[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00163LTLY][/pullquote] The world of competitive video gaming is far more complex than you could ever imagine as this 2007 documentary that focuses on the arcade game Donkey Kong shows. Whereas heading to the arcade to pass some time playing games like Pacman and Donkey Kong is just a bit of fun to most, to some it is a competitive sport requiring a high level of skill, stamina and fierce regulation to ensure that the right people are recognised as being the best in the world.
The main focal points of King of Kong are Billy Mitchell, the darling of the competitive video gaming world for two decades; Steve Wiebe, the upstart pretender to the crown; and Walter Day, head of Twin Galaxies which has been tracking and verifying competitive gaming scores for over 25 years.
After being introduced to the history of competitive gaming and quickly establishing that Billy Mitchell is not only the current Donkey Kong highest points scorer, but also something of a gaming ‘messiah’ to those who compete in this field, it is clear that we are supposed to cheer for King of Kong challenger Wiebe and throw rotten tomatoes at super villain Mitchell. Indeed it is easy to follow this path – Wiebe is a likeable guy with a wife and two kids who is routinely down on his luck and deserves a break, while Mitchell is a successful hot sauce magnate who runs his own company and has an arrogant streak as long as his flowing hair.
King of Kong charts Wiebe’s attempt to oust Mitchell’s world record Donkey Kong arcade game score which has stood since 1982. As if the length of time that the record has stood were not reason enough to think that this is not an easy challenge, interviews with other gamers explain the difficulty of the game and illustrate that no-one has even come close to Mitchell’s score in the intervening years. Indeed, we are told that the average Donkey Kong game lasts for less than two minutes but that a world record effort would take over 2½ hours. In a nutshell, what Wiebe is attempting to achieve is close to impossible and having fallen short so many times in his life already, you wonder whether he will ultimately find that this is also a bridge too far. Either way, you find yourself rooting for him and being sucked into the journey alongside our intrepid hero.
What follows is an extraordinary look into Wiebe’s attempt and his path into a world where the independence of the supposedly unbiased scorekeepers is heavily called into question due to their hero worship of Mitchell. Just as you think that Wiebe may have achieved his mammoth goal, the rug is seemingly whipped out by the establishment and once again it seems that heartbreak rather than triumph is all that will befall poor Wiebe.
While it may sound like an insignificant subject matter and one that is hard to care much about, King of Kong director Seth Gordon draws you into a world where gaming is so much more than a mere past time and somehow makes it utterly compelling viewing.