Anyone who still thinks women can't be serious gamers has never met Caitlin Oliver.
Last month, Oliver, 30, walked into Chicago's Galloping Ghost Arcade and started playing the classic 1988 arcade beat-em-up Splatterhouse. She went in with the purpose of breaking the game's high-score record, and she came out the first woman to set an arcade game world record in nearly 30 years.
"I first got my hands on Splatterhouse as a young girl," Oliver said in an interview following her feat with gaming historian Patrick Scott Patterson. "My father picked up a TurboGrafx-16 for me one lucky Christmas and he was always good about letting me pick out a game to rent for the weekend at the local video rental stores. Once I got it home I was totally hooked. Gross monsters, corpses, skeletons; it had it all."
The previous Splatterhouse arcade record was set at the same arcade last year, when gamer Anthony Paparo racked up 373,100 points. On Saturday, September 19, Oliver broke Paparo's record by a large margin not once, but twice, first hitting the 405,100 mark and then going back for more and earning a score of 493,700.
"The first time I finished, when I initially topped Anthony's score, I thought my heart was going to pound straight through my chest," Oliver said. "It was possibly the most intense rush of adrenaline I've ever felt in my life. It was unreal to have decided to work to accomplish something and proceed to become the best in the world at something. Utterly incredible feeling. I nearly ran outside for a cigarette afterwards."
The last woman to set an arcade record was the legendary Doris Self, who became one of the oldest gaming champions ever in 1984, when she set a record score of 1,112,300 on Q*Bert at the age of 58. Self eventually lost that high score, but she kept shooting for records until she died in 2006, and was featured in the gaming documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
Oliver's efforts to capture the Splatterhouse record, and her eventual success, were broadcast via livestream from the Galloping Ghost Arcade, and the whole session is archived here. If you just want to catch the moment of elation when Oliver finally breaks the record, jump to the 1:22:45 mark.
So, what's next for Oliver now that she's achieved her gaming dream? According to Patterson, she might have more record-breaking to do. He noted in his interview with Oliver that the owner of the arcade believes she's ready to set a new record for the 1988 Sega beat-em-up Altered Beast next.