There is a whole culture behind video games that I was completely unaware of – a culture of competition and pride. The film King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters seriously caught me off guard with the intensity and seriousness surrounding arcade games, specifically Donkey Kong. While it is nice to be the best in the world at something (not that I personally would know) it seems like grown men were putting their whole lives on hold to achieve the goal of being the best.
Throughout the movie I felt overwhelmingly sad for the family of Steve Wiebe. His wife was left alone to raise their children while he was cooped up in the garage playing Donkey Kong or travelling to prove his merits as a gamer. It seemed as if his family came second to Donkey Kong, which made me even more impressed that throughout his video game career his wife had unwaivering support for him. However, even though the Wiebe’s opened up their lives to the cameras, it would be interesting to see if behind the scenes there was tension in the marriage or the family stemming from his obsession with Donkey Kong.
What surprised me even more was being exposed to the worldwide phenomenon of record holding in arcade games. I had no idea that gamers across the world were in competition with one another, let alone that there were world records for such a thing. Twin Galaxies operates out of someone’s apartment where he watches tapes and decides which are valid. It’s crazy that people all over the world film their games and send them in just to be recognized and have a feeling of validation from one organization. The referees and the organization hardly seem fair. The main referee was a good friend of Billy Mitchell’s and favored his top score even though it was in the form of a video, something that was not allowed for Steve.
Overall, the movie was a classic story of the triumph of good over evil. Billy Mitchell was portrayed as being an arcade bully while Steve Wiebe was struggling to gain notoriety in the gaming world. Each time Steve broke a record Billy hit him right back with a video of a higher score (which may or may not have been edited). It was great in the end when they highlighted that by 2007 Steve had beaten Billy and was the world champion.
So yeah, I’m just going to throw it out there. I forgot about this. But here we go anyway:
All of the slime of the Earth somehow found its way to one central location and produced the vile being that is Billy Mitchell. By sheer luck, this creature was given the ability to play video games very well, particularly Donkey Kong, but it is far more inclined to be manipulative and arrogant. This long established evil in the video game world appeared to have firm control over his dark empire, until that hope-inspiring day that the world learned about its next Luke Skywalker: Steve Wiebe.
Practicing for long hours in his garage, Steve Wiebe awaited the day that he would make video game history, which, I want to point out, HE DID. He beat Billy Mitchell’s score, which was legitimate to everyone except Billy Mitchell. However, his dark arms had already reached out into the minds of others on the world record scene, and the score was annulled. But you can cut Luke’s hand off, and he’ll get a new one. Steve Wiebe went back to practice, and on display at Fun Spot he beat Billy Mitchell’s record once again. Billy pulls a fast one however and sends in a video of a score that beat Steve’s new score, now going against everything he had always upheld in the way of “setting records in public.” But once again, evil would not prevail for long. Steve went pack to practicing and eventually beat Billy’s record once and for all. And from that day Billy Mitchell has been little more than a great head of hair on the video game world horizon.
P.S. Billy, I wouldn’t even use your hot sauce to pour in your eyes.
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.
Wow. That was all I could say after just riding one of the most intense emotional rollercoasters that I have ever been on. The emotions evoked by King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters were both unexpected and captivating, as I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, whenever I wasn’t falling out of it from laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the people in the documentary.
Aside from all of the absurd people and events that took place in the documentary, there is actually much that can be learned from Steve Wiebe’s journey to the top. Video games provided him with an outlet for his frustration that really allowed him to leave all his personal struggles at the door when he entered the arcade, or in his case, his garage. After losing his job Wiebe dedicated himself to becoming the best of the best, deciding to stop nowhere short of first place. Had Wiebe not had this safe haven from his personal life then there is no telling where he would be now. The game gave him something to work towards that could make him believe in himself again, and he was able to dedicate himself to a new job and become a science teacher beloved by all his students.
While video games brought out perseverance and hard work in Steve they actually brought out many negative characteristics in Billy Mitchell and his groupies. The competitive nature of professional gaming led Billy to become an egotistical monster, who was one of the most frustrating people that I have ever encountered. I have rarely someone to lose so badly before, and I found myself passionately rooting against him the entire movie. His only redeeming quality was his love for America, coupled with his great collection of patriotic neckties. However, in the end I came to the conclusion that Billy actually gave the USA a bad name, as his cowardice and arrogance are not values that should be admired in a true American. His reluctance to compete against Steve in a live competition should have instantly decreased his credibly among the entire gaming community, however the corrupt nature of Twin Galaxies and his followers let Billy’s fear of losing slip by without criticism.
Video games helped Steve Wiebe finally succeed and come out on top in something, which he had never been able to do before. They also helped him get his life back on track and made him a few new friends along the way. They also brought out the worst in Billy, as his huge ego eventually overtook him and caused him to run from challenges and possibly even cheat. I am still unconvinced of the credibility of Billy’s high-score tape that skipped from score to score and had a fuzzy line on the left-side of the screen quite frequently. It was also an outrage that his taped score was counted and Steve’s was not, and they never even went to check to see if Billy’s machine was tampered with or not. All in all this documentary was truly enthralling, and I was thrilled to see the underdog come out on top.
-George de Roziere