This was a no-brainer for me to enjoy: early video game footage + quirky subculture with lots of obsessed nerds + bad guy v. good guy storyline = great documentary! King of Kong takes its place among the last few years of oddball docs that digs into some little niche and uncovers a gem of a story. King of Kong is suspenseful, funny and will have you on the edge of your seat as Donkey Kong records are attempted and debated. Seriously.
Billy Mitchell is the man when it comes to video game legend. He’s held the Donkey Kong (and Donkey Kong, Jr.!) record since 1982. It’s considered unassailable in the classic video game universe—yes, such a world exists out there. Mitchell is still living off his ’82 glory and has spun it into a hot sauce business and influences a group of kiss-ups who help him maintain his status as “The Greatest Donkey Kong” player EVER.
Enter Steve Wiebe; an ex-Boeing employee in Redmond, Washington. Wiebe, who for some unexplainable reason after he was laid off, buys an old machine and attempts to climb the Mt. Everest of classic arcade gaming: to not only break Mitchell’s 25 year old record but to break 1,000,000 points in Donkey Kong!
I love the old games of my youth. King of Kong references or shows many games in this—Q-Bert, Tempest, Donkey Kong, Joust, Robotron, Pac-Man, Centipede, Moon Patrol, Space Invaders, Dig Dug, Gorf, Defender, Tron, Missile Command, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaxian, Asteroids, Paperboy and probably a few others. If this is your sort of thing, I’m right there with you as I love seeing the simple, whimsical, charming as all get out video games from that era.
This is such a great little film that is successful because it enters a previously unseen world—classic arcade game hard-core types who LIVE for these games—but creates real suspense in what will happen to the likeable Wiebe as he attempts his quest for the record. Mitchell, with his silly beard and hair, is an incredible egomaniac that will have you slack jawed at his arrogance. Mitchell is a complete and utter ass so it’s easy to get caught up in rooting against him. It’s a classic battle of good vs. evil via Donkey Kong. Recommended!