Longtime ‘Donkey Kong’ record holder gets high scores stripped away
After years of enjoying his reign at the top of the Donkey Kong leaderboard, legendary arcade gamer Billy Mitchell has officially fallen from grace.
Twin Galaxies, the preeminent source (and adjudicator) for video game records worldwide, has made a decision to strip Mitchell of his infamous Donkey Kong records after months of investigation revealed he cheated to produce his high scores. All other scores and records Mitchell has held have also been removed and he has been banned form future competitions.
Billy Mitchell was the subject of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong along with fellow Donkey Kong competitor Steve Wiebe as the two competed against each other to retain their high score record titles. Mitchell famously refused to compete against Wiebe in person, instead sending in a VHS recording of himself reaching a record-setting 1,047,200 high score, but it turns out the VHS recording of his play session held clues that Mitchell cheated.
According to an accusation made in February and subsequent investigations that all pointed toward the same conclusion, Mitchell’s Donkey Kong arcade cabinet had been tampered with. Twin Galaxies came to the conclusion that Mitchell used an emulator that looked and played almost exactly like the original Donkey Kong from 1981, but gave Mitchell a unique edge over players using the original, unaltered version of the game.
The advantage of Mitchell’s emulator is unknown, but it could have included things like save states (so he could try again from a certain point if he died) or allowed him to alter certain aspects of the game to more easily progress further and further. The VHS footage of Mitchell’s record was undoubtedly spliced so he could pass off his record as legitimate.
One clue that ignited Mitchell’s downfall was his emulator’s use of a transition screen that the original arcade game could not produce.
“From a Twin Galaxies viewpoint, the only important thing to know is whether or not the score performances are from an unmodified original [Donkey Kong (DK)] arcade [printed circuit board (PCB)] as per the competitive rules,” Twin Galazies said in its statement. “We now believe that they are not from an original unmodified DK arcade PCB, and so our investigation of the tape content ends with that conclusion and assertion.”
Mitchell hasn’t held the Donkey Kong record since 2010, which is currently held by Robbie Lakeman with a score of 1,247,700.