If ever you were looking for final proof that videogame players were nothing but sad, self-absorbed geeks, look no further than this fascinating documentary. The King of Kong details the battle between two men (one a teacher, the other a bloke who sells sauce) to hold the highest score ever on the 1980s arcade game Donkey Kong. And if anyone under the age of 30 is reading this, then go ask your parents to explain the game to you — because yes, they would have played it.
In one corner we have record-holder Billy Mitchell. He's a hot-sauce mogul who also claims to have introduced chicken wings to Florida. He's got long heair and a beard, and kinda looks how Jesus Christ would have looked if he'd been a white man. Mitchell — who, to be blunt, is a complete and utter tosser (or, as some posters at IMDb call him, "a douchebag") — racked up a score of 874,300 points back in 1982, and so was crowned the Gamer of the Century. A crown he's tried to hang on to at all costs. In the other corner is the good guy in our story, family man and high school science teacher Steve Weibe. A man who loves his wife and kids. And the Donkey Kong machine in his garage. Weibe played and played and played the game until one day he topped 1,000,000 points. And recorded himself doing so on videotape, which he then promptly submitted to Walter Day at Twin Galaxies — a game arcade in backwater Iowa that considers itself the "official scorekeeper for the world of videogame and pinball playing since the early 1980s". The Twin Galaxies referees (who are, of course, all good buddies with Mitchell) rejected Weibe's claim to the title, saying that the machine he made the score on could not be verified as legitimate.
And so the challenge is on. Weibe travels from his home town of Seattle to a gaming convention in Florida to take on Mitchell in front of a live audience and Twin Galaxies referees, To find out what happened, I'm afraid you'll just have to go and see the film (or wait for its DVD release in a couple of weeks). Suffice it to say, you won't see more hustling, lying, deviousness, ducking, weaving, immaturity, stupidity and downright bad sportsmanship from an adult man anywhere. And that's just Mitchell. What's most fascinating, though, is top be reminded just how much gaming has changed in the past 25-odd years. You kids and your fancy PlayStations and Wiis and Xboxes with their cutting-edge graphics and space-age controllers should watch this just to see what REAL gaming is about — pure skill, ability, dedication and persistence ... I mean, these games didn't even have a pause button!
EXTRAS **** Man, where do we start? OK, there are two commentary tracks — the first is with director Seth Gordon, producer Ed Cunningham and associate producers Clay Tweel and Luis Lopez; the second is with IGN.com editorial director Chris Carle and Jon Gibson, founder of iam8-bit.net. Next is a heap of extra footage (including festival Q&As, a Walter Day profile, Steve's DK strategies and loads more) and extended interviews with Mitchell, Sanders and others. FInally there's a featurette called A Really, Really Brief History of Donkey Kong, an Arcade Glossary and an update on the latest rumblings over the world record in The Saga Continues. Oh, and just for good measure, there's also the theatrical trailer.• Head over to guardian.co.uk for your chance to win The King of Kong on DVD