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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The King of Kong or: How I Learned to Stop Loving and Hate Billy Mitchell

As far as I can remember, I have had a fake-real obsession with Billy "I wear American Flag Ties" Mitchell. I will take this opportunity to mostly blame Jeff Gerstmann, who was pivotal in the exaggeration of my personae, because he would antagonize me about certain things, and so then I would play those things up.

During my tenure at GameSpot, I wrote reviews of several different Pac-Man games, and features which referenced Pac-Man. I took the opportunity in most of them to make a comment about Billy Mitchell, or his American flag tie, or a comment about how I'm always commenting about Billy Mitchell.

While I may have a soft spot for guys that have such spectacular mustaches (dating back to a very early crush on Tom Seleck), I will confess that my love and appreciation for Billy Mitchell has more to do with his incredible proficiency at arcade games, and less to do with his appearance or attitude.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
is a "documentary" about the events surrounding Billy Mitchell's, and challenger Steve Wiebe's, Donkey Kong world records. Though Billy is very much made out to be the villain in that movie (and whether he is or isn't), it's an extremely fascinating documentary about a subject that I hold dearly (absolute obsession with video games). And the quality of the storytelling in that movie is topnotch, whether you care about the subject or not.

And it has given me a new subject to crush on, that Double Dragon world record, which is not entirely out of reach.


Milkman519 said...

I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time but I have never gotten around to it.

RVonE said...

So you wanna take a swing at that record? Go for it!

Caro said...

Howdy stranger!

What I love most about The King of Kong is that it takes such a niche interest--high scores in old-school video games--and captures a story around it that just about anyone can relate to thanks to the complexity of the personalities involved. I've strongly recommended it to just about anyone who will listen to me, whether they care about video games or not.

Now if only Nintendo would put the arcade version of Kong up on the Virtual Console instead of the lousy NES version, I'd take a shot at that score myself! :P

surfninja said...

I've seen The King of Kong more times than I'd care to admit at this point. I suppose I have a personal penchant towards understanding the nuance and reasoning behind odd human behavior, which is in great abundance in that film and in part what kept drawing me to it. It's also just a great piece of storytelling. I also happen to like video games... and Jell-O, but enough of that nonsense! (I am now craving Jell-O.)

The way the movie props Billy Mitchell up to be the bad guy of the film is kind of unfortunate, I think. I mean I fell for it as well in the first viewing, but for anyone who cares to look a little further behind the curtain to understand what drives these people, you begin to realize more and more that ultimately Billy Mitchell and his goons are just simply products of their environment, and never particularly "bad". No one was ever malicious in the film, only maybe a bit skeptical of newcomers. If you were Billy Mitchell, sitting on top of these scores for all these years, you're understandably going to get a little shaken when some unknown, white bread new guy comes down to your town top you.

TKoK, as Wiebe's story, understandably portrays the Twin Galaxies community as the enemy of the film, and in doing so, ultimately succeeds in telling a great, compelling story. I just wish that people wouldn't be so quick to write Mitchell and the rest off as simple bad guys. They're people too, ya know?

I'm sure though that Billy Mitchell doesn't give a flying fuck either way.

Dante Kleinberg said...

My girlfriend and I loved that movie, but when I got home and checked out the Twin Galaxies website, I was a bit irked to find they'd left a whole third dude out of the movie.

This guy was apparently the champ when Wiebe started, not Billy Mitchell, but the movie is so obsessed with its David v. Goliath story it straight-up lies about it.

grasshopper said...

Billy Mitchell is the ideal video game villain, nappy facial hair and everything

Anonymous said...

If i ever see billy, or his cronie(there is a possible donkey kong kill screen), Im going to BLAST them in the face as hard as I can. Two fucking DORKS! Im going to the fun spot!