One Man’s Quest To Become The Greatest Gamer In The World

As it says in the Bible, “I want to be the very best, like no one ever was.” Could there be a more true passage? I don’t know; I didn’t look. But if you’re here reading this site of tips, tricks, and reviews, you’ve probably felt the urge in your soul to become a champion. There may be billions of people playing video games around the world, but haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like if you – yes, you! – were the best at a game? I’m not talking about getting a high score at a laundromat that resets its Ms. Pac-Man machine every night.

I’m talking about being the best in the entire world. The greatest gamer on all of Super Earth. When other players get cute and think they’re putting up numbers, they see your score and weep knowing they’ll never overcome your spot on the leaderboard. That’s the sweet stuff, baby. Put it straight into my veins. Being so good at a video game that it breaks something in a total stranger. You want to lock down your place in high score history so hard that it makes other people feel bad. The never ending quest to overcome your weaknesses and to show the world that you have actual value as a human being while everyone else is worthless.

This is a story about a girl named Lucky a man who wanted to become the greatest gamer in the entire world. Reader, that man is me. And reader, I almost did it. For real. There were moments I could taste it. I was this close to becoming the greatest player who ever lived.

At Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball.

Do you have what it takes to be the best of the best? WELL DO YOU?!
Do you have what it takes to be the best of the best? WELL DO YOU?!

Oh, I didn’t expect to take on this burden. It wasn’t intentional. I simply like Pinball FX. If you’re not familiar with Pinball FX or don’t understand how to pick up context clues, Pinball FX is a game/app that allows you to play – wait for it – pinball. Some based on physical tables, some purely digital. A few are free to play. For the rest, you can subscribe to a service or buy them individually. And, while in a condition best described as “less than sober,” I bought a lot of pinball tables. A lot of these were classics like Star Trek: The Next Generation. And, because I enjoy Christmas, I also bought Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. The fact these purchases were made two months after Christmas does not and should not matter.

At first, I played the classics! Why wouldn’t I? It had been years since I’d taken on the pinball versions of The Twilight Zone or Star Trek. And since I owned these tables, I could really dive in and figure them out! I was going to get good at the classics! Oh, I sucked at first! Real bad! But then I had one of the best games of Star Trek: The Next Generation I’ve ever had! And, folks! Look at where I ranked with 110,214,170 points!

10,437th in the world. Yeah, now we're talking!
10,437th in the world. Yeah, now we’re talking!

Ten thousand, four hundred thirty seventh in the world! Why, that’s not too bad! It’s not good! But it’s not too bad! And definitely a score you can obviously tell I didn’t achieve again. But at least I’m within a stadium-sized-audience of being the best in the world, right? Right? Dear God, that was the best I could do and I wasn’t even approaching greatness. I didn’t think I would – but it’s still a hell of a thing to do your best and find out that almost every other sentient human being is better than you.

So I played a few other tables. All fun! Wee!

Finally – I mean, literally finally of the 24 tables I bought – I played Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. And after my first game, I placed in the 500s. Let me repeat that: In my very first game, I ranked among the top 600 people to have ever touched Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. I could’ve deleted the game from my Steam library and still known forever that I was one of the best gamers on Earth on one specific digital pinball table. I’ve never been in the top 600 of anything other than suspects.

I bought all 24 tables in Pinball FX. Alcohol may have contributed to this decision.
I bought all 24 tables in Pinball FX. Alcohol may have contributed to this decision.

Which made me think: If nobody was playing this table except for me and other weirdo psychopaths like me, then maybe – just maybe – I could become the top gamer in the entire world at Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. For the first time in my entire life, I could be the best at something that didn’t involve crying in the shower or regretting a long, emotional email. I could do this! It also helped that I had a very long plane ride ahead to visit a sick relative.

Now, you might be wondering, “Is Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball a good game?” That doesn’t matter. It’s fine. It’s a video game pinball table for children based on a 75-year-old comic strip’s Christmas special. It’s exactly what you’d expect. Have you played pinball? Have you seen Charlie Brown Christmas? That’s all you need to know. Honestly, if you’ve even done just one of those two things, that’s all you need to know.

The good news is, Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball is a pretty simple table compared to a lot of the Pinball FX offerings. There aren’t many hidden lanes or tricks, so figuring out the best way to rack up points isn’t too hard. Actually doing it is a challenge! But you learn pretty early to just bust up Lucy’s psychiatry booth until you manage to get multiball. Which I used to my advantage. Suddenly, I was in the 400s. And then the 300s.

I was starting to crawl up the leaderboard but it took a loooong time.
I was starting to crawl up the leaderboard but it took a loooong time.

Although “suddenly” might be a misnomer because it took me hours to crawl up this list bit by bit. Which is the way it should be. But it’s probably unhealthy that I’ve put more time into Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball than Helldivers 2. Then again, none of my friends have treated me like a dick for accidentally calling in an air strike on Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. They sure have for Helldivers 2, though!

The downside of the simplicity of the table is that you hear the same sound effects over. And over. And over. Every damn game I have to hear that Charlie Brown likes Christmas, but he’s depressed. And a child shouting “shoot the director hole” never stops being weird. Not to mention the Charlie Brown theme song which – as you might expect – gets old after the fifth or sixth hour of play. By the time I finally reached the 200s in the ranking, I would scream the sound bites back at the game as they happened.

Pro tip: bust up Lucy’s psychiatry booth until you manage to get multiball!
Pro tip: bust up Lucy’s psychiatry booth until you manage to get multiball!

For a brief moment, the 200s were my ceiling. I couldn’t quite crack it, while the game’s repetition was starting to crack me. I own a good computer and a Steam Deck and I still haven’t finished basically every good game that’s come out this year. But I wanted it. I wanted to know that I could get into the 100s. The scores above mine weren’t too high. The relative who I was visiting asked me what I was playing and I screamed “NOTHING” like I was watching porn. That’s how embarrassed I was.

Reaching 153rd felt like an achievement but it wasn't enough. I wanted MORE!
Reaching 153rd felt like an achievement but it wasn’t enough. I wanted MORE!

But I got there. 153. The 153rd best player in the world isn’t bad. A lot of people would be proud of that ranking if this were Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or FIFA or Call of Duty or Overwatch 2 or literally any other video game outside of that Fresh Prince zombie game we all just found out existed. Honestly, that’s probably the only other game I could be the 153rd best at. Don’t tempt me.

I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. Once I’d hit the 100s, I wanted to limbo under that bar, too. I wanted to be in the top 100 players of something. Anything. So I spent hours – while staying in a location far more sunny and fun than where I usually live – playing round after round of this cursed game. Children screaming at me to hit the left loop, the right loop, the left center loop, the mailbox, everything. The song looping and looping and looping. Someone asked if I was watching Christmas movies and I put on headphones and locked the door to the bathroom.

And I finally did it. I cracked the top 100. I went full Tommy and crushed the table as hard as I’ve ever crushed it. My reaction times heightened. My mind was like Scarlett Johannson’s in Lucy. “To knowledge.” And then like a complete dork, I realized how well I was doing and instantly my hands turned into plastic oven mitts that couldn’t hit the right buttons.

I tapped out at 51st best in the world at Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. I'll take that.
I tapped out at 51st best in the world at Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball. I’ll take that.

And so I ended up at 51st. Hell yeah.

At that point, I had to stop. Not just because I had reached a goal I didn’t think I’d reach, but also because I checked the top of the list and the scores started to get insane. It turns out I wasn’t the first person to realize that you could dominate a leaderboard if nobody else gave a crap. Except those people in the top ten clearly very much cared and worked very, very hard for their hundreds of millions of points.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t go on forever. Dragon’s Dogma 2 was coming out and I could not bear hearing Charlie Brown put down Pig-Pen one more damn time without throwing my Steam Deck at a passing car. The game had gotten under my skin. First in that classic “Just One More Turn” way and then, later, in that classic “I Need To Stop Before Something Bad Happens Because I Am Losing My Damn Mind.”

Since then, I haven’t risen much higher. And I do respect that even my place on the list is so very easy to beat. I promise that if any of you reading this put 15 minutes into Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball, you could beat me like a dad holding a sock filled with oranges. But between hand tremors and never wanting to think about Snoopy ever again, my rank is probably going to stay where it is until someone else does slightly better.

This is the look of someone who's achieved something truly special.
This is the look of someone who’s achieved something truly special.

That said, I almost did it. I may not have been the best in the world. I may not have even been in the top ten. But of the billions of human beings on this beautiful, fragile planet, I was the 51st best at wasting my time on what I’m certain is the least-played pinball table ever put on a computer screen. I was the 51st best that ever was. In literally any other video game I rank between “garbage” and “Emil Cioran’s ability to feel joy.” But here? Only 50 other people have put up better numbers in Charlie Brown Christmas Pinball.

And god bless them, because I assume it’s driven them insane. There’s a reason the band Queen pluralized the term, because we truly are the champions.

Mike Drucker is an Emmy-nominated writer and almost-world champion pinball player. Follow him on X.

This post was originally published on IGN

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