Swordquest: Earthworld Contest Winner

"Good As Gold" From August 1983 issue #11 of Video Games magazine

written by Mark Hazard Osmun

The Winner of Swordquest Earthworld, Steven Bell

Though his quest was nearly over, Steven Bell was not smiling. True, he had uncovered a host of hidden clues, solved obscure riddles and traveled thousands of miles to compete in Earthworld, the first of Atari's Swordquest adventure-game contests. And, true, the treasure, a weighty, solid gold medallion inlaid with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and other precious gems, valued at around $30,000 was his. All he had to do now was see it home from California to Michigan.

"So Steve, how are you going to get it home? I mean, you don't have a bodyguard do you?" asked one intrepid reporter.

"No one will know I have it," Bell replied uneasily.

"Sure they will. Look, you're not going to check it with your baggage, right? So you carry it. You go through the metal detector and, bing!, the bell goes off and you have to drag out this enormous talisman, or whatever it is, in front of hundreds of people. The security guard will say -- loudly -- "Now what is this?" Oh, they'll know you have it alright."

Bell, moustached, long-haired, young and thin, seem unsure whether his questioner was joking or not.

"Well, never mind the airport," the trouble-maker went on. "What are you going to do with this medal when you do get it home?"

"Sell it, I guess."

"To whom? Who's in the market, do you think, for a $30,000, heavy, golden zodiac medallion?'

The caterers had arrived with the victory feast, but Bell was looking gloomier by the moment.

"Look, I'm just kidding around," the man relented. "You can always use it as collateral for a loan, or you can just put it on the mantle -- you're going to have to pay about $4,000 taxes on it, so you better melt it. Okay, so what are you going to do with the money?"

"No plans yet," Bell replied. "I didn't really expect to win... Maybe I'll get a car. I've never had one."

Bell, 20, lives near Detroit. He has been out of work for a year. So has his father.

Last August, he saw an ad for the Atari Swordquest contests and began to play, using the dictionary to look up words such as "talisman," and to become more familiar with the zodiac signs used in the games. His parents, he says, didn't take much note of this. At first, they didn't believe he had won a trip to the finals at Atari headquarters in Sunnyvale. The medallion, or whatever cash they can get for it, might come in handy.

The Earthworld finals were held in a large room containing seven television sets and VCS units, one for each finalist, arranged in a circle around a large, pentangle-shaped zodiac design on the floor. Judges sat behind each contestant, keeping track of their progress through 11 levels of play during a preset 90-minute time limit. Bell reached the 11th level of play in only 46 minutes.

The Swordquest contest hinges on four Atari adventure videogames: Earthworld, Fireworld, Airworld and Waterworld. The carts essentially require bringing the right objects to the right rooms with clues found in accompanying comic books, supposedly helping in the decision process. In addition, the comic books themselves contain word-clues, hidden in the illustrations. Those word-clues determine who qualifies for the finals of each game. (The correct Earthworld clues were IN, QUEST, TALISMAN, FOUND, and TOWER. Out of 5,000 entrants, only Steven Bell and seven others discovered the five correct clues.)

Finals for the other games will be held at approximately three-month intervals, with each winner getting a prize like Bell's. The four winners will then compete for the grand prize: a very heavy, jewel-encrusted sword valued at around $50,000.

"So, Steven, I guess you'll be calling your parents soon to tell them the good news?"


"You're not going to call them?"

"Oh, I'll call them. But I'm going to tell them I lost. Then I'll just show them the medal when I get home -- sort of surprise them."

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