King of Kong – Fistful of Quarters – Documentary

This documentary was filmed prior to and released in 2007. The documentary is about two men, Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, and a feud (of sorts) that arose between the two men who both held high scores on the 80’s arcade version of Donkey Kong. Billy Mitchell was the originally nationally recognized record holder for the highest score (back in the 80’s), up until the 2000’s when Steve Wiebe scored a higher score on his home arcade game and began receiving recognition for being the best player. From here the documentary dives into people discrediting Wiebe’s high score for alleged tampering of his game board and his attempts to reach a new high score in an official setting.

I will give King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters a 5 of 10, because I felt like the movie was less entertaining and more thought provoking. While I do like playing video games, I am not an avid player (especially not to the caliber of the people who are in the film), but I think people who are not “gamers” can still enjoy this film. Watching a movie, I like to be moved or come away feeling affected in someway, but I never felt an emotional connection to the documentary.

One of the things I appreciated the most is that the founder of the video game record company Twin Galaxies, Walter Day, brought up the fact that this rivalry is just as heated as any sports team rivalry. Personally, I feel like most competitions outside of sports are not recognized as much as they should be. I am not into sports, but I understand why other people like it and have an appreciation for it, even if I don’t. I wish people shared that type of mentality with things like this, because while it may not mean a lot to them, it means a lot to the people that are part of the competition.

The way that Billy Mitchell is portrayed reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a few friends about people staying stagnant or evolving. Billy seems like the type of person who achieved a level of greatness early on in his life, and he was able to uphold that for nearly two decades, but never really grew much as a person after that initial success. The documentary shows he a successful businessman, but it still seems like the success he has in his business is rooted in the accomplishment he made with the video game. Instead of letting the high score define a moment in his life, he let that moment define him. Which raises the question: how many people in his position would do the same thing? If someone became a great success or famous overnight, how long would they let that single thing define who they are as an individual?

One of the issues that arises in the film is that Steve submitted a high score with a video tape, but it was dismissed because reviewers from Twin Galaxies (an official video game record keeping company) felt that his machine was not up to standard and may have been tampered with, but when Billy submitted a video tape with a high score, despite having unaccounted score jumps visible in the video, Billy’s high score was credited as the new high score and Steve’s was not. According to the Wikipedia page, this was recognized and an apologize was issued to Steve Wiebe, but it shows that the Twin Galaxies institution was flawed at the time. People were obsessed with Billy Mitchell to the point they allowed certain discrepancies to pass, partially because of who he was. I think this reflects heavily on a lot of different institutions that might not recognize the full effort or talent of certain people in favor of presenting someone else more recognizable or relatable. Instead of giving credit or a chance to a person deserving of it, they would prefer to stick with what people they are more comfortable with (the whole “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality). Whether it was dues to more consideration or the documentary coming out, it seems like the company has mended their policies and is taking a more impartial stance than it used to.

Overall, it was not my favorite film I have watched lately. I watched the entire thing because I wanted to see whether Steve would accomplish his goal of having the highest score or not. I feel like parts could have been cut out to make it shorter, certain segments seemed unnecessary, but it still had some entertainment value. As stated earlier, this film made me think and reflect more than it entertained me. You win some, you lose some.

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