Okay a late posting due to some issues. This is video games are bad for you week. The King of Kong is currently available on instant Netflix.
WATCH: The King of Kong – A Fistful of Quarters – Rated PG-13 for a brief sexual reference.
“When Steve Wiebe got laid off, he turned to the classic arcade game Donkey Kong for solace; soon, he decided to challenge Billy Mitchell’s long-standing record score. So began the bitter rivalry that lies at the heart of this curiously compelling documentary. Providing a history of competitive video gaming and a look at some of the key players, The King of Kong is at its best when revealing just how far Mitchell will go to retain his crown.”
“Work is for people who can’t play video games.”
Referencing Guinness – “Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there”
This is an absolutely marvelous David vs. Goliath story. Actually it may be a bit more analogous to the original Rocky (in spite of being a documentary).
Steve Wiebe, our Rocky Balboa of video gaming, is a really likable schlub. He is really just an average joe who found his niche at Donkey Kong. His wife is clearly long-suffering for her husband’s obsession. I think the really impressive bit is that Steve Wiebe continues to try even after it is proven that he has to play at a handicap
Billy Mitchell is the Apollo Creed character. He is the top videogame player and is amazingly egotistical especially for someone who hasn’t broken a public record in decades. He simply submits tapes of his scores. He is also an official referee. Can you imagine in the Super Bowl if the Colts’ Peyton Manning could also decide if there were flags on the play?
In spite of Billy Mitchell being portrayed (accurately) as the villain, the real villain sadly appears to be Walter Day. He is the self-titled World’s Video Game referee. He has worked tirelessly to promote video gaming – especially arcade gaming and high score tracking.
Unfortunately Walter Day saw and appreciated Billy Mitchell’s endless and completely shameless self-promotion. As a result of this and the egregious error of having record holders also be referees, Billy Mitchell’s claims of various scores are simply accepted while any claimant to Billy’s records is subject to an unbelievable amount of scrutiny and rejection for any reason.
I do find Billy Mitchell’s antics quite funny as, even though it’s a common name, Billy Mitchell was the name of one of the bullies in my junior high school. WARNING NERD ALERT In college our two dungeonmasters were Billy and Mr. Mitchell. My wife and I met playing Dungeons & Dragons.
There is implied rampant cheating on high scores which really renders them moot (with the exception of public scores). It is clear, in spite of some backtracking late in the film, that there are two sets of rules for the world records. It is a shame that the Guinness Book of World Records uses Day’s Twin Galaxies as their resource for video gaming.
As an avid 80s arcade player, I highly recommend this slice of nerdvana. While a classic underdog story, the documentary also covers an interesting microcosm of society. Director Seth Gordon also does a wonderful job with the end credits so if you enjoyed the film be sure to stay through until the very end.
People Watch: Director Seth Gordon fudges a few things in this documentary. He tells a few things out of order for dramatic impact. A third party also (briefly) held the official Donkey Kong high score during the span of time covered in the film.