Good Triumphs Over Evil as ‘King of Kong’ Villain Billy Mitchell Is Caught Cheating

It may not seem like it, but 2007’s The King of Kong: A Pocket Full of Quarters is a fairly important film. The unexpected success of the film, which chronicles Steve Wiebe’s attempt to set the record for Donkey Kong‘s high score, led to an entire genre of documentaries about inconsequential bullshit like Man on Wire and Jiro Loves Sushi. The movie’s famous “Kill Screen” scene was even parodied on How I Met Your Mother. It became something of a phenomenon, and brought attention to Steve Wiebe and his rival, the now-adult video game prodigy Billy Mitchell.

If you’ve never seen the movie, the central thrust is that Steve Wiebe buys a Donkey Kong arcade machine, puts it in his garage and practices playing it until he sets a world record, a game he records in its entirety, and submits it to Twin Galaxies, a retro arcade that is sort of the governing body of classic arcade game high scores. Twin Galaxies sends some people out to look at Wiebe’s machine to make sure he isn’t cheating, and eventually decided that the wear and tear on his cabinet’s board, a board that was over 20 years old, could possibly have allowed him to cheat in some way, and he’ll have to come to Twin Galaxies and play on their machine if he wants to be recognized as the world record holder.

While this is going on, the current record holder, Billy Mitchell, mails in a short video that shows him breaking a million points in the game, the first person to have done so. Unlike Wiebe, who had his cabinet torn apart and poured over, Mitchell’s claim is accepted without question. Steve Sanders, a record holder for the game Joust, explains in a special feature from the DVD why, basically saying that everyone knows and trusts Billy because he’s been doing this for twenty years and has no reason to lie.

Only he did lie. At least kind of. Over ten years after Mitchell pissed on Steve Wiebe’s parade, internet sleuths watching his submission figured out that an actual Donkey Kong arcade cabinet isn’t capable of producing some of the effects in Mitchell’s video, and that he had used an emulator, such as MAME, to produce his high score, in violation of Twin Galaxies rules. It’s important because emulators have different kinds of cheat functions built-in. There’s no evidence that Mitchell used any cheats, but he knowingly lied about how he had become the first player to score a million points in Donkey Kong for a decade.

So now Billy Mitchell, whose life has basically revolved around setting video game high scores since the 1980s, has been banned from the Twin Galaxies leader board and all of his records have been removed. Which seems harsh, but the NFL could take a page from Twin Galaxies here. Lying about your score in Donkey Kong gets you a lifetime ban; cheating your way into the Super Bowl only gets you a four-game suspension and you get to keep your MVP title.

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6 years ago

Finally, that lying cheating scum got what he deserved. Hooray for Steve Wiebe!