreation of the arcade version, and I felt that when the game wanted you dead, there was no amount of skill that could prevent this. That being said, I loved a good competition and went with the goal of winning an Asteroids T-shirt.

I would stand in a line that was reported to be 150 yards long, and perhaps wait for 45 minutes just for a chance to beat the current high score. Each time I would do a little better, but nothing to write home about. If I recall, Erik Herman was in the lead at the time and had just passed up Frankie Cardulla (who recently turned me on to this site). I didn't know him before the contest, but I ran into him on my lunch break and tried to grill him for tips on getting a high score. The day was nearing an end, and my mother wanted to go home. "Let me try just one more time", I said. One of my gaming buddies from H.S., Bob Mitchell was standing in line near me as I was close to the high of the day. I could tell he was jealous, as he was trying to aggravate me while I played. Somehow, as I lost my last ship, I managed to top the high score by a mere 4000 points. I remember the judge that was watching my machine tell me to tell everyone that she helped me get the high score. Sorry Karen... Better late than never? But it wasn't over yet. There was still time for someone to beat me... and it was a younger kid from my neighborhood... Howard Yaegerman. He ended up squeaking second place by getting a score right between mine and Erik's. I ended up winning a table-top version of Asteroids Deluxe and was told I'd fly to Washington D.C. for a chance to win $10,000.

Still not feeling like a champ, I practiced every day as often as I could. Then I flew to the finals with my parents. I remember one of my competitors, Frank Cretella told me of his “secret” strategy where you keep your ship toward the top left of the screen. Oh, this worked real well if you wanted to DIE. I still spent so much time practicing, and trying to discover any secret to avoid being shot. Atari bussed us around and showed us the town. They told us that we might be interviewed, and to say “whatever we wanted”. The sad thing was that I really loved my Atari, but hanging around with all of those kids and being impressionable, I got the impression that everyone just wanted to say “Asteroids sucks”, and this was perfectly acceptable… but enough on that chapter.

On the final day I opted to skip a free lunch (something I rarely do these days) and practice until the final minute. We were told at the competition that we would play two games (leaving your console after each game), and the scores would be added together to determine the winner. It was Saturday the 14th. (Shortly after this day, I started an unfinished song about my experience entitled “The Day After Bad Luck Day”.) I played as hard as I could. I racked up 75,140 points and then looked around. Nobody else was still playing so I felt pretty confident that I might have the lead. My parents even stood up and applauded. Of course Frank had to run up to me and tell me that his score was higher… that he just racked up his points really quickly. I later found out that this was not true. The second game did not start out so well. I lost 3 of my 4 ships pretty quickly… maybe 15,000 points and another 5,000 before I could earn a free ship. Frank was now standing behind me using my own words against me from an interview. “You said you like pressure”, he taunted. Part of me wanted to turn around and smack him, but instead I toned him out and pressed on. 20,000… 40,000… 55,000. I now had TWO extra ships. Before I knew it, the game was over, and I had 67,770 points. I looked around and again nobody was still playing. However, this time I did not have the highest score… but it was high enough to win the competition. Now if only the prize really was $10,000… I ended up with $5,000 and was a little disappointed.

You endorsed "Phaser Patrol" which was a pack-in with the Atari 2600 add-on "SuperCharger." How did this endorsement come about? Did this endorsement lead to other opportunities?

About a year after the Asteroids competition, I received an unexpected phone call asking me if I’d like to be in a commercial. Being 16, it certainly sounded interesting, but also intimidating and foreign. I had not heard of the “Screen Actor’s Guild”, nor did I quite understand why I might have to pay to join it before I could do anything for just a 30 second commercial. Apparently they had considered the 2nd place winner (Gary Wong) as he lived in California where they were based out of. However, they figured that if they were endorsed by the #2 guy, Atari could then grab the #1 guy for their ads, so they invested a little more money to woo me, fly me out there, etc. All in all, it was a pretty exciting experience. It definitely seemed like an innovative product at the time. I also met my first celebrity… Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on “Family Affair” and was one of their investors. Other than some decent money, a little insight and some life experience, I can’t say there were other opportunities. Perhaps if the director didn’t have a British accent, I could have followed his examples a little better and impressed the right folks.

What other games were you playing during your professional gaming career? Were there any others that caught your eye like Asteroids?

I'd play games like Phoenix, Time Pilot, Galaga, Centipede and Arkanoid at the arcade (loved anything related to breakout). Asteroids was my claim to fame, and definitely shared the shoot ‘em up / hand-eye co-ordination necessary theme with most of the games I mentioned above. I do love my Asteroids Deluxe machine but I think it’s fair to say that other games of the time had caught my eye more. You flatter me by saying “professional gaming career”. In retrospect, I would consider it more like three great benefits received as the result of a hobby.

How do you feel about Twin Galaxies and its commitment to the gaming community?

As I mentioned above, I was recently turned on to your site by a former rival. It felt good to hear that people might be interested in story of mine from 27 years ago, especially when it was from someone I barely knew, that could have just as easily told his own story instead. I must say that I’m quite impressed to see such over thirty years of dedication to games (including ones out of my era) and look forward to getting a little more involved.

Have you been involved with Twin Galaxies at any time in your gaming career?

Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard about Twin Galaxies until recently, but better late than never. I’m hoping that after signing some autographs you all will stay in touch and help encourage me to set at least 1 new world record.

Gaming has changed quite a bit since the 80's. How do you feel about the video game industry as it is today?

I really haven’t paid too much attention to the industry since I became a part of the work force and grew out of it, but that doesn’t stop me from having some opinions. I do think it’s neat that one can go out and buy dozens of classic games on one disk or console for next to nothing. Graphics and processor speeds have come a long way and probably one of the best innovations I’ve heard about include potentially using a Wii for physical therapy. Similarly, I could see a game like Dance Dance Revolution giving a shy kid the potential to become more outgoing and “flaunt it” in public. I personally still prefer the old classics for the most part though. Many of today’s games appear to be just newer versions of the old ones. All the blood and guts… never would have predicted what this world would come to. I’m also surprised that there are still so many expensive options for game consoles. I expected game companies to concentrate on PC compatibility and not encourage kids to throw out their current consoles every time a new one would come out. But then again, why would I expect this industry to be different than the text book industry?

What are you up to these days?

I’m a happily married man. Tracy and I had a Star-Spangled wedding on 7/5/2003, where I got to briefly serenade her with some of my talented musician friends. I’m back in the IT field after dabbling in mortgages for 5 years of my career. I have 2 almost grown step-children. Stephen loves the war games such as “Call of Duty”, Elizabeth is a fan of “The Sims”, so I still get to see some games in action often. In my free time, I still play some music, chess as an alumni for a Lucent Technologies team, as well as chess on abreyer if you want to challenge me, or let them know I referred you). Also, as of about October 2009, I have been dabbling with selling off a mere fraction of my music collection on Amazon and have been adding more treasures daily. Feel free to contribute to the starving musician fund at:

Did your public gaming success in the past help prepare you in preparing for your current career?

I would say that my gaming in general is what got me interested in computers. I originally became quite interested in figuring out how to program a video game from scratch, before dabbling in a database course my last semester of Grad School and deciding to go that route. It might be a little bit of a stretch, but you could argue that all the hand-eye co-ordination, learning to type pretty fast at a young age, and playing guitar all helped me improve at each of those tasks. Of course, typing is very useful for many occupations. In addition, the “public” part of my success made me strive to be a better speaker, consultant and salesperson. I feel it is very important to be able to answer a question intelligently, tactfully, and with confidence.

When can we expect an album?

I’ve thought about releasing some music, but can’t say if this will happen. You can find some of my playing on my buddy’s disk: His claim to fame was a song called “Each It and I” which received airplay on the Mancow show. In addition, I played a little guitar on the “Surreal Khaos” demo while they were looking for a second guitarist. I also did some great work on a demo for keyboardist Thom Lapp, as well as many leads on Paul Gavras’s “Breeze of Fire” disk. Lastly, I put my song “Nightmares” on a disk called “Kid Antrim Music 2001 Rock Compilation CD” after hearing it may have gotten airplay in Texas from my old “Twisted Johnson” demo. I’m currently recording a love song for my wife. I have many more ideas, but lack the time. It’s also worth mentioning that I was approached by one of my idols, Michael Bruce of the original Alice Cooper group to tour Europe with him. Unfortunately, I was told that the money would not be great, but I would be able to see my name in his biography. In addition, I felt my tribute band at the time was getting more attention, so I declined. You can catch a glimpse at:

Any chance of any new Andy Breyer gaming world records?

I’m 27 years older now, so I hadn’t thought about it until you asked. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but I feel like I should be better at almost anything I’ve tried in the past. Perhaps you should show me what I need to do to and I could give it a whirl. At first glance, I’m not sure about dip-switch settings, but I believe I have tripled the current Asteroids Deluxe records (that’s one feat that will be hard to duplicate), and I have sat at the Time Pilot machine for 8 hours on 1 quarter in the past.

Andy we at Twin Galaxies would like to thank you for your time and we look forward to hopefully talking with you again in the future? Any advice for people who want to jump start a gaming or music career?

If you can land a career by doing what you love… playing… (whether it is music, gaming, bowling, tennis, etc)… more power to you. You’ll stay young if you stay off the stuff. I can tell you that the music industry is tough. The money is not always good, even for some of the bands you’ve heard of. Many artists have to give it up for the security of a day job. Others keep playing for the love of it. People will stab you in the back in that industry. I actually started a tribute band in 1995. We had some pretty decent exposure, and in 2006 were chosen to appear on VH1’s “Surreal Life Season 6” for my second 30 seconds of fame in the “Battle of the 80’s Hair Bands” episode. This was in large part due to the fact that I was perceived as the tribute guitarist who best portrayed C.C. Deville (one of the stars). Now one guy from that line-up is trying to still play it off like THEY are the ones “as seen on VH1”. You can currently watch the episode at:



Steve Marmel said...

Well, damn if this google news hit didn't make me laugh.


- Steve Marmel

Vic Sage said...

We aim to please here at the vault, Steve.