Friday, December 9, 2011

50 DTSBYD: #41 The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Part of my 50 Documentaries to See before You Die Challenge

I like video games, but not that much I guess.  Growing up, we had a Commodore Vic-20 system, which played a number of Atari knock-off games.  Since it plugged into the house's one color TV, we could not play for long - namely, no time after 5:30pm, and not during afternoon Cubs games.  You don't get used to playing video games for long periods of time when you are going to be kicked off after 20 minutes.  It wasn't until my mom broke down and bought a Compaq (TabWorks operating system.  Yeah) that I was able to play Donkey Kong.  And I was pretty good.  I could get to the 4th or 5th level pretty consistantly.  Apparently that isn't very good.

Enter the Kong.

King of Kong looks at the kind of person who will spend four, five, six, twelve? hours a day playing the same video game.  In one corner is Steve Wiebe, an obsessed an mild mannered nerd who doesn't even have the self-confidence to correct people when they mispronounce his name.  In the other corner is Billy Mitchell, a hot sauce salesman who may have peaked in 1987, but speaks with such bravado you wonder if he knows that the best years are behind him.  Honestly, he seems to be peddling his old success and unwilling to perform the way we expect, like a professional sports player who hasn't laced up the cleats for a few years, but still acts like he'll be starting on Sunday.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, you see that absolutely anything can be controversial if three or more people are involved.  The political infighting and paranoia surrounding Twin Galaxies is rather humorous (seriously, they referee competative arcade game high scores) until you realize that these things REALLY matter to this group.  I don't have the time to try to best Donkey Kong, but it does make me happy to know that if I wanted to be the best in something, there is probably a group that can officially convey the title to me.

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