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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

King of Kong – Donkey Kong Champion Documentary

If you grew up playing in the video arcades of the eighties you surely remember Donkey Kong. When you play Donkey Kong you control a man trying to climb a switchback trail to save a woman in distress. On top of the trail stands a giant gorilla throwing barrels down at the man in order to prevent the rescue. If you never played Donkey Kong you should know that it was once considered the most popular video game of all time.

“King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” is about an intense rivalry over who is the best Donkey Kong player in the world. Bill Mitchell is arguably the greatest player of Donkey Kong of all time. He has set numerous Donkey Kong records. Steve Wiebe, during a layoff stint, decides that he is going to break the Donkey Kong record. He practices and studies Donkey Kong night and day until he becomes a master in his own right.

It doesn’t sound like much of a film but boy was King of Kong interesting. Bill Mitchell is by far the most fascinating subject in the film. Bristling with confidence and ego, the 30, 40 something Mitchell looks something between an old west outlaw and a cult leader. If this guy walked into a room you’d feel his presence before you even saw him. There is an aggressive, sinister and fascinating side to Mitchell that really grabbed my attention. Don’t think for a second though this is a guy is just some odd ball who still lives in his mom’s basement playing Atari games. Mitchell is a successful entrepreneur, a family man and very driven to succeed.

Steve Wiebe is also a grown man, has a family to care for and shows tremendous determination. That is where the similarities to Mitchell ends though. Director Seth Gordon could not ask for a better foil to Mitchell’s passive aggressive personality. Wiebe is presented as modest, earnest and likeable. He wins the hearts of many gamers through his sincere will to play and genuine nature.

So what happens when these two personalities meet? I won’t spoil that for you but things get really interesting.
I’ve always been fascinated with esoteric human interest films. If that kind of movie is right for you, you’ll really enjoy this movie too. This film is more than two guys just playing Donkey Kong. It takes a close look at the history of arcade games and a glimpse into the wonderful world of characters that make up the culture of gaming.

Check it out sometime.

If you still have the video game bug, please check out this very similiar film (featuring much of the same cast noted above) that is about champion, classic video game players.  Read my review here

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