‘Bizarro World’ – The Boston Globe
Andrew Gardikis is a 17-year-old kid from Quincy with a shaggy mop of dirty blond hair and a long, lanky frame that he’s still growing into. In the video game world, Gardikis is famous for being one of only three people to achieve the so-called “Holy Grail” of gaming records: a perfect speed run on the original Nintendo Super Mario Bros., which means that he finished the game and saved the princess in 5 minutes and 8 seconds. Like a good teenager, he relies on the shrugged-shoulder explanation for many things. “I guess I have pretty good hand-eye coordination,” he says when I ask him how he mastered the best-selling video game of all time. It also may be how he taught himself to juggle seven balls, and how, in a roundabout way, my wife and I this spring found ourselves in a Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, arcade so that she could attempt to break a world record in another of those classic video games, Tetris.
For two years, I’ve been at work on a book about jugglers and the controversial movement to turn a 4,000-year-old performance art into a competitive sport. Part of my reporting involves reading Internet juggling forums, where the art vs. sport topic is endlessly debated. One day, I notice a post in a section reserved for non-juggling related chitchat titled “Super Mario Bros 1.” The poster, “andrewg,” a.k.a. Gardikis, wrote: “my record of 5 minutes and 9 seconds was broken. i’ll tie it eventually. . . ugh. . .” The post included a link to a story on twingalaxies.com – the “Official Electronic Scoreboard” – detailing how a North Carolina man named Scott Kessler had recorded a 5:08, breaking Gardikis’s old record by a second with what was believed to be a mistake-free, unimprovable record. (Gardikis achieved a 5:08 himself soon after.)