Doris Self Dies in Auto Accident
Plantation, FL - October 6, 2006 -- Doris Self, the world's oldest video game competitor, has passed on, dying from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Plantation, Florida on October 3, 2006.
Her memorial services will be held at the Plantation United Methodist Church, 1001 Northwest 70th Avenue, Plantation, FL 33313 at 11:00 AM Saturday, October 7th. Cards and flowers are welcome. At her request, she will be cremated and her ashes will be taken out on a casino boat and dropped into the ocean. For more information on the services, please call the Plantation United Methodist Church at (954)584-7500.
Doris Self was the Matriarch of the video game world. She was a major star in the burgeoning video game industry, the senior member of a growing cadre of gaming celebrities who represent the modern electronic era, which, some say, has grown to nearly $35 billion in annual gross income.
And, according to the Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records, Doris was the oldest person to actively pursue video game world records, competing against gamers one-quarter her age.
And, now she is gone. Doris Self was 81.
Doris first gained notoriety in 1983 when she achieved a world record score of 1,112,300 points on the classic arcade game Q*Bert during Twin Galaxies' 1983 Video Game Masters Tournament, an event that was conducted for the Guinness Book of World Records. She was 58 years old then, the oldest person up to that time to capture a video game world title. Though she later lost the Q*Bert high-score title in 1985, she remained Twin Galaxies' record holder for "oldest" champion until 2003, when John Lawton of Weirs Beach, NH, age 72, broke the world record on the classic arcade video Depth Charge. In an interview conducted in 2005, Doris laments: “I was sad when I lost the title I had held for twenty years. “Then I got a call from gaming legend Billy Mitchell, who offered to loan me a Q*bert machine to practice on and win back my title. Billy made me promise that I would give up poker and practice Q*bert everyday.”
Doris remained undeterred by the loss of her title and spent the next two years on a quest to regain her title as the "oldest" world champion. From the moment that Mitchell delivered the Q*Bert machine to Doris’ house, Doris, ate, drank and slept Q*Bert, practicing day and night to break the Q*bert record. Mitchell, famous for being designated the "Video Game Player-of-the-Century" at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show, later said: “I could recognize a champion a mile away and believed Doris could win back her title. I like helping people like Doris to excel, reaching their highest potential.”
Doris and Billy Mitchell became best friends. She was a regular visitor to Billy’s family business, Rickey’s Restaurant in Hollywood, Florida, the home of “Rickey’s World Famous Sauce,” the hot sauce brand that Billy created and marketed internationally. Doris was so close to Billy that she bequeathed to him her most treasured item: the little stuffed Q*Bert doll that she placed atop the Q*Bert machine whenever she played. That doll traveled far and wide. With Billy Mitchell in tow, she subsequently embarked on three major trips to play Q*Bert in front of Twin Galaxies' referees, who planned to verify her accomplishment if she broke the record on Q*Bert.
In the summer of 2005, Doris attended the Classic Gaming Expo in London, where she doggedly pursued the Q*Bert title, in spite of major distractions caused by the media circus that surrounded her. Though her vivacious personality made her the star of the Expo, jetlag and fatigue prevented her from attaining a new world Q*Bert record. Next, in April, 2006, during a Twin Galaxies event called: Who's the Toughest Gun in the Dodge City of Video Games, Doris matched scores with her chief Q*Bert rival, Kelly Tharp of Indiana, who was less than half her age. Though neither player broke the world record, Doris proved herself the equal of this much younger player.
To Doris, Q*Bert was more than just a game; it was therapy. According to Ann Ennis, Doris' sister, Doris would play Q*Bert five nights per week from 1-3:00 AM in the morning as an alternative to taking pills for sleeping. And, on the last night of her life, it was no different. Ann Ennis heard Doris playing for hours, practicing into the night.
Born in Cambridge on September 18, 1925, Doris graduated from Burdette College in Boston. From early on, Doris had a knack for making history. At 19, she became one of the first female flight attendants at Eastern Airlines, graduating in 1945 as a member of Eastern Airlines’ first class of airline stewardesses. Later, in 1954, while working with legendary air ace Eddie Rickenbacker, she co-organized ‘The Silver Liners,’ history’s first association for ex-stewardesses. Today, the DC-3 Doris used to fly on is hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
She later married Paul Self, an Eastern pilot and raised two children. Then in her 50s, after Paul passed away in 1980, Self discovered video arcades. To cheer her up one day, Doris’ daughter took her to a movie and then to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant for pizza. It was there that Doris first met Q*Bert. Within a few games, she was hooked. A new lifestyle was now forming for Doris, one that found her visiting arcades after 11:00 PM -- after the children had gone home -- to play Q*bert, her favorite game. Q*Bert is a strange little title featuring a daffy-looking creature who hops around on a grid made up of dozens of colorful cubes. The cubes change color with each hop, and the goal is to make them all the same color, while dodging a variety of critters who are trying to devour poor little Q*bert.
Her last few days were among her busiest. "Her last weekend was absolutely full," says sister Ann. "On Friday night, we went to the Hard Rock Casino at Seminole Indian Village in Hollywood, FL, spending $100 at the gambling tables. Then we went home. Doris and myself were conservative. Even though Doris has been to casinos in every state, both of us felt $100 was plenty to lose in a casino."
On Saturday, Doris met with the 'Silver Liners' at a local yacht club in Ft. Lauderdale to discuss plans for an annual Christmas Charity called "The Flight to the North Pole," which benefited disabled children. The Santa Claus for this annual event is the CEO for "Spirit Airlines."
On Tuesday, her last day, she played hostess to one dozen friends, elderly retirees who all shared the same passion for poker and bridge. They started arriving by 9:00 AM and were finished playing by 1:30 PM. Next they had an appointment to play poker at the local country club. But first, Doris paused to let the dogs out and put away the food before getting into her car to catch up to her friends who had already gathered at the Lago Mar Country Club, a six-mile drive away. There, six old friends waited for Doris to join them in some hands of poker, a decades-old tradition among their group of retirees. One of the elderly players was eagerly waiting for Doris to replace her so she could switch over to a table specializing in bridge.
Because Doris was an extremely punctual person, her friends began to worry when she failed to appear on time. After one hour, the poker club broke up early to go look for Doris. Her sister Ann was the first to find Doris. At the corner of Doris's street, which intersects with a major road, she spied a two-vehicle accident surrounded by ambulances and tow trucks. The automobile that proved to be her sister's car was so wrecked that she could only identify it by the license plate. Doris had been wearing her seat belt and her air bag did deploy, but the wreckage was so great that she died instantaneously of a broken neck.
Services are on Saturday, October 7th. At her request, she will be cremated, ridden out on casino boat and dropped into the ocean. She loved the water, having been a lifeguard for many years, still spending many hours at a time in her pool at her house. She was in the pool with her sister as recently as Sunday.
The Q*bert machine will be returned to Billy Mitchell, who had presented it to Doris on a "lifetime" permanent loan. Walter Day, founder of Twin Galaxies says: “The machine will be outfitted with a special memorial plaque created by the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard, that will identify the game as Doris' Q*Bert machine, commemorating its role in video game history. When the video game industry matures enough to have its own ‘Hall of Fame,’ this machine will become part of its historic collection.”
In one of her last interviews, Doris said: "My bridge-playing girlfriends have no idea of all the adventures I have been through. They think my Q*bert quest is strange, but this is my life and I feel like I’ve packed four lifetimes into my years and don’t plan to stop now.”
Doris is survived by a sister, Ann Ennis of Ft. Lauderdale and a daughter, Kerri Self, of Fort Lauderdale, FL, who is an Executive Director at Primus Telecom.