ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The King of Wrong —

Ever since I made the fatal mistake of announcing I was working on an Arcade Documentary way before it made sense to, I’ve gotten a nice healthy bushel of mail from people. I appreciate a lot of it because people are stepping up and giving me contact addresses, ideas, and all the great stuff I would need when I begin that production a year or two down the line. It’s way too early to discuss specifics, but I am very happy at the upside of this. Additionally, people are kind of working as a huge cluster of specialized smart agents, letting me know from all quarters about possibly relevant sites and news. If something happens that goes on in a dark room with sounds like beep and boop, I’m being appraised of it right now.

An awful lot of people, therefore, have mentioned the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which came out last year. The mail usually goes along the lines of “Did you know about this fantastic arcade documentary that came out? I thought it was amazing, you should see if if you haven’t already.”

So to all my helpful compatriots, I just want the message clear: I hate that movie. I hate it on principle. I hate it on personal, selfish grounds. I hate it on ethical grounds. I dispute its content and I despise its message. That it is being considered a modern classic grinds my teeth and riles my fists.

If you’ve not yet seen this blight, let me ruin it for you right now. It tells the tale of Steve Wiebe, a nice guy and happy family man, who happens to have a strong history with videogames, like many of his generation. In his case, he wishes to hold the record for the videogame Donkey Kong. Steve’s nemesis towards this goal is Billy Mitchell, a rich businessman whose ego and self-aggrandizement are of olympian proportions. The record-holder of the Donkey Kong record, Billy crows his achievement. Meanwhile, Steve steadily practices his Donkey Kong and begins videotaping his games, so that he can possibly knock Billy off his throne. We are shown the political intrigue of the videogame score business, including the backroom plays, the spying, and all the conspiracies to protect Billy’s record. Steve is betrayed and lambasted on all sides; questions arise as to his videogame hardware, his intent, and his skills. Billy refuses to even be in the same room as Steve, never letting him have the satisfaction of the two playing head to head on a single machine. At the huge videogame event held to allow challengers to strut their stuff, Steve achieves the world record… but wait! Billy Mitchell has sent in a dodgy videotape with questionable edits to seize Steve’s victory out of his hands. Ultimately, however, Steve comes back and is victorious in his quest to beat Billy! However, at the last moments of this exciting and amazing documentary, we find out that Billy Mitchell has posted a new record on Donkey Kong, pushing Steve out one more time.

Wow, what a fascinating, intense movie dredged from reality that is, right? What an amazing flick, and people who’ve seen it and come to me to tell me about it all rave about how it almost plays like a big morality play and suspense novel all at once.

Yes! Yes it does. Too bad it’s loaded with falsehoods. And by loaded, I mean packed, and by packed I mean like the last Japanese subway car before they have to shut down the line. I have seen both the screener and the final work of this film, and then I spent a lot of time listening to a lot of people, people who should know about the events portrayed in the flick. Here’s some minor, middling issues to consider:

  • A core theme is that Billy Mitchell is an asshole, one who doesn’t even deign to spend time in the same location as Steve Wiebe and won’t even come in to eat lunch at the same table as him. In fact, Billy came in and paid for lunch.
  • Billy denies Steve the satisfaction of playing one-on-one on Donkey Kong. They’d played Donkey Kong one-on-one a year before the documentary was filmed at a previous championship.
  • It seems like Steve Wiebe finally gets a chance to top Billy and that same day, a videotape arrives and Billy tops Wiebe. Steve Wiebe already had the top spot in Donkey Kong, having achieved the record before the documentary started.
  • The videotape that Billy sends in has a suspicious glitch. The videotape was a copy and the original was sent in with no glitch.
  • Two representatives of Twin Galaxies arcade forced their way into Steve’s garage and looted the machine. Two members of the same social scene as Twin Galaxies and Steve were let into his garage by his grandmother, and asked Steve for permission to photograph the circuit board.
  • A number of insiders constantly appraised Billy on what was going on at the competition and took suggestions from him. Multiple times, the conversations being shown from both sides are not the same conversation.

What I’m saying here is that a good percentage of what makes the documentary “good” are made up conflicts, inaccurate reporting, smoothed-over narratives that are meant to make you root for one side or hate the other, when in fact reality doesn’t hold up to these allegations. The whole point of the narrative is that Steve is wronged, denied his rightful place in the record books because of internal machinations. But he had the championship for 3 years! He had played Billy one-on-one. Billy was not on this campaign to cut Steve off at the knees at every turn so to humiliate him and dismiss him, to his own aggrandizement.

(Feel free to check out this collection of statements by Walter Day, head of Twin Galaxies, which is an excellent succinct review of inaccuracy in the film. There are notable amounts of others.)

If you’re going to point and laugh at a subculture, hold up real people like pelts to be sneered at and dismissed as this documentary most obviously does, why even go further and make crap up in editing? Why even be in that business?

The director, Seth Gordon, is hard at work at a screenplay for The King of Kong, which he will then sell to have a fictional movie made. Or, as I am saying, a second fictional movie, but one where he can see 100% of the profits of the picture without having to cut in any of the people whose lives he just took a galactic dump on. Let me be clear: he fucked these people. He couldn’t have fucked them worse than if he strapped them across a air-hockey table and sodomized them with a Wico Command Control Joystick. He interviewed them, had them retrieve archival footage and materials going back decades, recorded them at their homes, their places of work, and at events that they put up at their own expense and time, and then he painted them in clown makeup and threw pies at them for an hour and 19 minutes.

And by doing this, he fucked me, too. Doors that were open to me and my production are slammed shut, people who would have been interviewed by me freely and happily are now rightfully suspicious, and there are places I can no longer hope to go. Maybe, just maybe after I am deep in my production and I show people footage and where I’m going with it I might get some folks to open up, but the damage is pretty goddamn severe. A documentary that rips entire groups of good-hearted people as shadowy, conniving scumbags with razor-thin morality hurts the scene being portrayed and hurts the people themselves. All this effort, just to turn reality into a faked up drama worthy of a dime store pulp. Yes, I am saying the movie is so bad that it has actually sucked my future movie into darkness as well.

When I sit with people to interview them, I always say the same thing: I never want them to regret letting me into their lives. I never want them to watch my film and feel a cold shiver of realization that they were had. Maybe they’re surprised at how their context is with other interviews, or that they fit into the film in unusual ways, but to make someone’s life worse for having given you the gift of their time and story… dude, that’s some high-octane bitchslap. I don’t play that way.

Imagine, then, how I feel when people send me link after link to this production, lauding the incredible story it tells and hoping that I can also do something as entertaining. I guarantee you, I will never be that kind of entertaining.


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  1. Ryan van Barneveld says:


    Just some random thoughts:

    I have seen King of Kong, and loved it. I was thoroughly entertained to an extent that I haven’t been in ages. Your overview of the filmmaker’s manipulations is definitely disturbing, but am I now to abandon my initial love for this documentary? I don’t know…

    Wasn’t Nanook of the North basically a charade in documentary filmmaking as well? But nevertheless it has been enjoyed over the decades, though it has probably contributed to many misconceptions and stereotypes about arctic living.

    Does knowing that a film is largely fictional dampen its impact and entertainment value? In the case of King of Kong, I’d have to say no. But I agree it is the responsibility of the documentarian to defend the contributors’ intent, and in this regard I applaud anyone who is attempting to set the record straight.

    So will I continue to watch and enjoy King of Kong? Well, first of all, I had just ordered the DVD today, before reading your post. All films are by nature manipulative, and while this one might be irresponsibly so, I believe that I will continue to watch and enjoy the film. It is well crafted and the tension is palpable. Does that make me “ignorant”? Well, it certainly means I’ve got a new guilty pleasure…


  2. Robb Sherwin says:

    Gordon was interviewed by GameRoom Magazine recently and asked if he believed the sequence of events are accurately portrayed. His response?

    “I know they are. We joined the story in 2005 and continued filming regularly through early 2007. The film accurately represents what transpired while we covered the story and provides considerable historical context so an audience might understand the stakes of the rivalry.”

    Come OOoooOOooOOooOn!!! What a load of horseshit. Great, Gordon, you got over and got your foot in the door of the movie industry and only had to character assassinate a handful of people to do it. But being unable to answer basic questions without lying about it makes you seem like a total sociopath.

    The desperation didn’t EVEN end with the movie. These guys had nothing better to do than release a small, cut-together video making Mark Alpiger, one of the nicest guys in the arcade scene you’ll find anywhere, look crazy. All for his CRIME of liking arcade games a little too much. Ho, ho, ho a guy gave you hours of usable footage, better go out and make him pay. What a bunch of spineless degenerates.

    On the other hand, I don’t know what we’d do without a completely unwatchable Ben Stiller / One of the Owens Brothers flick for the summer of 2010. Stiller will be able to slide right into an impression of Fake Billy Mitchell, seeing how it will be one of the two characters he plays in every movie of his. At least when you say you sold your soul to rock n’ roll it sounds good, selling your soul to make a shitty knock off of “Dodge Ball” strips you of all dignity.

  3. Michael Kohne says:

    Jason, something you might try to re-open a few of those doors: send folks copies of the BBS documentary and/or Get Lamp (when finished). If they watch your other documentaries, it might give them the sense that you aren’t going to turn their statements around and fabricate anything out of them.

    Heck, if it would help, I’d even buy a copy for you to send out.

  4. jm says:

    Nicely said. Zero-sum filmmaking is bad for all of us.

  5. Chris Orcutt says:

    But Jay, tell us how you really feel.

  6. Flack says:

    Last weekend I piled into a compact car with another grown man and drove over a hundred miles to visit Funspot, where we blew a bunch of tokens playing Skeeball and classic arcade games. Much of my time there was spent not just playing classic games, but admiring them. This hobby’s already filled with fuckin’ weirdos (the line starts with me). It’s amazing that anyone would feel the need to make us seem “more geeky”, especially in film purporting to be a documentary.

    I hope Gordon does well in the fictional film world because I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to be a subject of any of his documentaries ever again. When every single person who appears in your documentary says that things aren’t portrayed accurately (or even fairly), something fundamentally went wrong.

  7. Jason Scott says:

    Ryan, I’m delightfully conflicted with your comments.

    On the one hand, you profess that you don’t mind where the burger comes from and what goes into it and how it’s sold. As long as the burger’s tasty, everything is a-ok.

    On the other hand, you’re a member of the adventurers’ club! You invested in the GET LAMP project, ostensibly because you believe in what I do and how I do it.

    What’s the deal with THAT?

    (Thanks for investing, either way.)

  8. Juan Loya says:

    You know, after I saw the movie the first time I went online and found alot of grumbling about the film’s authenticity. The thing is, I knew while I was watching it that the filmmakers had an obvious bias. That was a given. We see so much of Steve Wiebe’s family and good nature and only bile and condescension from Billy Mitchell.

    So I watched the movie a second time with this in mind. And I gotta say, even knowing that the filmmaker plays fast and loose with the facts and editing, the larger case is made by Billy Mitchell’s own words and actions. Again and again. And sure, people are made to look stupid. But the same can be said of every Errol Morris documentary. You capture people and present them as they are, unpolished. Nobody made Billy Mitchell say and do the things he does in this movie, or what other people say about him. The guy running around during the “Kill Screen” scene…I wasn’t laughing at him because of his geeky enthusiasm but because of his condescending reaction to Steve Weibe in the prior scene.

    I’m not an insider, and I realize that it would take lengthy conversations to fully understand the entire situation. But even though the filmmaker omits the the fact Steve and Billy had played once before, this fact holds up: an event is scheduled by Twin Galaxies to feature head-to-head Donkey Kong competition IN BILLY MITCHELL’S HOMETOWN. Walter Day and that Steve Sanders guy (Billy’s friend) are shown dismayed and frustrated that Billy won’t participate, offering lame excuses and dodges. Over and over again Billy is shown saying that only competitive head-to-head gaming is valid for record setting, and then he is absent. And his own actions and words are what paint the viewer’s opinion of him.

  9. Jason Scott says:

    Coincidentally, with the release of the DVD of the documentary, Mitchell has finally begun the process of giving his side of the story. In the case of the head-to-head issue within the movie itself that you point it, Mitchell says he hadn’t played Donkey Kong in six months, and didn’t see a point in competing.

  10. D says:

    Jason, where are you getting this info? Are there other sources other than Walter Day? Because I don’t know how reliable a source he is. Since the film portrays Twin Galaxies as corrupt, he has something to gain from discrediting the film.

    I don’t know that this is any more accurate than the film or Day’s statements, but it seems to back up the film’s sequencing and has some other interesting bits. It says more than one of Wiebe’s scores were invalidated or moved to different categories. A lot of the confusion does center around the board he used, and one of the issues is that he was using a “Double Donkey Kong” board. One thing’s for sure: the whole affair is confusing as hell.

    Anyway, not trying to call you out or anything, just curious.

  11. Juan Loya says:

    Yeah, the movie itself shows Billy saying that he wasn’t prepped to play Donkey Kong in the competition. But I still think that’s a reflection on his character. As Weibe’s wife points out in that scene, he knew the competition was coming and obviously could have prepared. Its obvious that everyone’s expectation is that Billy was going to play, and he didn’t.

    I get that ego has a bit to do with it, and that’s understandable. If he knew he was going to lose he thought it better to sit out. That’s totally within reason. But I don’t see anything wrong with us as viewers judging that decision in light of his previous statements and actions leading up to that event. He obviously knew there was a documentary crew capturing the entire thing. Should he have played, lost, and been a gracious loser? He would have effectively stolen the film’s ending if he had.

  12. Jason Scott says:

    I’m sure if Billy had known that his not playing in a round of Donkey Kong at the event was going to be turned into a vital plot point in a nationally released movie about him that featured him on the poster and the DVD itself, he’d probably have thrown in a round. Instead, he attended the event and attended the dinner associated with it, and even paid for dinner, a showing of hospitality. These were, in point of fact, his people he was hanging out with.

    I heavily disagree that he’d have “stolen” the film’s ending. As I am trying to contend, the filmmakers chose to go a route that no amount of action by Billy to give an impression of his character other than evil incarnate was destined to make it in.

  13. Jason Scott says:

    Dee, I pointed to Walter’s comments because they were the most cogent and straightforward analysis that I had at arm’s reach. I also have known Walter personally for a good amount of time and trust his word. There are other writings out there, along with photos showing these events, such as the competition between the two and their interactions at previous events, that question fundamental points in the film’s editing.

    I think that people are under the impression that they have a magical ability to tell when they are truly being hoodwinked through editing, that a careful eye pointed at a piece of media will betray its falsehoods. This is, very simply, not the case.

  14. Phil Nelson says:

    I very much enjoyed the movie. Hate the method as much as you want, it tells a damn good story. It just so happens that the story isn’t very true.

    But who thought it was? The direction on much of the movie smacks of monkeying (pun!) with the timeline and “picking up” staged shots, or repurposed footage. Specifically in the many ‘talking-on-the-phone’ scenes.

    To be honest, I don’t see how anyone could think they were being given the full story from this movie.

    It was a good watch for me, then again, I don’t personally know anyone involved.

  15. Juan Loya says:

    The thing is, you know the people involved and I don’t, so I do want to take your word for it. But clearly, people in both camps are shown repeatedly asking “where’s Billy? where’s Billy?” Walter Day calls him and tells him how bad it looks that he’s not making an appearance. Sure, maybe its all being presented in a completely wrong context. Maybe the filmmaker kept bugging Walter to call Billy to make it seem like a bigger deal than it was. I wasn’t there.

    I don’t disagree that in the universe created by the movie, the filmmaker is God. But I just have a hard time feeling sympathetic for Billy Mitchell, who time and again chooses to make himself look like an asshole. A guy THAT self-aware couldn’t be so oblivious to his own actions.

    Sincerely though, best of luck with your own film. I eagerly anticipate seeing it.

  16. Jason Scott says:

    See, and that’s the cancer in the mix; you consider “the movie is full of lies” to be a completely acceptable ingredient in a documentary. You’ve totally given up any trust in the film, and simply assume you’re watching a fake screenplay being done, kabuki-style, with cardboard cutouts lifted from people’s lives as easily as one might make a flash animation from flickr photos.

    And as for anyone thinking that, I am getting a pretty hefty amount of e-mails and links of people shocked, truly shocked, about this description of the movie. So there appear to be both good and bad aspects to others not watching films as you apparently do.

  17. zota says:

    Jason, are there other sources for Walter’s assertions?

    He claims that Steve Wiebe’s June 2003 score was “accepted with honors” and that he held the official Donkey Kong World record with it for almost 3 years

    But in Robert Mruczek’s post on November 11, 2003 he says that says that Wiebe’s 947,200 score was “split” from the official Donkey Kong score. Aren’t these statements direct contradictions?

  18. Jason Scott says:

    OK, let’s go from several points here.

    First, again, just to be clear, Wiebe’s score was without a doubt reported and added to the listings, in June of 2003, and “deposed” Mitchell after 20 years, i.e., one of the primary plots of the film was already done a year before filming:

    In the second link, Mitchell congratulates Steve Wiebe and says he hopes to come fighting back with a secret weapon (I assume he means a 1,000,000 score in this context). It also mentions the fact that Wiebe had the world record of Donkey Kong Junior as well.

    I need a link to the post you’re talking about.

  19. zota says:

    Jason, I have no trouble believing that this film was edited in manipulative or misleading way. But the more I look at the assertions you and Walter Day are now making, the more I’d like some kind of corroboration.

    You and Walter Day are now claiming that Steve Wiebe’s July 2003 score was an official, undisputed Donkey Kong world record. But in 2003, the referee of Twin Galaxies, Robert Mruczek, said that “for purity’s sake” Steve Wiebe’s score of 947,200 was *not* an official Donkey Kong score. Mruczek also said that the decision to disqualify the score was made in part by Billy Mitchell himself, who was on the board of Twin Galaxies. (Maybe worth nothing that in the posts you link to, Mruczek is compares Steve Wiebe to a mind controlled cult victim…)

    This dispute was highlighted in the movie, but Walter Day and Robert Mruczek say nothing about it in their recent posts. So what is the truth about this score? Is it what what Day and Mruczek said in 2003, separate from Mitchell’s score? Or is it what they are saying now, the official world record?

    You say that the “original” video tape which Mitchell submitted had no glitch, suggesting that it was genuine and undisputed. However according to Walter Day — in the posts which you link to — the video taped score was in fact disqualified and the score taken down within 48 hours. Walter Day said that showing it while Wiebe was playing and posting it as official was a mistake.

    You also suggest that Billy Mitchell isn’t an asshole because he paid for a lunch a few years before most of the events depicted in the film. Just to be clear, are you asserting that Billy Mitchell’s personality as depicted in the film is merely a trick of editing? Because I haven’t met the man, but just based on how he presents himself, I kind of get the impression that he’s an asshole. And especially for someone who seems to enjoy bragging about his wealth and success, paying for lunch once doesn’t seem like the clearest evidence that all his other dickish behavior is just a fluke.

    I know you lost access over this film, and you have every right to be frustrated about that. But I’d really like to get the facts straight.

  20. zota says:

    I need a link to the post you’re talking about.

    Robert T Mruczek – Wednesday, October 29, 2003 – 09:04 pm

    At this time, the current TG world record will be declassed accordingly to a separate
    category. We believe the score to be an incredible accomplishment in its own right,
    and will always treat it as such, however for sake of purity, the reclass is necessary
    once the new category is added.

    I can’t verify this post. But it seems to be a copy of a Funspot forum thread circa 2003. It also seems to be the posts which were quoted in King of Kong. Note that Mruczek’s disqualification of the score is after the two articles you just linked…

    Is there any way to get Robert Mruczek and Walter Day to clarify this issue? It seems central to your objections. It’s also the central issue of the film — that Twin Galaxies “honored” but didn’t officially recognize Wiebe’s scores as Donkey Kong world records.

  21. zota says:

    Jason, reading the links you just posted, Mitchell is quoted as claiming that: “he only counts his scores if they’re played in a public venue”

    Which is one of the stunning moments in King of Kong where Mitchell submits a video tape while Wiebe is trying to get his score verified in a public venue. Mitchell even tells the sweet old lady who couriers his hypocritical videotape that “she can lose her life but she can’t lose the tape”

    I hope you can understand some of the skepticism towards your criticism. Much of what makes the film so compelling is are the words straight out of Billy Mitchell’s own mouth…

  22. Jason Scott says:

    OK, I opened this can of worms and I’m more than willing to sift through them.

    Give me a little time, as I’m editing some footage for next Saturday. I will spend some efforts on what I’m talking about.

    But to be clear, the dinner paid for that I was talking about is the one in the movie. The one in Mitchell’s hometown, the one where he drives by and doesn’t “come in”. He came in, he had dinner.

    I am also not saying that Mitchell is a nice personality all the time. I am saying that he is portrayed, top-bottom, as evil. Flat out.

    I ordered a copy of the DVD and will spent some time with it, my screener, and the facts.

  23. D says:

    Jason, you mentioned one of these above, but I found Stephen Tolito’s reporting on the subject interesting: one two three four. There’s also a fascinating quote from Steve Sanders, apparently Mitchell’s best friend: “Is the movie accurate?” Sanders asked. “I would say yes. Is the movie fair? I would say no.”
    I don’t even know how to parse that in the context of the dinner (lunch) Mitchell paid for.

    In my opinion at this point, the Twin Galaxies rules seem incredibly complex and ever-changing. I wouldn’t say that’s because of any maliciousness, as the issues they are facing get complicated in and of themselves (differing ROMs, suspect videotapes – it’s like we’re talking about WTC evidence or something), and after all they’re a group of enthusiast volunteers. So given these complexities and the desire for a feature-length running time, the King of Kong crew had no choice but to simplify. The question is whether they took it too far, and I’m inclined to think they did. If it’s true that Billy Mitchell was not the record holder at the start of the events the film depicts, that’s a pretty extreme misrepresentation in and of itself. And then all Day’s other criticisms would have to be explored. If Mitchell did buy that lunch/dinner, that’s another huge character-assassinating misrepresentation, since the film shows him driving by but never going in.

    I get the sense that Mitchell knew he was going to play the bad guy in the film and didn’t mind too much, just didn’t realize how far they’d take it. They definitely didn’t need to, it’s a shame in fact since the story is amazing even without all of the fake drama. If it is fake, I mean. And it indicates they didn’t think much of their audience’s intelligence.

    Seeing as I can’t imagine there to be too many impartial people with knowledge of all of the details, it might be interesting to talk to Wiebe himself. Then again, he’s doing promotion for the film.

  24. Jason Sares says:

    You are way off base here. I meet Steve and Gordan at SXSW and while Gordan admits (and is proud of) editing the film to show the conflict the story was there before he started filming. Steve and his friends convinced him to do the project and he only did it because of the characters involved. He clearly shows this in the film.

  25. zota says:

    he is portrayed, top-bottom, as evil. Flat out.

    In the film, Mitchell is always surrounded by people who admire and openly adore him. He’s often shown being kind and generous to them, so long as they aren’t competing with him.

    His quotes in the film do make him sound like an ultra-competative egomaniac. But do you think Billy Mitchell himself would consider this “evil”? He seems awfully proud of that aspect of his personality…

  26. Jason Scott says:

    Jason, I have the King of Kong DVD coming to my home in the mail. Upon its arrival, I will analyze it further, and connect it with the facts I am discussing. Please be patient. See also, my next weblog entry.

  27. Jason, I think a comment I left here yesterday ran afoul of the spam filters. There were four links in it is probably why. Anyway, I was trying to point you towards Stephen Tolito’s articles for MTV news on the subject of the film. You’ve linked to one above, but there was interesting stuff in the others as well. Anyway, you’ve likely already read them.

    Good on ya for looking into it further.

  28. Ryan says:

    I do agree that the film has some serious issues, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Billy Mitchell is portrayed from top to bottom as evil. The scene with Doris in the film version that I saw (don’t know if it was changed in the DVD release) actually portrayed him as a fairly generous guy. However, it was a shiny spot of silver on an otherwise shady caricature.

    I think that there is a lot of back peddling going on with the film from all sides. The film makers obviously have some personal interest in it and are now attempting to down play a lot of the criticism by passing it off basically. And while I do trust Walter Day, there are some scenes in the film that were disconcerting no matter what way they were edited (not towards him – but from others around Twin Galaxies).

    Its a shame we probably won’t ever get the full, true story.

  29. Hold on.

    You are claiming the film “says” things that it doesn’t say. Now, I won’t disagree there are omissions that would have got in the way of the “He’s dodging him” idea.

    But there are tons of unknowns about the motivations and reasons for Billy Mitchell’s behavior. And one could fill in the blanks on their own with assumptions, but they’d be just that, assumptions. I walked away from the film with something of a Rashomon feel to it.

    It sounds like some of you are assuming that the filmmakers are saying something they actually aren’t. You are taking the worst possible interpretation one could assume and blaming the filmmakers for those assumptions.

    “he is portrayed, top-bottom, as evil. Flat out.”

    Evil? Even at the worst possible interpretation Billy doesn’t sink to “evil”. At worst people’s feelings may have been hurt, no one’s livelihood was at stake.

    For me, the film, was more about the cliques that form in any walk of life and the frictions they can cause. Such frictions don’t always bring out the best in people, but it doesn’t necessarily mean one is a “bad guy” and the other a “good guy”. Though people are likely to choose sides, as it looks like it is continuing even here with this discussion.

    From this perspective, although the main protagonist was Steve, I felt that Walter Day, the nice guy at the center of this community, was the real ‘hero’ of the film.

  30. Jamey says:

    And the game in the movie features only Mario, in an uncredited role; Luigi’s scenes were left on the cutting room floor. The two didn’t speak again till Super Mario Brothers 2.

  31. Orson says:

    I just want to get one thing straight: so Billy Mitchell isn’t an incredible jerk? Did they CGI all of his parts in that movie? Of course there will always be different sides to a story with different people remembering things differently — this is not to say that the documentary was “objective” — of course it wasn’t. Are documentaries supposed to be “objective?” I think it is obvious that the filmmaker did try to exaggerate or dramatize the “rivalry” — but how could you not? It is a movie about freaking Donkey Kong. You want an “objective,” just-the-facts movie about people playing Donkey Kong? That sounds like an interesting movie!

  32. Brown Bess says:

    I can’t wait until you make your own film about this scene and everyone interviewed is happy with the way they’re portrayed……

  33. Jim Blackler says:

    I really enjoyed the film, and you haven’t convinced me that there was anything beyond normal film-making license applied. Nor do I think the film was pointing and laughing at the subculture.

  34. 300baud says:

    Thanks for the reality check. Though I thoughoughly enjoyed the movie, several times I had to suspend disbelief to do so. It was just too cute, just too convenient to buy at times.

    It seemed to me that everyone involved in the situation was gaming it to the limit. The one person who was presented utterly without guile was also the person the “documentary” clearly picked as its champion. The same man just happend to obviously be on better terms with the movie production than anyone else. He even appears to have filmed significant scenes of it himself, alone in his garage. As a critical viewer, these things and many, many other caused my immune system to reflexively reject the conclusions suggested to me by the movie.

    I believed at the time that they had engineered situations so that they could cover them as comprehensively as some of them appeared to be. I guess that they really just engineered them after the fact in editing. But despite of the script imposed on the unwitting actors, the personalities of the people involved came through clearly (I assume), and that was what I found the so captivating. The personalities were so familiar and recognizable to me. I know groups composed of these people’s perfect counterparts. I enjoyed the chance to hang out with them for a while. It’s especially nice to learn that Billy’s more like they present him in the first half than the second.

  35. Brandon Stein says:

    I find it pretty hilarious that someone who has ties to Walter Day and Billy Mitchell is complaining about the bias and therefore denouncing the film. It was CRAFTED. Meaning that conscious decisions were made to draw the audience in and create a compelling story. If the film had gone on without any conflict or motivation for the viewer to continue watching, it would’ve been a boring piece of film. As someone else stated, while there may be a fairly clear “protagonist/antagonist” thing going on, it’s still up to you to decide for yourself what you think of the events. After watching the film and hearing the words come out of Billy’s mouth contradict his actions, I can say that I was happy to cheer for Steve Wiebe to get the high score. Great movie.

  36. Danae says:

    Half of your misleading issues with this film- aren’t misleading at all- they mention them in the film, and I didn;t have to do any research at all. open your ears and your mind!

  37. Rob says:

    A core theme is that Billy Mitchell is an asshole, one who doesn’t even deign to spend time in the same location as Steve Wiebe and won’t even come in to eat lunch at the same table as him. In fact, Billy came in and paid for lunch.

    So what? It was probably omitted because it neither added to nor subtracted from the film’s premise. While Wiebe got a “free lunch”, Mitchell got to look “generous” in front of his cronies. In fact, it’d be a net gain for Wiebe were the scene omitted altogether since he wouldn’t have been portrayed as a stalker/interloper. I, too, might not have shown up to a private party that my rival has crashed.

    Billy denies Steve the satisfaction of playing one-on-one on Donkey Kong. They’d played Donkey Kong one-on-one a year before the documentary was filmed at a previous championship.

    Again, so what? Multiple people state multiple times that past events don’t matter; actively defending records in verifiable fashions in the now is most important. Mitchell says this himself as he’s dodging Wiebe…or, he was quoted out of context and made to dodge Wiebe. In any case, he said it at some point and his actions did not match his words.

    It seems like Steve Wiebe finally gets a chance to top Billy and that same day, a videotape arrives and Billy tops Wiebe. Steve Wiebe already had the top spot in Donkey Kong, having achieved the record before the documentary started.

    This statement being true would have destroyed the premise of the film. I doubt it would have been made in this event. As reported in the picture and this thread, Wiebe’s score was apparently “declassified” from regular consideration. Again, I don’t see how this picture would have received funding were the premise to be, “Let’s film a guy beat his own internationally recognized high score.” Basic fact checking would ferret this out. I could be wrong on this one but haven’t seen compelling evidence thus far.

    In any case, it’s bad taste, contradictory, and downright hypocritical to require Wiebe to double-confirm his records via video and live play but allow Mitchell to send in a fuzzy, suspicious “exhibition” videotape and force it into the records without the scrutiny afforded to Wiebe (or anything close to it). The filmmakers did not make this up; all relevant facts are caught on film.

    The videotape that Billy sends in has a suspicious glitch. The videotape was a copy and the original was sent in with no glitch.

    Irrelevant. Does not address “Mitchell gets records on his terms” vs. “Make Wiebe jump through hoops”. Mitchell could have helped himself by making the original available to the filmmakers. They would have been more reliable couriers than an 80+ year old woman. Or he could have used a copy tape other than the one that recorded “Who’s the Boss?” for five seasons.

    Two representatives of Twin Galaxies arcade forced their way into Steve’s garage and looted the machine. Two members of the same social scene as Twin Galaxies and Steve were let into his garage by his grandmother, and asked Steve for permission to photograph the circuit board.

    The film represents TG staff as pushy but ultimately invited guests, which is probably true. While Wiebe cooperated with their requests, the film is not out of line in portraying the TG staff as less than honorable. The “secret master hacker and his gum” accusations alleged by TG were preposterous. Anyone even remotely involved in digital circuitry would understand how difficult it would be to cover up such a modification. Every chip on the board can be probed and/or disassembled and compared to known values. TG almost certainly has the equipment to do so. The only reason they’d resort to superstition is that they’ve studied the data and found no discrepancies.

    A number of insiders constantly appraised Billy on what was going on at the competition and took suggestions from him. Multiple times, the conversations being shown from both sides are not the same conversation.

    This is too vague. My response could be anywhere between, “So what?” and “This changes everything!” The truth is probably in between, but, given my reaction to the previous bullets, I’m leaning toward the “so what” side.

    I’ll stipulate that the film takes dramatic license, but, from where I sit, most of what was glossed over is irrelevant to the film proper and would have made a more boring movie. The rest of your post is not as high of quality as your initial bullet points. Therein you reveal your personal investment in the matter and, thus, your emotional attachment. Therefore, if a reply is forthcoming, I suggest neither self-sourcing nor any literature from Twin Galaxies. As a previous poster mentioned, TG has vested interest in overturning negative aspects portrayed in the movie.

  38. iadaman says:

    do you really think that documentaries have always been super factual? its like the news, its all cut to make a compelling story.You might as well not like any documentary if those are your grounds for despising it.
    Without billy mitchell being the devil or steve weibe overcoming corruption whats the point of the documentary. Its probably not exactly factual, but i do know that billy is a class a douchebag. It is however a hell of an entertaining movie.

  39. Ford says:

    zota: “He claims that Steve Wiebe’s June 2003 score was “accepted with honors” and that he held the official Donkey Kong World record with it for almost 3 years”

    No, zota, not “with it.” Day was saying that Wiebe held the record for almost 2 years with the first score. The record he held after that point was with the Funspot score, which did remain the top score, but for a 48 hr. interruption, until they verified Mitchell’s tape some six months later.

    aside:six months-does that number mean anything to you? if Mruczek is really just a Mitchell cronie, wouldn’t he be just a leeetle more concerned with checking the official tape a bit sooner to make sure his beloved Billy stays on top?

    Granted, TG did decide to reclassify Wiebe’s score in Oct. 2003, but under serious pressure from the gaming community. You’ve read that message board and the overall tenor of the posts that decried the use of a double donkey kong board to reach such a high score. Mruczek was defending Wiebe at that point, and are you going to tell me that Mruczek was only doing that because he could see into the future and know that the whole world would be scrutinizing his handling of the Wiebe situation, so he better act like he’s on Wiebe’s side?

    No-to Mruczek it was just business as usual, and it was just another score that needed to be verified.

    The reason they didn’t accept Wiebe’s other videos was pretty obvious. Even with all the attempts to make The King of Kong fit neatly into Aristotle’s plot arc and to define a clean protagonist and a horrible antagonist, who is really the most seedy individual in the film? It’s Mr. Awesome himself. You don’t find him at all a bit disturbing and vengeful? You don’t think that his name would raise some eyebrows when TG discovered his involvement with Wiebe after all they knew about him. It raised some eyebrows for me.

    Now one area that does strike me as problematic is the fact that apparently Steve made a trip to San Jose and proved he could reach the kill screen in front of TG staff ( That is the most indicting bit of info as far I can tell, but the movie never gets into that.

    But points go to TG also in Mruczek’s repeated offer to travel to Steve’s to verify his score personally. Mruczek was going to pay his own way, bring a TG approved board and give it to Steve. Steve posts at 11:56 on Nov. 10 that he’s up for Mruczek’s offer (, and from a later post of Mruczek’s it is clear that Steve did call him, but Mruczek only got the message. So-the question there is: who dropped the ball on that one? Mruczek seems to indicate he did not. But Steve doesn’t post anymore on the TG website, so it’s impossible to tell.

    Ah, so many mysteries! I guess it is just as easy to write revisionist history even in the digital age with all these message boards, videos and recorded conversations that should help clarify things.

    Hmmmm…after all this late night reading (and with Lost’s pot-boiler finale fresh in my brain) I could almost see all of these guys in on this from the beginning. Wiebe, Mruczek, Mitchell, and Day hire Gordon to write a movie in which they are the stars and play their respective real life roles in a documentary to create controversy that will stir interest and get people running to the message boards and the KoK website. Everyone’s happy: Steve gets famous, Billy gets to ham it up, Mruczek and Day get exposure for the competitive gaming industry. It sounds like a good plot for a movie, and wouldn’t you know it? One is in the works.

  40. Refocus that Anger Beam says:

    I’m a film maker. I’ve been making and enjoying films for my entire 35 years on this planet. The main thing I gleaned from your little rant is that you are jealous and bitter. Jealous of the success of someone who had a similar idea as you, and bitter that you can’t now have that same success.

    Being bitter is a sickness like cancer that will eat away at your soul. It is the single most poisonous substance you can have in your body. I was bitter for a long time, seeing people I deemed as unworthy being escalated in an industry I was trying so hard just to get footing. The anger swelled in me and clouded my thoughts and tainted my work. It will do the same to you.

    Why dwell on the past when the most important thing is to look toward the future. If this “Arcade Film” is the only egg in your basket then you have a problem. A good filmmaker is always thinking and plotting new projects. Maybe it’s a good idea for you to put your energies into a new project instead of spending your valuable time digging up info to defame another colleagues work.

    If you think for one second that any documentary or reality TV isn’t stilted in some way to make the audience feel a certain emotion, you are crazy. ALL docs are edited to create a narrative story. If they weren’t no one on earth would want to watch them. In most cases a the focus of a doc isn’t realized until the very end of shooting. Once all the footage is tallied the film makers see what they have and find and angle.

    It’s not healthy to get mad at every film that comes out that may be similar to an idea you have had in the past or are working on at the time. This happens 100s of times a day. There are no new ideas. I guarantee a thousand writers have the same idea at the same time everyday, but the rule generally is, whoever gets to the finish line first wins.

    Please let your anger go and focus that energy on making the best film you can make, no matter what it may be about.

  41. Jason Scott says:

    Salutations, Ignorant Fuck.

    A number of weblogs recently linked to this page from out of the blue, leading me to believe you jostled among them and found yourself reading this entry. This might explain your commentary on a page written in February, with multiple clarifying followups, that has otherwise been superceded elsewhere in the five months hence.

    As I sincerely doubt that your filmmaking and film watching career harkens back to the exact moment your choking, bloodied infant form issued forth from your screaming mother, I will assume that you are one of those folks who takes a number of liberties when he constructs his scribbled opinions in the heat of emotion and ignorance. Therefore let me say the following, in an easy to understand list:

    1. This movie and my movie are not the same movie; they did not steal my idea and I did not steal theirs and they do not overlap in subject matter.

    2. I am making several movies.

    3. While movies are, by their nature, edited products, out and out lies and misrepresentation opposite to reality are generally not what people should find “at the finish line” when they assemble their footage.

    Enjoy your filmmaking career and die, slowly and alone, forgotten but for your distant-faced caretakers.

  42. Your new best friend says:

    I bet you’re fun at parties.

  43. Chuckles says:

    “Enjoy your filmmaking career and die, slowly and alone, forgotten but for your distant-faced caretakers.”

    Okay, that was awesome.

  44. Rob Swindell says:

    “at the last moments of this exciting and amazing documentary, we find out that Billy Mitchell has posted a new record on Donkey Kong, pushing Steve out one more time.”

    Maybe I saw a different version of the movie? The movie that I *just* watched ended with Steve Wiebe as the world record holder (with a score of 1,049,100 points achieved on August 3, 2006).

    Apparently Billy Mitchell has surpassed this score since then (with a score of 1,052,200), but that fact was not included in the movie that *I* watched (as distributed by Netflix).


  45. G. Karber says:

    Wow, I can’t figure out if Jason Scott is a huge asshole, an idiot, an egomaniac, or some combination of the three.

    Beginning a post with “Salutations, Ignorant Fuck,” trying to insult someone by referring to their birth with the words “your choking, bloodied infant form issued forth from your screaming mother,” I mean, wow, yeah, I bet you’re gonna make a GREAT documentary.

  46. King of Nuts n' Milk says:

    I followed the /. link and felt like posting on an almost three year old thread. Don’t be mad.

  47. Jason says:

    LOL Jason your retort (#41 in the comments) is absolutely brilliant!!!

  48. Ryan says:

    Anyone who is so threatened by discourse and has to result to, albeit flowerful and entertaining, irreverence and vituperation, must lack self-confidence. Accepting criticism is the most important virtue of any artist. I enjoyed the documentary and have read all the criticisms, and even though the director is accused of taking creative license, there is no denying the questionable morals of Billy Mitchell and some of those surrounding him.

  49. Dylan DW says:

    Jason – just made my way over here after watching your talk “You’re Stealing it Wrong” (informative and hilarious preso). Anyways, I had a friend show me Kings of K a ways back and he was really excited to dump on everyone in it (despite being somewhat a classic games enthusiast himself) …I did get a funny feeling about it at the time – not that the “wrong side” was portrayed as “right” but that the reality was more complicated and less ominous than depicted. Thanks for taking the time to have an educated opinion on this stuff. Now I’m off to watch the Lamp trailer.

    Thanks for doin’ your thing… if I ever have funds (ugh, dreaded sysadmin job looms) I will totally support your effort to preserve our oh-so-ephemeral digital culture!

  50. Mike says:

    Its about time someone did an arcade documentary.