Citizen Kong

Who will be the next Donkey Champ?

Donkey Kong has long been one of the most powerful and fearsome figures in all of video gaming. The massive primate, piston-like arms effortlessly flipping barrels at a red overall-wearing protagonist, is probably the meanest, toughest boss in perhaps the most difficult and unforgiving arcade game ever created. Naturally, that made Kong a target.

So in 1982, an arcade junky named Billy Mitchell, who hailed from just around the corner in Hollywood, set his sights on getting the game’s high score. Through constant practice and sheer determination, the young phenom set the World Record on Kong with a high-score of 874,300 points – a record that would stand for 20-years. Over that period of time, Mitchell started an ascension that landed him in video game cannon: he was featured on the cover of Life magazine, achieved a perfect score of 3,333,360 in Pac Man, and was crowned “Video Game Player of the Century” at the Tokyo Game Show.

Then came Steve Wiebe.

Wiebe was destined to be the underdog. A former engineer and family man from Seattle, Wiebe set to topple Mitchell’s score in a classic showdown of two fierce competitors. He logged hundreds of hours per month on the retro Kong machine in his garage and traveled to shows across the country to try and best the million-point mark (which as of 2002 belonged to another gamer named Tim Sczerby). But Wiebe’s sojourn stirred the competitively fueled Mitchell – who had since taken over his father’s successful restaurant business and launched his own hot sauce company – into putting on the gloves again and trying to reclaim the record as his own.

But what happened next? Did Wiebe, the long-shot kid from the West, surmount Mitchell, a gaming celebrity as ensconced in the halls of Video Legend as the primo-primate himself? That’s the subject of the new documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, debuting this Friday at Sunrise Cinemas Las Olas Riverfront (300 SW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale). The film traces the pair as they vie for the title of 2007 Donkey Kong Champ, and chronicles the legendary fallout that emerged from their battle. And a lot of very sore thumbs. Tickets start at $7.Call 954-761-9400, or visit www.billyvssteve.com.
Fri., Aug. 31

 
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