King of Donkey Kong?

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I had the opportunity to watch the world premier of The King of Kong today (yes I know it's been out for quite some time.)  To say I was little disappointed in Billy Mitchell is an understatement.

For those of you saying who is Billy Mitchell?  He is/was a video gaming legend in the 80's and 90's (and at least in his mind is still today) – He set countless records on video games, including Centipede, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey and Donkey Kong, Jr.  As a matter of fact he was the first person to ever get a perfect game on Pac-Man (July 4 1999) – For the uneducated that means he was able to successfully navigate 256 boards (screens) and gobble up every single dot, fruit, power pellet and eat all of the blue ghosts on every screen.  Although this is a great accomplishment in the gaming world, it pales in comparison with his Donkey Kong score which up until just recently was unmatched since 1982 when he set the record score of 874,300 at the age of 17.  Until recently no one even came close to breaking Billy's score, and then all of sudden out of no-where Steve Wiebe an out-of-work middle school science teacher who hadn't played the game in years, decided that he would try to beat his score.

This leads me to the movie in question, which documents the battle between these two, and the rise and fall of a legend; albeit in his mind only.

When I was 14 I idolized Billy Mitchell, I mean my friends and I would read the gamer mags and think to ourselves, wouldn't it be great to be able to achieve his success or better still meet him in person?  After watching this movie, I kick myself for being so naive.  It's obvious from this movie that my loyalties were in wrong place or it's possible that Billy Mitchell has let those records he set over 20 years ago go to his head; either way, the film did not portray my child-hood idol in a good light.

Now I realize that it's a TV documentary; and much like the Michael Moore sagas, must be taken with a grain of salt; however I have to say that whether or not intended (and from what I saw, Billy made no attempt to hide) his portrayal was one of a self-centered, egotistical ass! (excusez-moi)

Being a politician I am constantly exposed to people who seem to genuinely care about their fellow man and yet when you do a little digging realize that their reason for doing/saying what they did was far from noble.

I am sorry to say Billy Mitchell is no different, it's obvious from the film he lives on the glory he has achieved in video gaming and thrives on the fawning he receives from a select few of his “followers” – which he surrounds himself with.

It's obvious that his “friends” support him because they lack any kind of confidence that would enable them to stand on their own without seeking the  dolled out words of approval, Bill so carefully rations to them, like a king and his subjects.

Bill, like the others I know, are for the most part social outcasts, having found a hobby where they can succeed and achieve a sort of fame, they begin to overcompensate for any shortcomings they had in real life and begin to act exactly like those they probably railed against in their past.

People like Bill may come off as normal, well adjusted beings, who seem to be completely different from any stories you might have heard, or in this instance, seen. But if you get deeply involved in their world, you begin to see some validity behind the stories. And that's when you have to make a choice to leave the situation and see the person for who they really are, or find excuses for his behavior and becoming one of his disciples and forever chose the path of “Billy can do no wrong.”

Although the film does show Bill doing some “charitable” work it's obvious to anyone with half-a-brain that these works are done to stroke his own ego and cement his reputation within his little ecosystem of sycophants as being “god-like”.

Had that little old Q-Bert lady (I forget her name) achieved a high score, Bill could then claim it was all his training and support that lead her to that moment, and his “legend” would continue to grow and her achievement would have been secondary to his own piece of the recipe for her success.

In the end, Steve Wiebe is the true champion, and Mr. Mitchell is a laughable, pampas ass who should seriously take a look at himself and for good measure as my father used to say, “Get a haircut!”

It's funny how people we place on pedestals when we are young, fall from grace as we get older.


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James A. Restucci is the author of this blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Internal License.

6 Responses to King of Donkey Kong?

  1. jimr says:

    Point taken, definitely not as amazing as the accomplishments you mentioned; however in my opinion and as someone who had played these games for hours on end I have to agree to disagree.

  2. jeanine says:

    I respectfully disagree. I think amazing accomplishments are things like discovering DNA, mapping the human genenome, having the guts to declare that the world is round rather than flat, finding the medicine cocktail that allows AIDS patients to live, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. These are amazing accomplishments; getting a top score in a video game is not an amazing accomplishment.

  3. jimr says:

    Thanks for the comment Jeanine, I can agree with you to some degree, I think making a movie about it is going a little far; however I do give credit where credit is due, and what these gentlemen and ladies accomplish is amzaing.

  4. jeanine says:

    It is amazing to me that people find individuals who spend their days playing video fascinating. These are not people to be admired or to have a film made about them. They are, from what I can tell, people who need to re-think their life path.

  5. jimr says:

    I have received some requests for more information about this movie, so here is the link to the Official Site:

  6. DeLeesa says:

    I agree – from the little bit that I saw of the film, Billy Boy was rude and very ungrateful that people actually 30 plus years later are still following his sorry Ass. As for Steve he was nice considerate obsessed a little with his hobby but still a true competitor. My parents use to say and now I say it as well: “It is not wether you win or lose, but how you play the game” also “when you think you are better than the rest and you are too good to be challeged you are a loser” I hope Steve continues to beat his score and Billy Bad Boy’s also. See Steve sets a goal and tries to achieve it. The only time Billy sets a goal when he has been beaten and it bugs the @!# out of him so he has nothing better to do than to get back on top.  It is sad that with all of his so called followers that he can’t be a proper roll model.