GAME OR BUST. Probably Bust Though….

By: Squid

 

In King of Kong – A Fistful of Quarters we witness the underdog, Steve, tackle the task of getting the world record score in the arcade classic Donkey Kong by practicing for hours a day and performing under pressure. The other side of the story shows a demigod of the arcade world, Billy, as he constantly displays a smug grin while maintaining his super star status from the comfort of his home. It really is a great story of a clash of titans that have mastered their craft to an uncomfortable level. By the end of the story, Steve’s works pays off and the audience is left with the knowledge that he successfully holds the top scores on Donkey Kong (live and recorded). Everything is right in the world – Billy and his goons don’t come out ahead, and the audience can stop feeling sorry for Steve. But what if he didn’t get the record? What if he just failed and I was just left there….cringing and feeling sorry for Steve, his wife, and his kids? Well, if that happened, Steve’s story would be like thousands of gamers around the world — thousands of gamers in the United States that all play the same game: League of Legends.

League of Legends is a notoriously addictive game. It has everything it needs to capture gamers and keep them playing the game. One of the biggest features of LoL is the immense professional scene that allows top gamers to make salaries and become famous like Billy Mitchell. But unlike Steve, most League of Legends players will never come close to becoming professional because they lack the work ethic and skill. The saddest stories are the players that come close to making it and end up failing; they put their money on the line, they move to a gaming house, take off college, and walk away with nothing…their dreams shattered. For young players that is a huge fear when trying to become the best. In Steve’s case, not as much was on the line, but he was clearly obsessed and had the risk of walking away as a failure who threw away valuable time.

Games can consume so much of an individual’s life. From the hours spend casually, to thousands of dollars gambled on the opportunity to become do what you love most, professional gaming is risky. When watching King of Kong, I couldn’t help but imagine the Steve that could have been: a sad, broken dude who obsessed over an arcade game. Steve is more than a character in a great documentary. He is a vivid example of what it takes to be a professional gamer; it’s hard; it requires countless hours of practice and dedication; you have to juggle real life with your dream; the chance of failure is high. In the end, you might fail….or you could play video games for a living….which is rad.

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A Fist Full of… Drama

Being familiar with the competitive gaming culture around the game League of Legends, I have some basis for comparison when I watch King of Kong. In short, the competitive drama in King of Kong is when some people take something too seriously. And that is not a bad thing.

Having paid attention to what is basically the Major League of League of Legends, I know that what often excites people is the rivalries between the teams and players. In all honesty, much of the spectacular appeal in competitive events such as pro sports and competitive gaming lies in the people playing them, since the events themselves often do not have an interesting or existing narrative: watching Donkey Kong is watching a little man jumping over barrels and fireballs over and over, watching League of Legends is watching two teams of ten characters clobbering each other with fancy graphics, watching football (American or European) is watching a bunch of sweaty men/women going after a ball.

When the players generate drama between themselves, people pay attention. Famous biker is found to be doping? National television headlines the news. An American League of Legends player trash-talks another one on camera? Everyone posts the video on the front page of reddit. Drama between two Donkey Kong players? A documentary is made. These events draws attention from both the people who are familiar to the games and those who are not. I personally have not heard of Twin Galaxies and the competitive arcade culture until I saw the film. Drama generates excitement and exposure, and they in turn help legitimize competitive gaming.

Yes, I said “legitimize.” No, don’t pretend some of you don’t think gaming is dumb, with your jerseys and team paraphernalia. Joking aside, competitive gaming, much like competitive sports, puts the player or team on the spot, and often deemed the lesser if they are not successful or victorious. In situations like that, attitudes come into play, and people butt heads. Billy Mitchell probably believed he had to protect his position as the best player of Donkey Kong around, thus leading to some of his more unsavory comments. Perhaps Billy Mitchell is not the most likable person around, or perhaps he is a sore loser, but personalities like him create stories because of their undeniable skill set at their games and the drama they create.

FYI: Billy Mitchell, Steve Wiebe, and Walter Day are still involved in competitive gaming today. There are some videos of them playing in events on the Twin Galaxies website.

-SYC