The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The King of Kong (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Seth Gordon
viewed: 02/01/08

The latest in what I have noted as a genre of documentaries in the last few years, that of an obscurist culture and competitions among the die hard obsessionists for the title of “world champion”, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is about just such a competition among players of the “classic” video game, Donkey Kong.  Unlike last year’s goofy and charming Air Guitar Nation (2007), Kong doesn’t quite reach that level of the sublime.  But, like Air Guitar Nation, it’s largely driven, not merely by the competition itself (far less entertaining anyways watching a game being played by someone else than the wild antics of the air guitarists), but by the characters, the real life people who make the story.

Billy Mitchell is the hot sauce salesman, “legendary” 1982 champion of the game from back in the day, whose whole identity is tied into his champion status.  He’s a winner, with some seriously feathered hair and an outsized ego.  Steve Weibe is the challenger, an average nice guy/family man who got into serious play in recent years after being laid off from a job.  His humbly submitted world record was highly doubted and ultimately snubbed by Walter Day’s video games stats organization and the video gaming mainstream.  He is challenged to come and play on a “legitimate” live machine in front of people to prove himself.

The showdown is set.  Thus the championship.

But the irony of the film is that Mitchell chickens out rather pathetically of a head-to-head play.  So, for a championship, it’s a film without the live drama.  But there is plenty of other human drama in the passive aggressive interaction and the characters who have all come to this little story with their strange narratives and odd personalities.

It’s fun.  It’s cute.  But oddly, I’d say over-rated by a lot of reviews.  Goofy, funny stuff.

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