Billy Mitchell Heads to Court Over Contentious “Donkey Kong” Records

When video game competitions become legal competitions

Donkey Kong arcade champion Billy Mitchell in 2014
Billy Mitchell in 2014.
Datagod/Creative Commons

As anyone who’s seen the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters knows, the world of competitive video gaming can be as heated and as tumultuous as any sport. (Would we watch an arcade-centric project by the team responsible for 7 Days in Hell and Tour de Pharmacy? Yes.) While the documentary, which focused on rival gamers Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, was released in 2007, the controversy it sparked hasn’t gone away.

Mitchell has filed a lawsuit against Twin Galaxies, an online gaming community known for documenting record achievements in assorted video games. At The Verge, Jon Porter writes that the issue at hand here stems from Twin Galaxies’ 2018 decision to remove all of Mitchell’s records from the site.

The investigation began in 2017, when Twin Galaxies member Jeremy Young filed a claim disputing Mitchell’s records. The results of the investigation include a particularly unsettling conclusion:

The taped Donkey Kong score performances of 1,047,200 (the King of Kong “tape”), 1,050,200 (the Mortgage Brokers score) that were historically used by Twin Galaxies to substantiate those scores and place them in the database were not produced by the direct feed output of an original unmodified Donkey Kong Arcade PCB.

As a result of Twin Galaxies’ 2018 decision, Mitchell’s records were removed and he was banned from participating in the site’s leaderboards. Twin Galaxies has a partnership with Guinness World Records — meaning that records documented there have an impact outside of the gaming community. As Porter writes, Mitchell has argued that Twin Galaxies’ ruling has done him harm:

Mitchell is arguing that Twin Galaxies’ statement was libelous, and implied that he was a cheater. A court hearing is currently scheduled for July 6th.

Donkey Kong, emulation software, Guinness World Records — this is a far cry from most lawsuits. Sounds like there’s enough here for a follow-up documentary.

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