If you’ve seen the excellent video game documentary The King of Kong then you’ll have heard of Billy Mitchell, the cocky long-time champion of Nintendo’s arcade classic Donkey Kong.
The film chronicles the mid-2000s attempts of new challenger Steve Wiebe to finally best the Donkey Kong high score set years before by Mitchell. Wiebe is portrayed as the underdog to root for, Mitchell the self-assured pro.
To cut a long story short, Wiebe has his big shot – the first ever Donkey Kong score over a million points – ruled out after Mitchell throws doubt on Wiebe’s claim. Mitchell then provides contentious video taped evidence of his own million point run, which arcade high score tracking company Twin Galaxies accepts instead.
Fast forward to today, and the result of a long-running investigation into Mitchell’s Donkey Kong high score. A decade on, Twin Galaxies has determined that several of Mitchell’s high scoring achievements could not have been possible on an unmodified Donkey Kong arcade machine – something which official records require.
The result? A seismic change in the history of arcade game high scores.
Mitchell’s records – for Donkey Kong and every other arcade game – have been swiped from Twin Galaxies’ official listing. The organisation has also notified Guinness World Records.
And, after achieving another, verified million point run soon after The King of Kong was filmed, Steve Wiebe is now rightly recognised as the first player to beat the million score mark.
Twin Galaxies’ investigation was brought by member Jeremy Young, who examined the tape of Mitchell’s score runs and alleged they could only have been made using an emulator. For several instances, this has now been proven correct.
“Twin Galaxies has meticulously tested and investigated the dispute case assertions,” the organisation’s report states, “as well as a number of relevant contingent factors, such as the veracity of the actual video performances that the dispute claim assertions rely upon.
“In addition to Twin Galaxies’ own investigation into the dispute case assertions, at least two different 3rd parties conducted their own explorations and came to identical conclusions.
“Most notable was the 3rd party (Carlos Pinerio) that Billy Mitchell engaged to help examine the dispute case claims on his behalf, utilising whatever original equipment Billy could provide, whose final finding was consistent with Twin Galaxies investigation and others.”
While the use of an emulated copy of the game is not enough to say Mitchell cheated, the discovery Mitchell was not using an official, untampered Donkey Kong arcade machine is enough to see his scores excised.
“From a Twin Galaxies viewpoint, the only important thing to know is whether or not the score performances are from an unmodified original DK arcade PCB as per the competitive rules,” the organisation concluded.
“We now believe that they are not from an original unmodified DK arcade PCB, and so our investigation of the tape content ends with that conclusion and assertion.”
Both Mitchell’s now outlawed records and Wiebe’s successful challenges have since been beaten many times as the push for ever higher high scores continues. (The current record, set by 31-year-old Robbie Lakeman, is 1,247,700.) But for those who watched The King of Kong, this late twist to the tale is a stunning coda. Mitchell’s reputation now lies in tatters, and underdog Steve Wiebe finally holds the title of the first to post a million point Donkey Kong score.