Is Hank Aaron's home-run record the most besieged stat in sports this year? Only if you don't consider "Donkey Kong" to be a sport.
On Thursday night, former "DK" arcade champ Billy Mitchell contacted MTV News to announce that he had reclaimed the top score with a record 1,050,200 points. He has witnesses, including someone who's willing to take a polygraph test to prove the run was legit.
"It's authenticity on a scale like never before," Mitchell said. He wanted to clear all doubt about his mastery of "Donkey Kong" and honesty as a player.
Mitchell's achievement, verified live by a senior referee from the classic gaming record-keeping group Twin Galaxies, comes just four months after rival gamer Steve Wiebe claimed the crown. It comes just a few weeks before the nationwide release of a documentary, "The King of Kong," that portrays Mitchell as a cocky, meddlesome, score-denying villain (see "'Donkey Kong' Record Holder Says New Flick Settles His Score" and "Ex-'Donkey Kong' Champ Finally Speaks After Getting Bruised By New Doc").
The new score tops the recently verified score Wiebe set last summer of 1,049,100 by a narrower margin than Mitchell had initially intended. But he decided to keep things close. "I'm not Steve Spurrier," Mitchell said of the legendarily aggressive football coach. "I'm Billy Mitchell. I don't need to run up the score. I just want to put one in the win column. I want to make it competitive. I didn't want to make it too tough."
Mitchell made his record run two weeks ago at an unlikely venue: the '80s-themed annual meeting of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers in Orlando, Florida. The brokers wanted Mitchell to attend so he could sign autographs and play some friendly arcade matches. Agreeing to attend on the condition that they make a donation to the Make a Wish foundation, Mitchell pegged the event as his return to arcade glory. "In the summer I had plenty of time to practice," he said.
Fans of rivals Wiebe and Mitchell, as well as the referees at Twin Galaxies, are highly skeptical of "Donkey Kong" world records. That's both a main topic of "The King of Kong" and a major aspect of the fallout that has followed advance screenings of the film, which portrays some TG refs as biased. Some members of Twin Galaxies have been viewed as Mitchell cronies, bending rules to let him claim records; others have cast doubts on Wiebe's scores, despite the lengths he's gone to prove they are accurate. For example, Wiebe filmed his just-toppled mark with a handheld camera set up in his garage. To extinguish doubts that previous scores he had set were done with the help of doctored arcade boards, he filmed himself putting a genuine board in the machine and removing it following his then-record feat.
This convinced some. Former Twin Galaxies senior referee Robert Mruczek, however, raised a question on the TG message board about a break in the tape that could have allowed Wiebe to switch boards.
Mitchell took extraordinary steps to prevent doubt about his new run. He achieved the score on a "Donkey Kong" board he bought off eBay. The board looked clean to him, but he sent it to Nintendo of America headquarters in Redmond, Washington, requesting someone there authenticate it. An engineer from the company, which made "Donkey Kong," e-mailed him and said the board checked out. The board was sent to Mitchell, who kept it in the Nintendo packaging. Then, at the Mortgage Brokers convention, Mitchell had the board removed from the packaging and placed into a "Donkey Kong" cabinet only when a security guard, a notary public and a manager from a nearby GameStop were watching. This process was filmed.
The GameStop manager was in charge of keeping the machine secure. "He had bought a special lock," Mitchell said. "He still had a receipt from it. And he had the key on his key ring and said it would stay there until such time — not knowing when I would accomplish this — I got the score." The gamer said he jokingly got the manager to agree to a polygraph test as well.
Mitchell achieved the new score on his second game, which took two hours and 39 minutes. Still, Mitchell says he could have done better. In the end, he jumped barrels until he let one smack Mario in the stomach. Then the clock ran out. He still had one life left and could have played five boards deeper before reaching the game's so-called kill screen. Instead, he says, he decided to keep it close. Twin Galaxies senior referee Todd Rogers witnessed the session, securing it as an official high score.
After reaching his mark, Mitchell left the machine and went home to the Fort Lauderdale area. The GameStop manager removed the board — on tape, of course — and sent it back to Nintendo where, Mitchell said, it was verified to be as clean as it had been on its first check. He thinks that will prove he did things on the up and up, though he did suggest one loophole: "Remember 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'? There could have been a little guy in there."
Mitchell is offering $10,000 to anyone who breaks his new record at the Classic Gaming Expo this weekend in Las Vegas, though he won't be there. He also doesn't know if Steve Wiebe will be there. He hasn't heard from his rival about the new score yet.
MTV News was unable to reach Wiebe or the "King of Kong" filmmakers to see if they would incorporate the new wrinkle into their story.
As for what Mitchell is up to next, he said he was eager to attend his son's football scrimmages: "My son, he can run like the wind blows." And Dad will certainly be back to "Donkey Kong," if — or is that when — the pressure is back on.