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

You really don’t get as much attention as Helen of Troy Billy.

When I first realized exactly what the movie King of King: A Fistful of Quarters was all about (a documentary about the Donkey Kong arcade game’s world record), I’ll say that I was thinking to myself: “Wow, this is going to be a LONG class”.  Despite my foolish pessimism, however, I soon realized that this was no ordinary documentary.  At least, in most documentaries I’ve seen there aren’t people who I end up actually hating by the end of the movie.  Not so in King of Kong.  How can anyone who has seen this movie not completely despise Billy Mitchell, self proclaimed video game hall of famer who to me seems like he never really matured past the age of seven.  At one point he even says: “Not even Helen of Troy had that much attention” when he hears how many people are in attendance to watch his video taped world record (see video at end).  A more important question may be how anyone would possibly want to be portrayed as a complete jerk in a movie, basically ensuring that anyone who watches the film will dislike you.

Unbeknownst to me, competitive old school video gaming is a cut-throat world filled with endless manipulation and backstabbing.  This is why I was incredibly happy to see someone like Steve Wiebe who plays by the rules (apparently), and isn’t a complete jerk to everyone around him.  The ending to the movie absolutely made my day as I got to see Billy Mitchell’s ego squashed by the high school science teacher who took the record for highest taped score of Donkey Kong.

Unfortunately, later in the week I looked online and found that Steve Wiebe is no longer the King of Kong.  The distinction is now held by Hank Chien…all I can say is I’m glad it’s not Billy Mitchell.


Wiebe vs. Mitchell; Hekyll vs. Jekyll


King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was one of the more, how should I say, interesting documentaries I have ever seen. It was an insight into a world that, quite frankly, I did not know existed. The classic-game sport, if I may call it that, is filled with corruption, agendas, and unethical practices. This came as a real surprise to me. I never considered that there could be any dispute over a game-record. But, like everything else, if there is a way to do something legitimately, there are a thousand ways to do it illegitimately.

Throughout the entire movie, it was clear that Twin Galaxies and its associates were Billy Mitchell supporters, and not the unbiased score keepers that they wanted to be seen as. Billy Mitchell was their meal ticket and therefore they wanted to protect his scores. Twin Galaxies gained off the fame of Billy Mitchell. This was evident when Steve Wiebe first beat Billy Mitchell’s high score and submitted his video evidence of it. But because Roy Shildt was involved with Steve Wiebe and even bought him a new Donkey Kong board, Wiebe’s score was attacked and delegitimized because of the history between Mitchell and Shildt.

Another example of the agenda and corruption of Twin Galaxies is that Mitchell, for all his talk, never competed live against Wiebe. He then, after all the controversy over Wiebe’s video submission, submitted a tape of him beating Wiebe’s record. And even before the tape was verified as a legitimate entry, Walter Day, supposed video game referee, declared that the in video score was accepted and entered it into Twin Galaxies. This was minutes after Day talked to Mitchell on the phone and told him the video had discrepancies and the master copy would have to be watched to verify the legitimacy of the score.

I couldn’t stand watching Wiebe get continually walked on throughout the documentary. This sport is so underpopulated that it is almost like a small community. Therefore they must self regulate because, well, no one else really cares. This left a lot of room for some shady practices.

However, through all this, the movie was great. The people in the high score gaming community are hilarious to watch, and are passionate about their sport. Billy Mitchell is a character in his own right, even if I despise him. And because in the final minute of the movie, after all seemed lost for Steve Wiebe, I found out he beat Mitchell’s high score and this time it was unequivocally accepted. Good had conquered evil, and all was right once more.



A Quest for a Title

By: Lee Jones

The King of Kong. This title was given to not only a movie, but it was also given to a person. Billy Mitchell held this title for years, until an unemployed upstart, Steve Wiebe, decided to take it from him. Steve Wiebe is the protagonist of The King of Kong because he is the main character, as evidenced by the cameras following him around and telling his present story. The antagonist, Billy Mitchell, was portrayed in the movie as being mean spirited toward Steve Wiebe. He is shown as the antagonist by the fact that he is constantly opposed to Steve Wiebe as well as by his actions. He is shown ignoring Steve’s call and Steve told about how people were sent, possibly by Billy, to spy on Steve’s machine to make sure he was not cheating.

The entire movie was about two quests undertaken by the protagonist and antagonist. Steve Wiebe, the protagonist, undertook the quest to beat Billy’s record for Donkey Kong. Billy, on the other hand, started a quest to keep his title. These quests were the main story telling points throughout the movie. Without these quests, the movie would have no story and would collapse. Steve’s quest was successful, but in the end, Billy took his title back.

The Mental Burdens of a Top Dog

By: Sam F

Character parallels can be seen between many works and Lord of the Rings and King of Kong is a good example. Billy and Steve in King of Kong mimic the relationship between Frodo and Sam in the LOTR series. For Billy, the source of his superiority complex roots itself in his long-term dominance in the world of arcade games. For Frodo, his similar complex draws from the ring and the burdening sense of responsibility that comes with it.

Billy and Frodo are both portrayed by the director as pompous and arrogant. Unique past experiences have helped build up this arrogance, or seeming arrogance, over other characters. Billy is like Frodo in that he is forced by being number one to be heartlessly competitive to help maintain top status. Being number one must be done alone, as there is no room for two at the top of the podium. Frodo similarly must carry his “top-dog status” alone as the ring is a burden for only one. This solo journey for each character likely builds on this arrogance. Clearly this attitude could simply be resentment to the fact that each character’s lifestyle requires working alone in their conquests. Frodo is also similar in that he does not seem to enjoy his burden of the ring. He wishes he could give it up but ultimately understands that the ring is his responsibility.  Billy also shows fatigue with his fight to be at the top, as he must face the frustrations of people like Steve Wiebe challenging his record. When he receives the phone call that Steve had surpassed him, his weariness was very apparent.

Another paralleled pair between LOTR and King of Kong is Sam and Steve. These are secondary characters to the holders of the spotlight. Both share similar qualities and roles in their respective movies. Sam is a conveyer of fair play and being as helpful as he can. He is a very untroubled and has good morals. The entire movie he is working tirelessly to help Frodo and is seen as a threat. Steve shares this type of relationship with Billy in King of Kong. He is simply trying to take a small piece of the spotlight for himself and right things in his life by winning for once.  Billy views Steve as a threat and treats him as such throughout the movie. Sam and Steve both share a sense of innocence; however, that blinds them to the mental states of their foil characters, Frodo and Billy, in each movie. They don’t seem to realize the burdens of being in the spotlight and this naivety makes the lead characters frustrations more understandable.

That Lying Cheating No Good Hero

By: Dan Nockels

I can dispense with the question at hand very easily Steve Weibe is the protagonist of the film King of Kong. The protagonist is the main character, who opposes the antagonist in other words the hero. In this film an even easier question to answer is who the antagonist is Billy. If I were to take the movie at face value and met him on the street I would probably punch him in the mouth. That a fairly good indication of who the antagonist is supposed to be. In the story Steve opposes Billy thus Steve is the protagonist. Sure he’s a perfectionist with deep seeded issues with self worth and in apparent inability to succeed in real life pursuits but he sure is the protagonist, the hero.

But I don’t know Billy how do I know he isn’t the jerk he acts like in the movie. Well first off when he objected to his portrayal in the film he used the term “son of a gun” which is just about the best thing I have ever read in an MTV interview. After watching as many commercials for reality TV as I have I have determined that if you film someone for long enough they will do something stupid. Such as for example state that comments they might make are as controversial as the abortion issue. That was pretty dumb but film yourself for 300 hours and see if you don’t say something about that stupid.

Next things that a brief wikipedia search turned up Billy and Steve were on friendly terms, had played together and Steve held the title even after his video submission was deemed inadmissible. In addition to that the sheer number of people they had to demonize to make Steve seem like a hero, Billy most notably but also all of the people from Twin Galaxies. The movie made them seem like Billy’s lackeys just out to preserve his record. Their suspicion about the board being tampered with is given about 15 seconds of air time and we are only shown parts of Billy’s Tape that are fuzzy implying strongly that Billy was lying about the whole thing. Despite Twin Galaxies on screen being designated as so trustworthy that Guinness Book of World Records relies on them for video game records. 

My favorite implication of all is that Steve is the quintessential family man while Billy is married to a fake trophy wife. This one is a little more subtle but barely. Steve’s wife seems like a supportive strong woman who helps her family through a hard time. Billy’s wife doesn’t get any lines and is only shown on his arm. Which is more befitting a hero and which a villain? So in the movie Steve is the protagonist as unearned a title as that may be. 

The true King of Kong….

By: Derek S.

Neither Steve Wiebe nor Billy Mitchell is the King of Kong. However, they are both great heroes that undertake the same quest with the goal of finishing the quest before the other. Yet, neither one of them has completed this quest. Yes, one man did advance farther than the other, but the real King of Kong was not defeated. Of course I am talking about the one and only…

Donkey Kong.

The evil King Donkey Kong still holds the Princess captive. He still stands upon the highest-most platform, taunting and laughing at all who attempt to claim his throne. He is even so powerful that when a hero thinks he is about to defeat the evil king, the hero just falls over dead. King Kong’s deadly power has come to been known as the “Kill Screen.” With a power such as this, who In the world may hope to ever defeat King Kong?

Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell are the greatest heroes that ever took on this quest. They climbed more platforms and jumped over more barrels than anyone ever before. These acts earned them medals in the shape of numbers that the people referred to as a “Score.” Steve Wiebe tried valiantly but ended his campaign against the wicked King Kong with a score of 1,049,100. This was was much higher than any score that came before him. However, Billy Mitchell embarked on the same quest just 6 months later and scored 1,050,200. Billy Mitchell has come the closest to defeating King Kong, thus making him the greatest hero of all.

In the end, all great heroes fall. Even though some may advance farther than others, the fact still remains that nobody has ever defeated King Kong in his 27 years of his world domination. Who will be the great hero that finally relieves the free peoples of earth from his tyranny?