The King of Kong returns! Who said the gaming world is not without any King Kong sized drama? Billy Mitchell, from “King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters” infamy, saw his high scores on Pac-Man and Donkey Kong arcade games stripped by Twin Galaxies and subsequently from the Guinness Book of Records. Mitchell won his appeal with Guinness, who announced they were reinstating the record’s originally achieved by Mitchell.
Mitchell is most famous for his involvement in the 2007 documentary film, “King of Kong”, directed by Seth Gordon. The film follows one man’s quest, Steve Wiebe, to break Mitchell’s Donkey Kong record, which had originally been set in 1981. “King of Kong” viewers were gifted with a glimpse into the peculiar subculture that’s inhabited by avid video game enthusiasts and obsessed record chasers.
Old-school arcade gamers were familiar with Mitchell and his exploits dating back to the early 1980s. Mitchell became the first player to achieve a perfect score on Pac-Man and reach 1,000,000 points on Donkey Kong. When gamers reached a pinnacle point in the earliest games (e.g. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong), a kill screen appeared, because developers never bothered to create higher levels. They never anticipated anyone would reach that high. Of course, that was during a time when they thought arcade games were for entertainment purposes solely and underestimated the will and determination of record chasers.
Mitchell and his arcade-loving peers were the first wave of eSports and gaming enthusiasts. Of course, no one called them “eSports pros” at the time because other 1980s pop-culture pejoratives were used (nerds, geeks, dorks) to define serious video game players.
King of Kong: Wiebe Donkey Kong Record
According to the “King of Kong” Documentary, Wiebe broke Mitchell’s record on an old Donkey Kong machine that he kept in his garage. Wiebe became the first player to pass 1,000,000 points.
Twin Galaxies, a company founded by Walter Day that authenticates arcade and video game records (for themselves and Guinness World Records), disqualified Wiebe’s garage record.
Day invited Wiebe to Funspot in New Hampshire, the location of the first unofficial eSports gathering of America’s top video gamers in the early 1980s. On a Donkey Kong arcade machine at Funspot, Wiebe set a new record. Wiebe reaches the kill screen, but falls short of a million points. Mitchell declined an invite to play Wiebe heads-up Donkey Kong.
In an odd twist, Mitchell sends a video tape of a game of Donkey Kong in which he tallied 1,047,200 points for a new world record.
The new Donkey Kong record by Mitchell came under scrutiny. After an investigation, Twin Galaxies ruled that Mitchell used an emulator. They scrubbed Mitchell’s name from their record books. Mitchell lost the Pac-Man and King Kong records that he revered the most.
Billy Mitchell Sues Twins Galaxies and Guinness
Mitchell did not want to see his image as the world’s top arcade game player go tarnished. He sued Twin Galaxies and Guinness.
After an independent investigation, Guinness determined that the initial investigation from Twin Galaxies was incomplete and insufficient.
Mitchell and his legal team sent a 165-page evidence package that included his innocence. After a thorough investigation, Guinness sided with Mitchell. Guinness reinstated records for both Donkey Kong and Pac-man.
“In the end, we found that there just wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the disqualification across the board,” said Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday.
Meanwhile, Twin Galaxies still stands by their official ruling. Jace Hall, CEO of Twin Galaxies, responded to media requests with the Kermit the Frog drinking tea meme.