Opinion: Man beats Bejeweled 2 after three years – was it worth it?

Mike Leyde wants to be the best at everything he does, even if one of the things he does is play Bejeweled 2. PopCap Gamesrecently profiled (opens in new tab)this 52-year-old steel contractor, revealing him to be the very first man to ever "beat" the puzzle sequel. It took him three years to do it, too!

Leyde earned a score of 2,147,483,647, which just so happens to be the highest score Bejeweled 2 is capable of processing. It took a total time of 2,205 hours and 51 minutes to collect the 4,872, 229 gems necessary and ostensibly "complete" a game that nobody else has managed to best, despite its immense popularity.

"We had to give the game some sort of maximum displayable score, and figured that was high enough, no one would ever get that many points," admits the game's co-creator and PopCap chief technology officer Brian Fiete. "When Mike collected that next gem match, the additional 2,200 points would have put his score above the maximum ‘calculable’ score, and much like some of the original arcade games, it caused his score to ‘flip around’ to a negative number. Well, the game’s code wasn’t designed to display a negative number so it just showed a blank where the score should be!"

It took Mike 2,200 hours stretched over three years to achieve this momentous milestone. To put it in perspective, it would take eight hours a day, five days a week in order to beat it in a year. His family celebrated when the game's score blanked out, although it could have simply been because it might mean he'd finally put the damn thing down.

It's an achievement, certainly, but we do have to wonder where you draw a line between impressive and worrying. Leyde isn't the only man to sacrifice hours of his life in order to accomplish in-game feats that would make weaker men tremble. A few months ago, Taiwanese World of Warcraft player "Little Gray" made headlines by "beating" Blizzard's popular MMO, collecting 986 Achievements to officially beat WoW before the next expansion.

In order to beat it, Little Gray killed 390,895 creatures, dealt 7,255,538,878 points of damage, completed 5,906 quests, raided 405 dungeons and hugged 11 players. We think he had sex zero times.

Then there are the record breakers. Legends like Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, who have earned their fame for reaching the end of Donkey Kong and battling each other to the bitter end and vying for the position of the world's greatest Kong player. There are record breakers for all the arcade classics, be it Qbert or Paperboy. They dedicate their lives to these games, seemingly for no other reason than to know they are the champions. Purely an introspective victory, for the best these characters face from their fellow gamers is derision for being "sad" enough to pump so many wasted hours into a game, seemingly at the expense of a social life.

But then, when we're all technically wasting our time with videogames in the first place, does it matter if we quibble over degrees? Is it less sad for us to pour days of our lives into Halo or Call of Duty? How about beating Super Mario World for the dozenth time, even though it always ends the same way? Then there are the months we could theoretically spend on the latest Final Fantasy, or collecting over 450 Pokémon. I just made fun of Little Gray's sex life for raiding 405 WoW dungeons, but am I any better? Are any of you? Maybe we are, maybe we're not.

It's sure easy to scratch one's head or laugh at people who achieve astronomical high scores and fight their way to the top of a worldwide leaderboard. It's certainly easier to mock the accomplishment rather than try and beat it. I'm no less guilty of doing that.

It might not be considered a "real" accomplishment to beat Bejeweled 2. It's not like Mike Leyde is a New York fireman or a scientist making lifesaving medical breakthroughs. At the end of the day though, he's achieved more through playing Bejeweled 2 than we have through pouring derision upon him and his ilk via the Internet. Unless they're handing out world records for being smarmy online wankers, in which case, where do I sign up?!

Apr 30, 2010