King of Kong: Who is the King of Games?

At first glance, King of Kong seems to be a basic history of videogaming, with a few really passionate players talking about how much they love these games. The film takes a drastic turn when the conflict about Roy Schildt and Steve Weibe versus Billy Mitchell begins. I was surprised to hear about the so-called “bad blood” between Schildt and Mitchell. I found myself unsure of which party I should trust. The film implied that perhaps Walter Day’s organization, which is closely related to Billy Mitchell, was not completely objective in the way it treated Steve Weibe. Most of my classmates agreed with the film on this point, but we also did not trust Roy Schildt. I think this confusion points to a greater problem in the video game industry: a lack of organizations that keep scores.
The documentary presented the video game community as a very small, informal group. There was a small central office where Walter Day and a few other members worked, but beyond this structure, there did not seem to be much of a central organization. I found it odd that a small business was the major authority for these video game scores. I would put greater trust in scores kept by the official game producers, such as Atari.
According to the film, these official systems were not in place, so Walter Day took the initiative to create Twin Galaxies. When I Google searched “Donkey Kong high scores”, the Twin Galaxies blog appeared. When I looked up “Donkey Kong,” I found Nintendo’s website. The website for Donkey Kong did not appear to have the official scores. So, at least according to Google, Twin Galaxies is legitimate and seems to be the only place to find these high scores. Their website looks very professional and the company seems to have grown.
Perhaps I was thrown off by the documentary’s treatment of Twin Galaxies, or perhaps it has changed over time. I definitely believe that old-school video games have become much more popular as the years have gone by. I was familiar with some of the older games, since my dad would often play Pac-man or Galaga online. I remember when some of the major stores began selling joysticks that you could plug into the TV and play a variety of old-school games. These devices added Pole Position, Frogger, and Mappy to my repertoire. I saw many of these games mentioned in King of Kong, and I wonder if the documentary inspired others to play the old games again.

kong scores
Google search of “donkey kong high scores”
Kong results
Google search results for “donkey kong”

scorekeeperwebsite
Twin Galaxies website

-EMG

King of Kong: But Why?

After watching King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, it appears to me that the culture of arcade gaming provides people with an opportunity to attain a sense of achievement, or self-worth. The primary example of this in the film is Steve Wiebe. Throughout his life, Wiebe always came close to reaching his goals, but would then fall just short. He had talent in many of things he did, but he continuously struggled to reach his pinnacle. Most notably, the film discussed his baseball career in high school. He was a skillful pitcher, and his team had reached the state finals. The ball was in his hands for the game, yet he failed to bring his team to victory, bringing him great sadness. Much of his life seemed to repeat this script, so when he realized he may be able to beat Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong score, he saw a chance to be the top dog for once. He worked at it, and eventually did what he sought out to do, defeating Billy’s score to be the game’s record high-scorer. That sense of achievement had finally been acquired.

The other character I feel uses the world of arcade gaming to his personal benefit is Walter Day. Walter Day founded Twin Galaxies and became the chief scorekeeper for the video gaming world. By doing so, Walter had found something that made him feel valuable. Thousands and thousands of gamers trusted him to ensure that there was an ordered and reliable system that kept track of the top gamers around the world. Thus, Walter was able to realize his self-worth and be of use to people all over.

Of course, the gaming world seemed to be able to help many of the others as well. Billy Mitchell and Roy Shildt gained (or at least tried to gain) fame and popularity through arcade gaming, and Brian Kuh wished to do the same. Generally, the world of arcade gaming appears to be yet another way people can realize their talents and gain a sense of pride.

 

Matt R

Kinetix’s Theory of Relativity Part One

It once mattered who the toughest kid on the block was; it mattered which mother could bake the best cookies and which hunter was best in his clan. It mattered because we humans are a species of relativity, I am only strong if I am stronger than him and only rich if I can afford more than almost everyone else. But, in this day in age, with new technologies that facilitate globalization and 6 billion competitors it is hard to be the “est” of anything and being good is rarely ever enough. And that is what all of us are, competitors- competing for success in a world where everyone is comparing themselves to everyone else.

 

All of us, every single one of us, starts our lives believing we are the center of the universe. Over time however, we realize that we are just not that special and that while we are unique, there are thousands of others just as “good” as we are. Well, at least some us experience this awakening.

 

Because everyone strives to be the best, we idolize and envy those who are, believing that they must have it all, and lead the lives we normal folk can only dream of. This adoration and respect of the public, inflates the heads of the winners, preventing them from the day of reckoning all of us need, making them nearly unbearable to be around. For if the mediated world is telling you you are the best, wouldn’t you be a fool to disagree with them?

 

To me, “King of Kong” is one of the clearest examples of the exaltation of those who have separated themselves from the pack and established themselves as best of… anything. In the film, Billy Mitchell, the world’s first gaming celebrity,  was surrounded by the best gamers in the world who all just wanted to be him, and while he was screwed up in the head in the first place, I think this screwed him up even more. It was he who (apparently) got all the pretty girls, made the money and even had a nemesis. While he is an exceptional athlete of sorts, and deserves to be proud of his accomplishments and success, it was that everyone wished they were him, that gave him the power. In reality, another sixty thousand points in Donkey Kong does not make either one of them better or worse than the other, but Steve Wiebe needed this for himself, he needed the applause of the world and to be recognized as excellent, and his need being so great is what empowers people like Billy Mitchell, the winners.

 

What I am taking out of this film (besides incredible entertainment) is that in order to empower ourselves we need to stop striving to be others. Looking closely at what I said, I did not say stop striving to be the best because we should always strive to be the best, just not relative to others, but relative to ourselves.

 

Not everyone will hear our names on CNN, or solidify our heroism in history with statues. However, all of us have the ability to change the world. By being the best son, brother, friend, wife boyfriend, boss or employee we really can make a difference. If the owner of a factory decides to spend an extra 1000 dollars to install an air-conditioning in his factory, all of his 300 workers will not dread coming to work as much everyday, and thus be in lighter spirits when they come home to hardworking wives and children.  That is being the best boss you can be and not having to be the best one there is.

 

All in all, while we all cheer for Steve Wiebe, it is sad that he needs this to feel good about himself, especially when he has a job and family to worry about at home. To play a game only to remind oneself how good you are, defeats the purpose of entertainment and is a sad byproduct of our competitive world. The world’s best gamers and Olympic athletes spend their lives trying to get to the next level or shave a few milliseconds off their time. While we are all happy in the end because the kind Steve Wiebe has defeated the obnoxious Billy Mitchell, this article,

http://www.examiner.com/arcade-game-in-dallas/donkey-kong-world-champion-beats-own-score illustrates how unhealthy and futile this complex is. All I can think of now is a teary eyed Wiebe in his dark garage trying to reclaim the top of the hill while his wife sleeps alone upstairs. An ending thought to be continued another week- is it then worth it to quit the game? To never compare ourselves to anyone else?

 

See you next week,

The best, , the strongest, the fastest and the prettiest-

Kinetix

 

“Best does not have to mean better than the rest” – Kinetix

Arcade to Console: A Shift in the Nature of Games

by Theo Dentchev

“There’ll always be the argument that video games are meant to be played for fun. Believe me, some of it’s a lot of fun. Video games are meant to be played at home, relaxing, on a couch, amongst friends…and they are, and that’s fun. But competitive gaming, when you want to attach your name to a world record, when you want your name written into history, you have to pay the price.”

– Billy Mitchell, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

In the above quote arcade game legend Billy Mitchell speaks to the difference between competitive gaming and what might be called “casual” gaming. But at the same time, in a way he’s comparing modern gaming to classic arcade gaming. “[Modern] [v]ideo games are meant to be played at home…on a couch,” and one might add with a gaming console, on a TV, whereas classic arcade games are played standing up in front of the arcade machine, usually in an arcade. Those superficial differences in location and method of playing are representative of a broader shift in gaming from the arcade era in the 80s to the console era of today, from more competitive to more casual, from a narrow to a broad appeal, and from more rule oriented games to games which utilize fiction much more heavily.

The underlying goal of classic arcade games is to get as far as you could, to achieve as high a score as possible without dying (and if you are good enough, to hopefully get your name on the high scores list), and thus they are inherently competitive. Arcade games also require great hand-eye and hand-thought coordination, as Twin Galaxies founder and referee Walter Day tells us in King of Kong. Someone playing an arcade game has to be literally thinking on their feet. The person has to be on edge, attentive, and motivated to keep standing there and competing at that game. This is in stark contrast to video games today, which are meant to be enjoyed while sitting back, sinking into your couch cushions, without needing to exert a great deal of mental or physical effort. Today’s games try to be friendly and open to new or “casual” gamers. They are much, much more forgiving than the arcade games of the past and no longer restrict players to going as far as their skills allow them; now even the least able gamer  can fully experience (and beat) most games. That isn’t to say that there aren’t still games being made which are or can be competitive out there, it just means the landscape has shifted.

Accompanying this shift is gaming becoming more mainstream. Whether the increased public interest in gaming is due to the increasingly casual nature of games, or whether companies are making more casual games to please the public, I don’t know. I figure it’s a combination of both. Most people don’t find the intensely challenging, and often frustrating nature of arcade games to be “fun.” They are more attracted to games whose rules present some sort of challenge, yet not one which is too difficult to overcome. But people also like flashy graphics, rich soundtracks, and complex stories. Arcade gaming did not have that. They didn’t have the greatest graphics (it was the 80s,still early in the development of video games), and while they had some catchy themes the music was pretty simple. As for story, sure, Mario (Jumpman) was trying to save Pauline (Lady) from Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong, but that’s about as deep as that story gets, and there’s really no resolution of the conflict (ending). And what about Pac-Man? What was he eating all those dots for anyway? Arcade games focused mostly on a set of rules, without much fiction. Modern games still have rules which the player must follow, but have added great amounts of fiction, mainly in the form of narratives and accompanying music, to the point that some games are considered more film than game (e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots). That in turn has attracted a great deal of people to the gaming world, swelling its ranks with new, casual gamers.

Video games in the 80s were generally viewed in a negative light, with mostly “losers” or “nerds,” supposed rejects of society, congregating in dimly lit arcades, almost cult-like. Perhaps this was because games were still a new and relatively foreign medium. Or maybe the “price” needed to be paid that Billy Mitchell alludes to, not in quarters, but in time, dedication, and repeated frustration resulting from the difficulty of arcade games was too high for the average person to pay. Or was it because arcade games were too simple, only about rules and competition? Whatever the case may be, since video games have started heavily incorporating fiction and lowering the challenge the rules present, changing the nature of the games from competitive to casual, they have been propelled in a relatively short amount of time into mainstream recognition and acceptance. People find today’s games to be more “fun.” It’s not only nerds who play video games now, and although competitive gaming may still be discredited, even that is changing as people begin to play games like Halo for a living.

Or maybe it’s all because of Madden.

– TD