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King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 24th, 2018, 9:12 am
by VideoGameCritic
People had been telling me to watch this 2008 documentary for years. After not being able to find it on Netflix, I bought the DVD off Amazon for $6, and watched it last night with the wife.

It is pretty great. Basically two guys vying for the title of best Donkey Kong score of all time, with the ragtag officiating organization Twin Galaxies caught in the middle. Steve Wiebe is the "nice guy" school teacher who can't seem to get any respect. Billy Mitchell is the slick businessman who seems to have Twin Galaxies in his back pocket. Stylish and conniving, Billy is the perfect villain. But he's such a caricature, you can't help but like the guy. The fact that these two grown men put everything on the line to say they're best at a decades-old arcade game is both hilarious and awesome.

I was thinking about putting together a review for this DVD, but I think I just did. So have all you guys seen this?

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 24th, 2018, 9:57 am
by scotland
Just make sure you keep up on the recent events involved.
This is a story in Polygon from just the other day. Mitchell has been accused of 'falsifying the platform' and 'using prohibited techniques', and Twin Galaxies is reviewing and has already tossed out some of his records.

My take is that this the analog of a doping scandal - Mitchell is one of the best Donkey Kong players ever, but may have used a little something extra, like emulation, to push it that little bit farther to be the first to break a million (which is no longer the top score, but is still an important achievement of being first at a major record).

Its a long story, and I'm all for you reviewing the 2007 movie as a retro gaming milestone - but do include some statement about the story, or be prepared to revise your review as this story is still developing.

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 24th, 2018, 11:44 am
by Retro STrife
Hey, it's about time! I think your review sums it up perfectly. I feel the exact same about the movie. While it's best for video game fans, I could see non-gamers liking the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy competitive storyline that this documentary shows too. I felt the same as you about Billy Mitchell.. he's the perfect villain, and I want to watch him fail, yet simultaneously there's something about him that's hard not to like. At the same time, he reminds me of the washed-up uncle in Napoleon Dynamite, who was still hanging on to his old high school football days, when no one else in the world cares anymore about his meaningless stats from 30 years ago. I appreciate the movie for what it is, but meanwhile, don't have much interest in the recent drama over the scores.

This movie doesn't lend itself to repeat viewing though, and I haven't watched it since 2007. Still, King of Kong is definitely a milestone moment for video games. Pop on Netflix or Amazon Prime and you'll see a bunch of video game documentaries. Back in 2007 you couldn't find any of them anywhere, even for sale on Amazon (trust me, I looked regularly!). I actually saw King of Kong in theaters- that's how mainstream it got. Roger Ebert reviewed the movie for cripe's sake (3 out of 4 stars!).. as did most of the other major critics. King of Kong proved that video game documentaries could tell interesting stories and were worth the time and effort to produce.. and that's its greatest legacy in my eyes.

Here's the Ebert review: ... rters-2007

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 24th, 2018, 12:16 pm
by mbd36
I rented the documentary back when it came out and quite enjoyed it. And now Billy Mitchell's high scores are being called into question much like that old Dragster record.

You should also check out "Ecstasy of Order" which is about some of the greatest Tetris players in the world and the Tetris world championships.

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 24th, 2018, 4:18 pm
by Wallyworld
The guy that was caught lying about the Dragster record (Todd Rodgers) also happen to be the only witness to one of Billy Mitchell's DK records. The tape that was submitted in the movie "King of Kong" from Billy Mitchell to beat Wiebe's record has been proven to be done on an emulator as well.

Shady stuff from some shady guys. Who would go through this much trouble for a high score?

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 25th, 2018, 11:06 am
by VideoGameCritic
As for replay value, I watched the director's commentary last night and it was very informative. It explained how they filmed everything, and also filled in some plot holes. For example, the first tape Billy sent was the wrong one, hence the guy with the FedEx package. There's also a second commentary track I haven't listened to yet.

Incidentally, they didn't plan the movie being about a Donkey Kong showdown - that storyline developed organically and they were lucky to be there to watch it unfold (and keep the cameras rolling).

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 25th, 2018, 10:32 pm
by FusekiGames
Every time I see Billy Mitchell, the song (Highway to the) Danger Zone pops into my head...


I hated the movie myself, but there is something about video game documentaries that don't involve the companies and programmers that created the games that I despise. Personalities that play games just don't interest me, and I found myself bored to tears.

There's no accounting for taste, I guess...

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 26th, 2018, 11:07 pm
by VideoGameCritic
I was just reading an article about how Twin Galaxy now vets its high scores. ... r-records/

This has become a lot less romantic with Internet technology. It used to be people needed to break the record in front of a crowd, or record to video tape. Now it seems like they are relying on YouTube videos.

Re: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Posted: February 28th, 2018, 1:30 am
by Retro STrife
Hold on, hold on. How did I forget this?...

Forget Billy Mitchell, forget Walter Day... the biggest star of King of Kong is Funspot Arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire, which claims to be the largest arcade in the world. You'll recall that Funspot is the location of the famous Donkey Kong machine that they play in the movie. It's right on Lake Winnepausakee, near Weirs Beach. I never knew of Funspot until I watched King of Kong. Since I live only 3 hours away, I had to check it out. Since then, I've been several times, and I try to take a vacation up there once every 2 or 3 years. Not just for the arcade - it's all got plenty of other family activities, and I spend time fishing on the lake too. Tonight, my wife and I just booked a weekend there this summer, so that's how this popped in my head.

When it comes to arcade games from the 1970s and 1980s, there is probably no better place in the world than Funspot. (Admittedly, it's much weaker for games after 1987.) It's just rows and rows of machines - all the classics and dozens more that you've never heard of. I highly recommend the trip for anyone. Places like this just don't survive anymore, so I sometimes fear that Funspot won't be around anymore some day.. check it out while it's still there!