Thor Aackerlund won it all in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, a national video gaming tour where players across the country went at it on a special three-game contest that included Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer and Tetris, only to walk away from the video gaming spotlight a year later.
Now the Carrollton, TX resident has returned to the gaming spotlight. As one of the featured gamers in an upcoming Tetris documentary film, Thor now stands at the top of the scoreboard on Tetris at Twin Galaxies and is listed in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition book now in stores.
Thor's return to gaming started a few years back.
"It all started with a dedicated group of classic Nintendo fans graciously letting me come visit an Expo in 2008 as a guest," Thor said. "It was pretty surreal, the first appearance I've made related to gaming in almost 20 years."
The lasting effect of the 1990 Nintendo contest then continued for Thor.
"Shortly after that, Robin Mihara, one of the greatest competitors of the 1990 NWC also got in contact with the community, and it wasn't long before a spark of inspiration turned into a full-fledged 2010 championship and documentary about classic Tetris," said Thor. "I was a bit reluctant at first, but the quality and cameraderie of the players and those involved inspired me a bit at a time to get back into the game."
Today, original Nintendo World Championship cartridges are among the most valuable video game collectibles in history, and other memorabilia from the once-in-a-lifetime event are also highly sought after. For Thor, his big victory came at the end of a long line of challenges.
"I never really thought about it. It was very surreal at the time, but the contest followed a period in my life that was really hard, our house in The Colony, TX burned down the year before, and my mother had an attack of ventricular tachycardia that left her very lucky to be alive and a very long hospital stay and rehabilitation period," Aackerlund recalled. "In the end it was a small bright spot in the midst of a lot of hardship and transition."
In the 20 years between gaming contests, Thor recalled numerous events in his life away from a video screen.
"I've become a father, which is the most important thing in the world to me," Thor said. "Other than that, I've worked primarily in the computer industry. I lived in North Carolina for a while, but most of my adult life has been spent here in North Texas. In my younger and stronger years I was heavily into what is now called Mixed Martial Arts, training in Boxing, Thai Boxing, with a little bit of wrestling as well."
"A catastrophic bike wreck nearly killed me in the summer of 1996, I was very lucky to live at all, let alone be able to see, walk, and talk again, so that was the end of those ambitions. I'm grateful for every day I'm given."
Thor is currently participating in a contest by a local auto dealer to win a large-screen television by playing a flash-based version of Tetris. He is ranked in first place as of this writing, and is making plans for other video gaming accomplishments.
"My son is now 4 years old, so I'm looking forward to being able to get his help in some co-op games sometime soon!" Thor stated. "I hope he has as much fun as I always did with them. As for personal goals, I want to help represent the old timers from the NWC with a few decent Tetris records if I can perform well enough to honor that interesting and unique moment in history."
Thor is also considering a trip to famed New Hampshire arcade Funspot during it's annual tournament in June, with the record on the coin-op classic version of Tetris in his sights.