Ben Oliver

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The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, ‘Hi, I see that you’re good at Centipede.’
08 April 2015

A documentary following a gamer’s quest to beat the all time Donkey Kong high score.

We follow Steve Wiebe (pronounced ‘weeb’) as he attempts to knock the reigning champion Billy Mitchell off the top spot. Mitchell made his name in the 80s and carved a career out of competitive gaming. Wiebe is a relative newcomer to the scene but poses a genuine threat to Mitchell’s record.

What ensues is the tale of a reigning champion fighting to hard to maintain his reputation, all the while trying to avoid actually playing the game head to head, should he lose the title.

Mitchell comes off as a mulletted blow-hard, reeking of desperation. He has the air of someone who’s really famous in a seedy casino somewhere in Vegas, and thinks this applies to the outside world.

His opponent Wiebe in the meantime is a straight-laced school teacher with a wife and kids, who unwittingly makes a mockery of Mitchell’s wannabe rockstar image just by being a normal guy (one of his record breaking tapes includes his son in the background, yelling, asking him to wipe his bottom!). It helps that he’s a nice person, and he has an underlying grit about him - he doesn’t like being fucked about.

The contrast makes for brilliant viewing. At one point Wiebe breaks the record, only to have Mitchell send people into his house to dismantle his machine, accusing him of cheating. Wiebe breaks it again, this time in an arcade in front of dozens of people, Mitchell sends in a tape minutes later of a higher score.

It’s hard not to get behind Wiebe. I can’t say if that’s just the way it is, or if it’s a bit of bias on Gordon’s part. As The King of Kong rolled on, Mitchell started to feel like a comedy villain; it seems to fit the narrative too conveniently.

Either way, this is a funny, endearing film that puts the passions of those involved onto the big screen in an earnest, uncynical way. A true gem.

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