Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Watch: The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters

Last Wednesday night I finally got a chance to watch the retro gaming documentary film, The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters, and it is truly a gripping insight into the world of competitive score chasing and the mentality of the people who spend hours of their daily lives honing and maintaining their skills. This movie in particular focuses on the rivalry between two Donkey Kong players and the race to be the first to score over 1 million points.

In one corner, we have Billy Mitchell, who is the closest thing that competitive gaming has to a superstar. He's been around since the early 80's. and made his name by being the first person to ever achieve the perfect game of Pac Man (eat every dot, collect every fruit, pick up every power pill and munch every single ghost on 255 mazes). In the film, he comes across as an arrogant cock who only cares about protecting his one remaining high score - no matter the cost.

In the other corner, we have Steve Wiebe, life long underachiever (yet still amazingly skilled, life just hasn't cut him a break) and all around Nice Guy. When he was made redundant and spent a period of time unemployed, he decided to purchase a Donkey Kong machine, having developed the skills necessary for the game when he was at high school. He took a look at the online score board on the Twin Galaxies web site, saw that Billy Mitchell had the top spot, and thought "I can beat that".

What follows is the tale of how Steve first beat Billy's score and submitted it by video tape, then had it taken away from him when it was discovered that the board may have been tampered with. He was told to come to FunSpot and repeat the achievement in front of a live audience. Which he did, only for a tape submitted by Billy Mitchell to be unveiled revealing an even higher score - which promptly got entered on the Twin Galaxies site as the highest score ever.

The final part of the film sees Steve attempting to get Billy to play him in a head to head match at an event that the Twin Galaxies organisation held in order to try and find new scores to be included in the forthcoming edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, only Billy refuses to turn up and take part. From everything the viewer has seen so far, it appears that the only reason he refuses to play is because he is scared to lose, but all is not as it seems. If you dig a little deeper into the background of the film, you will find that it has been edited in such a way as to portray Billy as the bad guy. It conveniently leaves out the fact that after Billy's videotaped score was accepted, it was taken town within 48 hours and then Steve was the uncontested champion for the next three years. Yes, their friendship did fall apart and Billy did indeed stop associating with Steve, but not because of the record attempt, because Steve was acquainted with a guy who calls himself Mr Awesome, a man who Billy has had several run ins with in the past.

The King of Kong is still a highly entertaining glimpse of competitive gaming but events portrayed within it should be taken with a pinch of salt. After viewing, I suggest you check up on some of the facts here.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

1 comment:

grasshopper said...

how could you not root for Steve Wiebe to take down Billy Mitchell...