Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movie Recommendation: "King of Kong"

I'm not one for documentaries, but "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" is really a different type of documentary. It gives a good overview of really the birth of competitive video gaming. No, not with Halo or Call of Poopy, with the originals: Pacman, Q*bert, and of course, Donkey Kong. The movie basically follows two guys -Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiobe- and both of their individual struggles for the world high score of Donkey Kong.

I realize that this might not be the most, uh, impressive plotline. I mean, who really cares about the world record of a decades-old video game except for the people gunning for it? That's what I thought anyway. I don't play the old video games because that's really beyond my generation (well, I personally only started playing video games on the N64). But the good part about King of Kong is that it doesn't really focus on the video game: the strategies and techniques and whatnot (although it does reveal a bit of Wiobe's strategies briefly, which actually is very interesting). Instead, it focuses more on the characters.

First you're introduced to Billy Mitchell, who was basically there and apart of the beginning of competitive gaming, from the very beginning. You get to learn his philosophies, not only about gaming but also about life, and get to basically see how he sees himself. Then you're introduced to Steve Wiobe, who -in my opinion- is the real star of the movie. Wiobe wasn't there for the beginning of gaming, he just starting aiming for the Donkey Kong world record very recently, in 2003. What follows is essentially a power struggle for whether or not a record is legit, and who the rightful record holder is.

Again, while it does provide some fun facts about just how competitive gaming started out and insights into the life of an old-school competitive gamer that you might not have ever seen before, it mostly focuses on that single record, and more specifically, on Wiobe. While I do realize that every documentary has to have some bias in order to make it entertaining, based on the footage that at least they showed, I personally began to root for Wiobe, and I'll let you watch it and decide for yourself whom you support.

I found myself extremely enjoying The King of Kong and honestly, it's better than 97% of the crap that gets made nowadays. So rent it (or Netflix it), give it a watch, and let me know what you think.


PS - If you want to see how the record is going, check out Twin Galaxies.

PPS - Like I said, there was definitely bias involved. Here's an article that may clear things up. Nevertheless, it's still a very good movie.

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