Andrew Robishaw can play pinball far longer than you can. And he now has the official Guinness World Record to prove it. Over the weekend of September 2, Drew, as he's referred to in most places, took on the challenge of setting the new Guinness World Record for Longest Marathon Playing Pinball. The previous record stood at exactly 48 hours and was held by Wayne Tedder of Canada.
He officially broke the record around 5 PM Eastern Standard Time from his headquarters at Batcave Pinball. Then, like any normal person, he decided to play for an additional 14 hours and 20 minutes, eventually setting the new record at 62 hours and 20 minutes.
He played exactly one game, Stern's Stranger Things (his favorite), for the entire effort and streamed the whole thing live on Twitch. At one point, he thought Winona Ryder, part of the cast of Stranger Things, was winking at him from the playfield. Read on for our conversation with Drew about his experience breaking the Guinness World Record and what he plans to do next.
Interview with Drew Robishaw, new Pinball Playing Guinness World Record Holder
Kineticist: Tell us a bit about yourself!
Drew: I was born here in Tampa, Florida and raised in Seminole Heights. Currently, I live in Valrico which is not too far from Tampa. I have been working in the IT area for over a decade now. Aside from pinball, I love to travel - both internationally and domestically. Usually when I travel in the states, it is centered around arcades, conventions, breweries, and food. I love playing video games, reading, and watching movies/anime. I live with my wife and two dogs - Alice the great Dane, and Claire the Doberman (yes, they are named from the "Resident Evil" series). I proudly wear my "nerd" badge with honor.
Kineticist: What's your pinball origin story?
Drew: I will be 38 in November of this year. I grew up in a pretty good timeline as a kid to enjoy the arcades. What an amazing thing to be a part of! I still have a love for them today, and I am happy to see the "resurgence" of them recently. I have great memories of playing "Terminator 2" and "Jurassic Park" from Data East at the skating rink in the early 90s. I was not introduced into the pinball community however, until about 3 years ago. In 2021, a friend of mine invited me to the "Southern Fried Gaming Expo" in Atlanta. When I walked into that pinball tournament room, I had absolutely NO idea what was going on in there - but I wanted to be a part of it.
Kineticist: How are you involved with the hobby today?
Drew: After I got back home from Atlanta, I immediately investigated local tournaments in my area. I quickly found one and headed down to "Little Shop of Games" for my first time. It just so happened that Eric Stone, multiple world champion, was playing that very tournament. That night I quickly learned a harsh lesson on just how GOOD higher-level players are. I loved it though - Eric and the others were incredibly nice and helpful for my first time, and I had a blast. Eric found out about my IT background, and he talked about wanting to get a twitch channel started. Dr. Frank was also there with us that afternoon, and I am now part of the team that runs weekly streams at "Batcave Pinball" on twitch. Aside from that, I am also recently a tournament director for a monthly meet-up we do here in Valrico.
Kineticist: Have you recovered physically from your record-breaking effort?
Drew: It has been about 5 days now since the run ended, and I can happily say that I am almost back to 100%. I have small callouses on my fingers, and my wrists are still a little sore. If you were to ask me on Tuesday, it would have been a completely different story. I was barely able to walk!
Kineticist: How did the idea of breaking the current world record for longest marathon playing pinball come about?
Drew: It started as a conversation at the Batcave - we are always curious about the world record scores since Eric loves to crush these games. Watching Eric play countless hours on just ONE game while playing "Bride of Pinbot" made us start to ponder what the longest one game ever had been, or if that was even a record. That lead us to investigate what the current record was for marathon play - at the time we thought it was 30 hours but found out later it was 48. I thought, "hey I could do that" after recounting several times when I waited in line for a PlayStation for days on end when I was younger.
Kineticist: What was it like planning for the attempt? How many people were involved?
Drew: The first step was to submit an application to Guinness for the attempt. It takes quite some time for them to reply with their approval and the official guidelines for the run. Once that was all set, it was time to start asking for help - lots of it! The attempt is only valid if there are TWO witnesses present at all times. Even further, the witnesses could only work in shifts no longer than 4 hours at a time. I was able to create a group on Facebook along with a shared schedule sheet where people could go and sign up. We also had backup witnesses on standby in case there was an emergency, and someone could not show up. That, along with a few people watching over the stream and a few repair technicians involved - we had about 35 people helping us through the weekend. There is zero chance that this achievement would have happened without them - and they deserve every part of the accomplishment as well.
Kineticist: What kinds of contingencies or interruptions did you have to plan for?
Drew: Guinness allows you to have one machine of the exact same make/model (Stranger Things / Limited Edition) as a backup in case the main one has a malfunction. Luckily, "Little Shop of Games" here in Lutz had an LE available for us to borrow, along with the technicians ready to fix anything if it came up. During the run, you are allotted 5 minutes break time for every completed hour of play. This break time can be accumulated to use for ANY circumstance that would require stepping away from the machine (resting, malfunction, bathroom, etc.). I knew right off the bat, I had to bank as much break time as possible. Credit to Stern Pinball - their machine was an ABSOLUTE workhorse over the weekend, with only very minor issues. All of us were quite amazed on just how well it did for 2 and a half days straight. All issues were resolved in a NASCAR pitstop-like fashion. We would discuss what we would be the plan of repair while the game was ongoing, and then the moment I stepped away, they had the glass off in seconds and repaired issues in 5 minutes or less. A minor screw loose to fix the rotating ramp, a sling rubber replacement, and a quick game restart. That was it! I must kiss that game now every time I walk by it at the Batcave. We also kept redundancy on cameras and recording equipment as we needed to have all evidence in place to send to Guinness after the run was over.
Kineticist: How do you prepare for this kind of thing? Did you train? Load up on carbs?
Drew: In the weeks leading up to the event, there would be a few days in which I would skip sleeping because I was on call with work or playing video games into the early morning. I did this just to gauge how I was feeling after just 24 hours of no sleep. I was tired of course, but I was feeling that I was in a good spot. I would also slowly start going to bed later and later the week before adjusting for the time. While I was playing pinball at home, I would do squats or some kind of weight activity between games to keep myself active. I was already on a low carb fasting-style diet, so that helped. I only eat once a day in the late afternoon, so it worked out that my body was not enraged with hunger for most of the weekend. You are allowed to eat or drink when the ball is locked or during animations, so I could take the time to snack on small items while playing.
Kineticist: What made you decide to pick Stranger Things?
Drew: The simplest answer was that it is my favorite machine. It was also the first machine that I ever rented, and the first machine to be inside my household. I thought it would be a good idea to play a machine I was more familiar with because I would know what shots to make to get the ball locked or held for an animation if I needed a drink or bite on something. It had some heavy time with animations and bonus counters as well. The previous record was done on a "Beatles" machine, and while we thought about keeping it the same due to simpler layout and less things to break, we opted to go with something that would keep me a little less bored. Plus, who doesn't love Stranger Things? The show brought back nostalgia of everything that was awesome about being a kid in the 80's, arcades included. Here’s hoping they give me a small part in the new season as "some guy" playing pinball in the background. (Looking at you here Netflix!)
Kineticist: Can you describe your mental state at various times throughout the experience? I feel like at some point you must experience the pinball equivalent of semantic satiation.
Drew: The brain can do some really weird things to you when you are sleep deprived, that’s for sure. I had a pretty strong start of 17 hours without taking any breaks when Batcave Dave forced me to take 5 out of concern. Luckily there is no music tracks that you had to hear repeatedly, just David Harbour's voice with the "EXTRA BALLLLL!!" 3 times a game that did get a little ridiculous. I did not start getting into the visual hallucinations until after the 30-hour area. At first it was just very light stuff out of the corner of my vision, but towards the end I thought Winona Ryder was winking at me from the playfield. I can remember at one point I thought the lights and colors reflecting off the pinballs were fascinating. Stranger Things is also a pretty good machine to just stare at, the vibrant and darker colors along with the UV kit and projection images - my brain was having a good ol' time on me. It was not until I started to go into the "micro sleeps" stage - where the brain blacks out for seconds at a time due to sheer lack of sleep, that I decided it was probably a good idea to call it quits.
Kineticist: How did you stay motivated and engaged throughout the experience?
Drew: It had absolutely everything to do with our multiple friends who stopped in to help, coupled with the people in the online chat room. I had a screen that I could view the twitch chat during the entire weekend, and it was such a pleasure talking to all sorts of people from all over the world. Even people like Brian Eddy, who designed the machine stopped by online for good luck. Jack Danger from Stern also came on to say hello as well! There were some people online that I noticed were there for the entire weekend. And as for all my local pinball community friends and others who hung out - they kept me laughing and distracted. They all really were amazing and came through for me in a big way. I tried to come up with a "goal" that I wanted to accomplish on the machine, which was reach the final showdown wizard mode. Even with play being set to 10 balls, I got there ONCE. That was a big moment for me that weekend.
Kineticist: Were there ever points in time where you thought you wouldn't be successful? Maybe a hiccup somewhere or sheer exhaustion?
Drew: That would absolutely be at about the 32-hour mark, yes. I had never experienced a crash quite like that in my life. It hit me pretty hard, and suddenly, I felt like I ran directly into a wall. Around that time is where I started to get the visual distortions which I was not ready for. When I looked up at the clock and I still saw there was still 16 hours to go just to hit the CURRENT record, the "crash" then combined with full blown panic. All these people spent hours out of their day on a holiday weekend just to come and see me fail at 32 hours? My heart sank into my stomach, and I pretty much flipped out. Luckily, I had not used much break time at all after that long, and I still had plenty of it left. I decided it would be best to step away for an extended break to decompress myself and rest in a quiet room to regather. I listened to some music, splashed some ice water on my face, and ate something light. Once I came to terms with the idea that the visuals were just my brain playing tricks on me, and it was just going to be part of the experience - it was on again. I went back to my friends who were in full support, and I was not going to let them down.
Kineticist: Speaking of exhaustion - how did you deal with that? Both physically (my feet hurt just thinking about this) and mentally?
Drew: Guinness states in the guidelines that you are allowed to either sit or stand during the attempt. I figured to conserve energy as much as possible, I would start off by sitting for as long as I could. That did help, but my legs were cramping very quickly after I got out of the chair. I feel like having bananas available was a good idea, as well as orange juice. Also, one of our brilliant witnesses who is also a registered nurse brought compression gloves for my wrists - an awesome move. Later, as well, compression socks. Sitting down for long periods of time does indeed conserve energy but like on an airplane you need to keep moving around at some point - you don’t want blood clots! Once I was out of the chair from sitting 17 hours, I went back and forth for a little while until I stood for most of the last leg - I felt like if I was sitting, I would have a bigger chance of falling asleep.
Kineticist: The original record was only for 48 hours, but you did a whole 62 hours. Are you hoping to scare away future challengers?
Drew: Not at all! I very much welcome the challenge of others giving it a try as well. I will be cheering them on if so. When we made it to our target of 50 hours, I was feeling pretty good. I figure why spend all that effort with getting here just to call it quits when I have more gas in the tank? The people online as well as our staff were all pushing and cheering me to go for as long as I could - and so I did. The previous record before the 48-hour mark was 30 hours. I am sure there will be another challenger to the record in time.
Kineticist: Now that you've broken the record, what's next?
Drew: If I mention anything along the lines of another marathon at any point this year, my wife might just kill me. I would love to do something along the lines of a charity run or something for a good cause like "Awesome Games Done Quick", or "Extra Life" does. For now, though, I am going to continue running tournaments in my area to get more people involved with the hobby, as well as help run our Batcave twitch channel bringing pinball content to those who seek it.
Kineticist: What stands out the most to you about the experience overall?
Drew: The amazing pinball community - hands down. I can’t tell you how awesome they have been to me in the short time I have been involved with it. I had nothing but help and support from all over from amazing people. At the Batcave, we had people sleeping under machines, in their cars, and on chairs just so they could be available at a moment’s notice if we needed anything. People were making food on a grill in the parking lot, just so they could make sure everyone was well fed. Providing any help with repairs if needed. Also providing any help with medical advice!
After I blacked out big time on a mattress at the Batcave, I woke up (many) hours later and immediately checked my phone. What I saw immediately moved me to tears. COUNTLESS posts on social media all over from friends and family of how happy they were for what we accomplished. It was overwhelming to say the least. I was told they were playing my stream at many arcade locations around the country, and everyone was cheering me on. We got congrats from Stern, and everywhere else! THAT - is what it’s all about! Last weekend was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and I will never forget what the community did for me to help me accomplish it - my forever thanks. I am proud to say I am part of it.
Kineticist: Will you ever play Stranger Things again?
Drew: Oh I’m sure you can’t keep me away from that machine for too long! Especially since I hear talks about a re-release from Stern. We have joked so far that the first game I get put on when I play a tournament again will be Stranger Things. ha-ha.
Kineticist: Anything you want to plug, or people you want to thank? Where can folks find you if they want to get some tips for undergoing their own marathon pinball sessions?
Drew: Keep following us on our channel at the Batcave! We are bringing coverage of on-site tournaments from around the area with our new batmobile! Eric Stone will be crushing the games as always, and our team will try to bring you as much great Florida pinball content as possible. I am sure we will have a small celebration stream when Guinness sends us the "official" document for our record.
Huge thanks to Stern pinball for the absolute quality unit of a pinball machine that went through the trials of fire for 62 hours of play.
Thanks to Little Shop of Games in Lutz for the support and help, along with friends from Artcade, Reboot, and Taz Pinball.
My staff who helped over the weekend - thank you so much - every single one of you are amazing.
And finally, to the lady who is always putting up with the most of my nonsense and crazy ideas - thank you to my wife!