An Ugly Competition

Usually in documentaries, you don’t see a true definitive “good” or “bad” guy; however, in The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, the two main subjects are clearly defined, clashing in a battle of good and evil. The good is embodied by Steve Wiebe, the perpetually down-on-his-luck family man who just needs the world record score on Donkey Kong. The evil is none other than Billy Mitchell, a self-promoting, narcissistic, apparent hypocrite who has held the record for 20+ years. Rather than an epic war between these two rivals, or even a battle, we are presented with Steve Wiebe playing Donkey Kong, while Billy Mitchell stands back and talk to his minions, who are interspersed in the main game score company? Honestly I wouldn’t even know what to call Twin Galaxies, the self-proclaimed “main scoreboard” for all of video games; the supposed pure intentioned organization that basically ruins the movie by exposing the cultish bureaucracy behind “official” video game scores. Instead of what would seem to be the easy task of putting two men in front of an arcade machine and saying “play”, the entirety of this 90 minute movie is a struggle to get the two men to play each other.

Unfortunately for our hero Steve Wiebe, his nemesis Billy “Helen of Troy” Mitchell dodges every attempt at an actual competition, and in this, really exposes how weird and exclusive hardcore gamers can and will be. Even after supposedly winning the heart and respect of the rather creepy “Master Referee” Walter Day, Wiebe can’t catch a break on anything when it comes to competitive gaming (just like the rest of his life, apparently. We are treated to a rather large slew of Steve Wiebe’s life problems throughout this film, making it almost impossible not to root for him). The cryptic, cult-like behavior of the rest of the 30something professional gamers stops Wiebe at every turn, whether it be breaking into his garage to take apart his arcade machine or disqualifying his video taped world record Donkey Kong run.

Evenetually the movie does end unceremoniously with Steve Wiebe “officially” breaking Mitchell’s record, but it almost seems an afterthought, considering after this entire movie, I really just didn’t care that much anymore. After witnessing odd and weird injustices to poor Wiebe occur throughout the entire movie, including the intentional mispronouncing of his name by the old and creepily immature super nerds that run the classic gaming community, I just wanted out of this particular subculture. It’s not something for normal people, and personally it makes me glad to stick to my Xbox and not feel like wandering into the realm of classic arcade games.

-Spencer Smith

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