The King of Kong: Fistul of Quarters

Kristin and I were playing Scene-It on the Xbox 360 the other night and one of the questions showed a clip from the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. We were asked to name the movie -- duh -- and one of the options was "The King of Kong". I thought it was just made up to try and trick players away from answering correctly and thought nothing of it.

Then the next day I was browsing the available downloads on Xbox Live Marketplace and came across a movie called The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters. It's a real movie title, after all. A real movie about the the competition that surrounds setting world records in classic arcade gaming. I couldn't tell from the description if it was a documentary, a mockumentary, or if it was entirely fictional.

Let me say that we were a good thirty minutes into the movie and I still couldn't tell if it was fake or serious. The main character, Billy Mitchell, comes across as such a total loser in the movie that the whole time you're watching it, common sense tells you that it has to be fake. Nobody would actually act and look like this clown. Nobody in real life, in the mid 2000's could allow themselves to be filmed looking this bad and while being this obnoxious. But then you realize that it's real and well, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But let me back up and say that the movie centers around Billy because back in 1982, Billy was the recognized record holder for a bunch of video games. Games like Donkey Kong, Centipede, Pac-Man and so on. Well, as time went on each of Billy's records were broken except his Donkey Kong record. That is, until 2005 when a guy named Steve Weibe living right down the road here in Washington, in the Redmond Ridge development, broke his record. Needless to say Billy and his merry band of disciples who oversee the record keeping (and somehow manage to make Billy think anyone cares about his 'celebrity') try to find ways to invalidate Steve's new record.

To say anymore would give away too much of the story since it's a short movie (80 minutes) and relies heavily on the conflict that comes from an unknown (Steve), trying to crack a decades-old geeks-network of classic gaming enthusiasts lead by head-slimeball, Mitchell. Perhaps Mitchell is more likable in real life (unlikely), but you do sort of pity him for trying so desperately to hold onto his record.

Anyway, the movie did receive multiple awards from film festivals around the country for Best Documentary and it's definitely well made. Even if you have no interest in classic gaming (I don't), I still recommend watching the movie for the simple voyeuristic value it provides.


NobbyNick said...

It's a "Watch Intantly" on Netflix. I may have to check it out.

I'm a little older than you. I remember one summer my sister and I were shipped off to Grandma's and we would bike around town till we found 25 soda cans, then trade them in for a quarter, then go blow it on Donkey Kong at the local pizza joint. I don't think I ever got past level 3 or 4, but maybe that's a good thing.

Brad Gallaway said...

Have you ever seen "American Splendor"?

I'm a huge fan of the comic artist/writer Harvey Pekar, and this film is about his life... that's beside the point, though. (but it's a great film!)

anyway, the reason i bring this up is because in AS, the actors portraying some of the characters are SO nerdy/neurotic/impossiblyuncool that you sit there and you think "Wow, that guy is so overwritten and fake"... and then the scene cuts away to the *real* person the character is based on and... wow, it's like a spitting image of the actor's hammy, bizarro performance.

Billy Mitchell's got nothing on Harvey's sidekick at the VA. ; )