The King of Kong – A documentary
Hey look, it’s a documentary about video games from the 80’s—that’s cool, right? According to the guys on this 2007 documentary, the answer is yes. This documentary details the rise of competitive gaming on classic Nintendo arcade games like Donkey Kong and Centipede. There’s something interesting about it, like watching a dedicated scientist prepare an experiment.
The story is mainly about Steve Wiebe and his drive to become the world-recorded holder on Donkey Kong. The documentary focuses on events surrounding his attempts and some of his life too. There is a personal touch which is nice, and it’s presented in a fairly traditional way. His parents are interviewed as they sit on a couch. His wife complains about his video game playing in the garage. There’s some news clips of the first time Wiebe broke the world record. Fun stuff.
The real story is the competition between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, the reigning champion on Donkey Kong. There’s some interesting back and forth about how one tries to beat the other and I think I was rooting for Wiebe by this point. It’s the classic case of the blue-collar schmoe versus the arrogant jackass with a mullet. They pick the most arrogant and over-the-top pieces to focus on for Billy Mitchell, but he seems pretty comfortable in his own skin. He sells hot sauce, and gives an energetic tour of his hot sauce warehouse at one point. The guy is successful. We get it.
The documentary twists and turns the competition of personalities in different ways. First, Wiebe is a blue-collar guy who got laid off, then he’s an OCD idiot who can’t stop playing video games. Many of his friends and family give some short stories about his weird behavior and obsessive-compulsive personality, which is perfect for this story, because Wiebe won’t stop until he’s successful in competition against Mitchell. And he does. Wiebe becomes the “king of kong”. At least for a little while.
Mitchell has all the credibility and the pull with almost everyone, so much so that the record-keeping organization goes back on their rules and accepts an unsupervised video tape showing Mitchell breaking Wiebe’s record. This upsets Wiebe, because he tried the same thing and his video wasn’t accepted for being unsupervised. Mitchell gets all the breaks, I guess. Incredible. Wiebe can’t break Mitchell’s record in his next attempt at a live event and all looks bleak for Steve Wiebe. Poor guy.
The end of the film is maybe the best moment. Wiebe is sitting in his garage, as always, and the movie begins to ring with some furious Wagner as he races to beat the record. The score climbs higher and the numbers race up and up, toward Mitchell’s number, like a literal rocket, until Wiebe surpasses Mitchell. He celebrates with his kids. A great moment. The video of Wiebe breaking the world record is accepted this time around and he becomes “king of kong” once again. This small documentary has it’s moments and doesn’t waste time on anything extraneous to the story. Maybe that’s why it’s about 90 minutes. There are some personal moments, but the real story is the competition between Mitchell and Wiebe, which is very interesting. Mullet takes on Family Man and Family Man wins! Hooray!