The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

An epic battle between good and evil! A race against time to save the girl! The triumph of the underdog!

This week’s film had all this and more, but was not the typical Hollywood blockbuster you might expect. In fact it was not fiction at all, but a story taken from the real world of competitive arcade gaming. Adam decided to stray from his usual preference for pretension and screened MNFC’s first documentary. Any disappointment we might have felt at this deviation was short-lived as The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was a truly remarkable film.


After Adam’s Epic Beans Mk II and some truly delicious corn bread and banoffee pie made by the fair hand of Sally, Adam introduced us to our hero, Steve Wiebe and his nemesis, Billy Mitchell (in a more than a little biased manner, I might add!). Billy Mitchell is a famous classic arcade game champion: Machiavellian in nature (even his parents seem to think so), keen to share his pearls of ‘wisdom’ whilst displaying the most appalling mullet since Billy Ray Cyrus, he is most definitely not a good sport. Having been the holder of many world records in a variety of arcade games since the early 1980s, Billy finds himself challenged in 2006 by unknown hobby gamer Steve Wiebe to see who can achieve the highest score in Donkey Kong and takes it very badly indeed.

The film originally started out as a documentary about the world of competitive gaming generally, but the director Seth Gordon decided to focus on the rivalry between the two men as it emerged during filming. The behaviour of the protagonists and an amazing cast of supporting characters made the film more engaging and exciting than any number of big budget Hollywood action films, and reinforced the assertion that truth is stranger than fiction.

Some of the more memorable supporting characters included:

–           Walter Day, founder of video game business Twin Galaxies and official global arbiter of arcade game world records, who also practises transcendental meditation.  Walter has recently retired from the world of competitive gaming to pursue a career in music.

–          Roy Shildt a.k.a ‘Mr Awesome’ who encouraged Steve not give up in his quest to be recognised as a champion gamer or in Mr Awesome’s own words “convincing Steve Wiebe not to be a chump, talking him out of chumpatizing himself.” You can see him and hear more of his words of wisdom in this video, including his advice on how to get girls. (Pose naked in Playgirl magazine, giving your phone number and sperm count under the picture. Obviously.)

–          Brian Kuh, one of Billy’s many disciples and a dedicated gamer who was never quite good enough but couldn’t bear to see anyone else other than Billy become a champion.

–          Steve’s son – “Daaad! Wipe my butt!” – and daughter – “Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in [The Guinness Book of Records].” These children gave us a small but significant insight into some of the negative consequences of an individual’s obsessive behaviour.

–          Doris Self, an octogenarian Q*bert champion who saw right through Billy’s nonsense!

We chin-stroked our way through considering to what extent footage had been edited to suit the good guy vs. bad guy narrative, and how viewers can be manipulated by documentary filmmakers purporting to be showing ‘the truth’. There was some controversy about this after the release of the film, with facts disputed by many of the featured characters.

We thought back fondly to our childhoods, playing Donkey Kong and other classic games on hand-held consoles and annoying our parents. Well, all our parents except Jess’ mum, who ended up developing a Tetris addiction! We also touched on the darker side of gaming addiction, such as a child who died after being neglected while its parents played an online game about raising children, and others who had died after prolonged gaming sessions.

Susan proudly declared that the key to being a video game champion was maths. I’m starting to think that Susan’s ‘maths is everywhere’ mantra is going to start to rival Jon’s ‘all roads lead to The Bicycle Thieves‘ assumption, as I think maths has been raised in this way on at least one previous Monday…’

Anyway, I’ve decided to leave you with a choice:

  1. Those of you who felt an affinity for Billy “No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It’s sort of like the abortion issue” Mitchell can support him by purchasing some of his hot sauce, or by considering a getting a tattoo like this truly and deeply disturbing specimen.
  2. Folks on Team Wiebe can buy his new album to use as an inspirational soundtrack to life when The Karate Kid theme tune just won’t cut it.
  3. Those of you who don’t like to take sides can choose to enjoy this example of what happens when grown men decide they want to play Donkey Kong in real life, or have a go at Donkey Kong themselves.

Until next time…

Becca xx


3 thoughts on “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

  1. Pingback: The Act of Killing | MONDAY NIGHT FILM CLUB

  2. Pingback: Best of Enemies | MONDAY NIGHT FILM CLUB

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