Friday, August 31, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Here we examine video games and the people who play them, not just for fun, but for recognition, glory, and world records; this is the subject of an outstanding documentary, with perhaps the best title of any film released this year (and the rest of the film ain’t too shabby either).

Director Seth Gordon paints us a surprisingly complex tale of two very different men. Billy Mitchell is the king of his universe, the world record holder for Donkey Kong, who once played the first perfect game ever recorded on Pac Man, owns his own company, and is a longtime friend and contributor to Walter Day, the founder of Twin Galaxies (an organization which tracks video game records).

Mitchell was once named “the greatest video-game player of all time” and “Gamer of the Century.” Confident and arrogant to a fault he is the undisputed master of his domain.

Steve Wiebe, a husband and father finding himself unexpectedly unemployed more than 20 years after Mitchell broke the record, decides to do what no one has done before - beat Billy Mitchell and set a new world record on Donkey Kong. Spending hours in his garage every night playing the game over and over Wiebe would do what many considered impossible and begin a controversy which would take years to settle.

Two men, who except for their shared drive to succeed and be recognized, couldn’t be more different. It’s a tale of struggle, of winning and losing, and the life lessons which go along as the pair square off to set the high score for the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.

This film is simply a joy to watch. The tale of one unassuming man’s quest at greatness is a universal story that all can relate to. Wiebe’s attempts to earn a place with the video gaming greats is difficult and sometimes heart-breaking. Including interviews from both men and their friends and families, including Walter Day and Steve Sanders, the film becomes less about a video game and more about one man’s struggle to stand-up for himself, against all odds, and do something no one believed could be done.

Set to the music of the 1980’s (including “You’re the Best” and “Eye of the Tiger”) the film is a toe-tappin’ good time. You may not believe one of the best films of the year could be about a 20 year-old video game record, but it is. Here’s a film that the whole family not only could see but should see. King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters is a winner, on anyone’s scorecard.

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