Back in February, we wrote about the accusations that had been leveled against Donkey Kong record holder Billy Mitchell, famous as one of the faces of competitive old-school gaming. One of the stars of the well-remembered 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Mitchell is an enigmatic figure among high score hobbyists for both his personality and the mysterious quality to his high scores, which detractors have maintained he held on to thanks to a degree of clout over Twin Galaxies, the most prominent organization that tracks those units of videogame-related bragging rights.
Now, however, things have changed: Billy Mitchell is no longer the Donkey Kong king. As of Thursday, he has been officially stripped of his Donkey Kong and other videogame high scores, as well as being banned from submitting any future scores to Twin Galaxies. It’s a dramatic shake-up of the the official history of Donkey Kong, which almost seems to necessitate a new final chapter to the 2007 film. Unknown is whether the same record will continue to stand via the Guinness Book of World Records, or whether it will similarly be changed to reflect the Twin Galaxies decision.
“With this ruling, Twin Galaxies can no longer recognize Billy Mitchell as the first million point ‘Donkey Kong’ record holder,” said Twin Galaxies in a statement. “According to our findings, Steve Wiebe would be the official 1st million point record holder.”
The big decision came after months of investigation and research from Twin Galaxies, which was alerted to potential rule-breaking by Jeremy Young, the moderator of a popular Donkey Kong forum. Young had become suspicious of Mitchell’s seeming inability to recreate his more than 1 million point scores in public settings, and came to believe that Mitchell had instead passed off emulated rather than official arcade cabinet footage for the records.
“The rules for submitting scores for the original arcade Donkey Kong competitive leaderboards requires the use of original arcade hardware only,” said Twin Galaxies. “The use of MAME or any other emulation software for submission to these leaderboards is strictly forbidden.”
More specifically, it seems that Young was able to prove to Twin Galaxies’ satisfaction that specific “board transition images” in the Mitchell footage simply couldn’t be generated through an official arcade cabinet. Or in other words, these were the smoking gun that took down the 1,047,200 high score from The King of Kong. As the statement reads:
On 02-02-2018 Twin Galaxies member Jeremey Young ( @xelnia ) filed a dispute claim assertion against the validity of Billy Mitchell’s historical and current original arcade”Donkey Kong” score performances of 1,047,200 (the King of Kong “tape”), 1,050,200 (the Mortgage Brokers score), and 1,062,800 (the Boomers score) on the technical basis of a demonstrated impossibility of original unmodified “Donkey Kong” arcade hardware to produce specific board transition images shown in the videotaped recordings of those adjudicated performances.
Jeremy’s assertion concluded that not only can original “Donkey Kong” arcade hardware not produce the board transition images shown in the recordings, but that these transitions were actually generated through the use of MAME (emulation software.)
“Based on the complete body of evidence presented in this official dispute thread, Twin Galaxies administrative staff has unanimously decided to remove all of Billy Mitchell’s’ scores as well as ban him from participating in our competitive leaderboards,” the group wrote. “We have notified Guinness World Records of our decision.”
This appears to be the ignominious end to a singularly unusual public gaming career for Billy Mitchell. The former record holder hasn’t yet released a statement on being stripped of the high score titles.