Monday, March 10, 2008

The Video King

I recently watched a surprisingly good documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters where Steve Wiebe tries to break the Donkey Kong record held for many years by the popular Billy Mitchell. These battles take place at video arcades across America as well as Wiebe's garage in Redmond, Washington. A neat back and forth battle fraught with controversy for a record that only a handful of people actually care about. Similar in spirit to many academic battles.

More than just a good movie, it brought back memories from my high school days when video arcades were at their prime. I spent too many nights at the Willowbrook Mall arcade in New Jersey playing Donkey Kong, Pac Mac, Centipede and the like with their simple graphics and repetitive play. These arcade got quite crowded with a few local celebrities that could break a machines record with quite a crowd looking on. Much bigger crowds than Wiebe draws in his world record attempts in the documentary.

I was never a great video game player, I actually prefer pinball, but we took good notes and writing microcomputer simulations of some popular games became a hobby of mine (see Ribbit). I had just enough success to bring me heavily into computers and thus computer science. A little more success and I probably would not have gone into an academic career. Life moves in mysterious ways.

I would reminisce much more about those old video arcades but it's my turn on Guitar Hero. Rock on.


  1. How can you possible compare Donkey Kong to academic battles?!

    Donkey Kong is much more important.

  2. Ummm, Pac Man?

  3. Chasing Ghosts is also worth a watch - it follows the the lives of the gamers from the LIFE magazine photo, mentioned in The King of Kong.

  4. I would love to get paid that much for all my video game playing... btwo Donkey Kong is second only to Asteroids