Thursday, March 06, 2008

The King of Kong

We do like our documentaries. From Errol Morris classics to those ones about spelling bee participants and crossword puzzlers, we always seem to enjoy watching the strange lives of other people. Perhaps because they make us feel better about our own.

The latest one in our queue is about classic video arcade games from the 80's and the people who still play them, specifically the battle for the highest score on the first game to feature a famous little Italian plumber: Donkey Kong.

The documentary feature film The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters follows the attempts of a relative newcomer to the gaming world, Steve Wiebe, to detrone the reigning champion of classic arcade games, Billy Mitchell. Who is the King of Kong? Well, you've got to watch the film to find out...though the competition continues long after the film's release...

I will say that I thought I knew what geek/nerdom was until I watched this film. Did you know that even video game players have groupies? I had no idea that things got so cutthroat or clique-ish. If you do rent this movie, I highly recommend watching all the extras like deleted scenes, featurettes and interviews from the film festivals. The menu screens even have little video game versions of the main characters, including Billy Mitchell with his beard and hair and (probably patriotic) tie. Hilarious!

For me, this brought back fond memories of playing the original arcade versions of PacMan, Centipede, and Galaga in my hometown pizzeria. Once, my parents somehow acquired an old stand-up arcade version of Ms. Pac-Man (I think through a store they used to own) and it ended up in our garage for a few months. Oh, how I wish we still had that. If it had an original board, it could've been worth thousands on e-Bay...


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