Last night Matt and I watched “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” which just came out on DVD. I have to say, not since “Lost in La Mancha” have I been so engrossed in a documentary. It follows Steve Wiebe as he tries to take down Billy Mitchell’s high score on the brutal arcade classic Donkey Kong. Incidentally, what grown man goes by “Billy” nowadays? Regardless, for anyone who has played video games instead of, perhaps, going outside, for even the smallest part of their lives, this movie completely resonates. Steve is such a nice guy, too! I just couldn’t get over how likable he was, and how egotistical Billy had apparently grown after twenty years of unchallenged video game excellence. Needless to say, the plot completely sucks you in. Before you realize it you’ve really bonded emotionally with this guy’s story, even when Steve’s little girls says, regarding the Guiness Book of World Records, “Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.”
In the film you end up seeing the crazy butt kissing and inside politicking of a society that I, at least, didn’t realize had a central core, and you also realize that a surprising number of people who devote their lives to greatness in decades-old arcade games are actually really decent people, albeit living by a Jedi code of some kind. You also see the proportional heartache of people who have devoted their lives to as fickle a mistress as twitch gaming. Also, briefly noted, is that there are no women in this world with the rare exception of Doris Self, who is some kind of octogenarian Qbert savant. The thing is that even though Billy comes off looking pretty badly, it’s clear that he’s not a terrible human being by any means, just someone who let something trivial become what defined him, and then what happens when someone else threatens to take that away.
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