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King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

August 29, 2007 | Comment?

Last Friday, we went to see King of Kong, A Fistful of Quarters, a brilliant documentary about two guys battling for the world record at Donkey Kong.

King of Kong

At the simplest, it’s a classic Good vs. Evil story. The characters are stunning. They’re real people. Determination. Hypocrisy. Persistence. Deception. Dedication. Love. It’s all there.

Billy Mitchell is the “Gamer of the Century”, world record holder in Donkey Kong, BurgerTime and achieved a perfect score in PacMan. Now he sells hot sauce and lives off the glory he once achieved 25 years ago. He loves the image of himself of being the king. He has acolytes. He has big hair. He’s an ass.

Steve Wiebe is a normal dad, laid off from Boeing, finds solace playing Donkey Kong in the garage after the kids have gone to bed. He’s despondent, but finds a simple thing to do. Get the world’s record in Donkey Kong. His confidence rebuilt, he becomes a junior high school science teacher.

Walter Day is the self-proclaimed Official High Score Record Keeper. And that’s what happens when somebody takes on a task and does it consistently. They become The Expert. Walter is That Guy, the earnest person who grabs a task that nobody else thought to, or wanted to, and really owned it.

Billy’s high score for 20 years is over 874,000. Steve breaks that record at home, films it and submits it. The High Score posse tear his machine apart to verify the record. Steve is undaunted. He flies to Florida to break the score at Twin Galaxies, Walter’s arcade. If he breaks it there, in front of witnesses, he would then own the record.

Steve reaches out to Billy. It’s just a friendly competition, right? We all appreciate the same things. Can we be amiable about this?

Billy, who lives minutes away, breaks the World Record of the Snub.

Does Steve break the record? What does Billy do about it? Will Billy’s acolytes see through the muck? The end does not disappoint, even into the credits.

You have to see this movie.

(Cities and theatre locations are listed at BillyvsSteve.com).

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