Meet Mike Leyde

Meet Mike Leyde

California Steel Contractor is First Ever to Best Bejeweled 2

Mike Leyde approached Bejeweled the same was he takes on most other things in life: with dedication, determination and a desire to be the best. So it didn't surprise the 56-year old steel contractor from Riverside, California when he learned he was on the verge of achieving a milestone in PopCap's popular puzzle game that even Bejeweled's creators never thought possible.

On March 23, 2009 Mike became the first person on Earth – and quite possibly the first in the universe – to “beat” Bejeweled 2, a game that hundreds of millions of people have enjoyed but never “completed.” Mike achieved the highest score that the game is capable of processing: 2,147,483,647. Yes, you're reading that correctly – after 2,205 hours and 51 minutes, Mike collected his 4,872, 229th gem and his score totaled more than 2.147 BILLION points!

Bejeweled co-creator and PopCap co-founder and chief technology officer Brian Fiete explains, “the highest score the game is capable of calculating is 2,147,483,647; that's 2 to the 31st power minus 1. We had to give the game some sort of maximum displayable score, and figured that was high enough, no one would ever get that many points. When Mike collected that next gem match, the additional 2,200 points would have put his score above the maximum 'calculable' score, and much like some of the original arcade games, it caused his score to 'flip around' to a negative number. Well, the game's code wasn't designed to display a negative number so it just showed a blank where the score should be!”

Having learned this from PopCap as Mike was nearing the highest achievable score, members of Mike's family began celebrating when the score “zeroed out” – while Mike nonchalantly took a call from one of his sons. (This explains why President Obama couldn't get through with his own congratulatory call ;) Over the course of more than three years Mike spent over 2,200 hours – the equivalent of playing for 8 hours a day, five days a week, for an entire year – to reach Bejeweled's highest pinnacle and stand alone as the games top scorer. Other statistics from Mike's record-setting effort include:

Level Attained: 439
Gems collected 4,872,229
Biggest Combo: 270,675
Power Gems Created: 48,519
Hyper Cubes Created: 18,190

“While developing Bejeweled 2, we debated endlessly whether it was even possible to best the 2.147 billion 'maximum' score,” John Vechey, another of PopCap's co-founders, reminisced. “We spent hours delving into intricate math equations and even created the ideal 'AI program' to play Bejeweled with a perfect strategy.  We deemed it impossible to hit such a high score and thus kept the cap at 2,147,482,575 knowing we were safe.  Finally, man has bested machine, jewels, and game developers.”

Mike first discovered Bejeweled in 2005 when his son Brian bought the game for him. “I was intrigued at first,” Mike recalls. “The game caught my interest and as I started playing I found myself trying to better my score every time I played. After a few months I started to devise a strategy that was working well as long as I was focused on the game and not distracted by a phone call or someone talking to me,” he laughs. “I'd generally play the game for an hour or two per day, sometimes longer, depending on what my schedule would allow. I figured this was a marathon, not a sprint; no sense trying to finish the game in a single setting, and since I didn't know what the maximum score might be, I figured I'd better pace myself.”

Mike's not a huge video game fan – he cites Tetris, Spider Solitaire, Minesweeper, Video Poker and “the PopCap series of games” as the only ones he plays. “I've watched my kids play the more 'hardcore' games but none of those are really my style,” he notes. But Mike's always been a competitive, can-do kind of person. From bowling to golf to stock car racing and city league softball, he says he never takes the challenge at hand lightly. “If you're going to invest time in something, you might as well be as good at it as you possibly can, and I really enjoy the thrill of victory – like when I won my first stock car race or when I bowled a perfect 300 game.”

Married for more than thirty years, Mike also excels as a family man and parent and grandparent, spending a lot of time with his three kids and four grandkids and staying in touch with his eight brothers and sisters. “Growing up, we siblings knew that if we couldn't figure something out, Mike could and almost always would,” says Mike's sister Jana. “Things that would challenge anyone else just seemed to come easily for Mike, and he's always been driven to succeed, which makes for a powerful combination. He was an excellent chess player in his younger days, finished school early, and so forth. It was fun to watch him set his mind to achieve a goal that most people would just consider impossible, and make it a reality!”

Asked what exactly he likes about Bejeweled, Mike says “Bejeweled and many of the other PopCap games are like never-ending puzzles, a great challenge for the mind and a great source of satisfaction for a challenge overcome.” Never-ending for the rest of us perhaps, but not for Mike!