Details chats with the newly crowned gaming star about bladder control, cursing out Kong, and living with an arcade console in a Manhattan-size apartment.
Details: You were inspired by the documentary The King of Kong to begin playing, but did it also make you wary of entering the fray? There's a lot of bad blood between the two previous world contenders, Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell.
Hank Chien: When I started playing, I wasn't trying to set the world record. I had pretty much never played before in my entire life, so when I started it was just for fun. I found out I was a natural, and I was seriously addicted for the first three months. I was, like, not eating and not doing laundry. I always said that after I reached a million I was going to retire because this game was taking up way too much of my time. But with my first million-point game, I was only 12,000 points shy of the world record, so I was like, "I can't retire now!"
Details: Have you heard from the other champions since the win?
Hank Chien: Steve Wiebe did post on a forum congratulating me. Billy Mitchell, I know, will usually call someone who beats the score. I am not sure if I missed his phone call or he hasn't called. I would like to meet with him and speak with him. I'm sure that now, since our names are in the same sentence all over the Internet, we will meet each other at some point.
Details: How many hours a day did you need to practice?
Hank Chien: In the beginning it was about three hours a day. It wasn't a regular training program; there are some days I play zero, and then on some weekend days I play six. It was enjoyable, so it didn't seem like a chore.
Details: You have Harvard degrees in math and computer science—did they play any role in your success?
Hank Chien: There is a little bit of math that comes into play. When you are point pressing—which is trying to squeeze as many points out of a board as possible—you've also got to figure in that your bonus timer is ticking down. You have to figure out what's the probability of gaining points versus probability of losing points and figure out what's the better bet. It's not complicated math.
Details: You and your brother are roommates in a Manhattan apartment. How did he take to your new habit?
Hank Chien: We don't have much space. I was joking with him that if I ever got to the kill screen [the furthest a player can advance in a game], that I was going to buy a machine and we would have to give up either the refrigerator, the toilet, or the sofa. So he thought about it for a second and he says, "The sofa." [Laughs]