The Untold Truth Of Gaming’s Biggest Cheater


Forget about Bowser: right now, the biggest
villain in video games is Billy Mitchell. For over 30 years, he was one of the most
prominent gamers in the world, holding high score records on classic arcade titles like
Donkey Kong, Burger Time, and Ms. Pac-Man. On April 12, 2018, however, all that came
crashing to an end. Twin Galaxies, the organization that crowned
Mitchell as the king of arcade games back in the ’80s, determined that three of his
world-record scores have been falsified. That might seem like a simple outcome, but
the real story behind Mitchell’s rise and fall is a maze with more turns than Pac-Man. “Oh yeah!” From bitter rivalries to a lawsuit against
a cartoon, here’s the story behind Billy Mitchell. The original king Billy Mitchell had his first brush with mainstream
media attention all the way back in 1982. At the time, the arcade market was booming,
thanks in part to dedicated players who devoted themselves to racking up high scores to claim
bragging rights. “When you want your name written into history,
you have to pay the price.” The competition was so fierce that the founder
of the Twin Galaxies arcade, Walter Day, began collecting verified high scores to compile
an official national scoreboard. Less than a year after the scoreboard became
public, ten of the country’s top gamers came to Twin Galaxies for a competition that was
covered by Life magazine. That crowd included Billy Mitchell, age 17. He’d racked up a world-record 15,000,000 point
score in Centipede, and spent his weekend setting yet another world-record in Donkey
Kong, which would stand for the next 25 years. “It’s a very good game but I think Donkey
Kong is the best game ever.” “Donkey Kong sucks!” “You know something, you suck!” No matter what would happen later, the legitimacy
of that particular record is definitely not in question. It was set in public, with witnesses, on a
fully functioning Donkey Kong arcade machine. The King of Kong Unless you were around for that article in
Life, it’s likely that you know Mitchell best from 2007’s The King of Kong: A Fistful of
Quarters, a documentary about the high-stakes competition surrounding classic arcade game
high scores, and Steve Wiebe’s attempt to break Mitchell’s record after 25 years. Like a lot of documentaries, King of Kong
frames its subjects as part of a narrative for the sake of drama. It’s easy to see why. If the filmmakers had scripted the entire
thing, it’s doubtful that they could’ve created a character who fit the mold of a villain
better than Mitchell. He’s the undefeated champion, a tall businessman
with a neatly trimmed beard and an American flag necktie who’s constantly bragging. “Not even Helen of Troy had that much attention.” In stark contrast to its treatment of Mitchell,
The King of Kong portrays Steve Wiebe as an underdog and a hero. Even Wiebe acknowledge the way the two players
were framed, telling MTV: “I don’t think he’s an evil person. I don’t necessarily think I’m a saint or anything
[…] but the way things played out, we kind of fell into those roles.” Mr. Awesome While the focus of the documentary is centered
on Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, there’s another player involved in this story, too:
Roy Schildt, also known as Mr. Awesome. Schildt is another character that seems straight
out of pro wrestling, driving to arcades in a customized Trans-Am and competing for classic
gaming high scores while dressed in a full-on military outfit, doing push-ups between rounds
of Missile Command. “…That no punk bastard ever got a gnarly
piece of p—- by being sensitive and considerate.” And thanks to a dispute over Missile Command
and Mitchell calling the legitimacy of his scores into question, he hates Billy Mitchell
so much that he was kicked out of a classic gaming event in 2010 for harassing Mitchell. But here’s the thing: Schildt has been alleging
for years that Mitchell was cheating, and now it seems that Twin Galaxies agrees with
him. Garrett Bobby Ferguson One of Billy Mitchell’s more notable feuds
didn’t involve a video game high score at all. Instead, it was centered on an episode of
Cartoon Network’s Regular Show titled “High Score.” In it, avid video game fans Mordecai and Rigby
break the world record on an arcade game called Broken Bonez and summon the previous record-holder:
Garrett Bobby Ferguson. “So you’ve broken the world record, have you?” “Yeah.Who’s asking?” “Me!” After trying to cheat in a head-to-head competition,
GBF loses and explodes in a shower of yellow goo. It might be fair to say that GBF bears a pretty
striking resemblance to a certain real-world arcade game record holder. “Please! The universe record is all I have!” Billy Mitchell certainly thought so: he filed
a lawsuit against Cartoon Network and Regular Show in 2015. Eventually, however, the judge dismissed the
case, writing: “The television character does not match the
plaintiff in appearance: GBF appears as a non-human creature, a giant floating head
with no body from outer space, while Plaintiff is a human being. And when GBF loses his title, the character
literally explodes, unlike Plaintiff.” Trading records The story of Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong
record didn’t end with King of Kong. In fact, after the events of the movie, he
broke Steve Wiebe’s record, then had his own record broken again. In the years since the documentary, the high
score was passed multiple times by several players. With all these new players surpassing their
records, it’s tempting to wonder why anyone would bother focusing on Mitchell at all. Until he was removed from the the leader boards,
Twin Galaxies had him ranked at #14, right behind Wiebe. At the same time, Mitchell’s 25-year record
still stands as a monumental achievement, and his status as the subject of an award-winning
film raised his profile enough to keep people interested. All of this served to cast some doubts on
the truth behind the record-setting tape he was able to produce after Steve Wiebe beat
him the first time. “I explained to him he could lose his life,
but don’t lose the tape.” The investigation The challenge to Mitchell’s record came from
an unlikely place. It was Jeremy Young, the moderator of the
online Donkey Kong forum, who analyzed the tape and determined that Mitchell’s record-setting
performance wasn’t actually done on a Donkey Kong arcade machine. Instead, Young alleged that Mitchell used
an emulator, and Twin Galaxies agreed. The evidence cited by Young begins with the
fact that while Mitchell has racked up plenty of impressive scores, he’s never managed to
break 1,000,000 points while playing in public with witnesses. Everyone has an off day or two, so that’s
easy enough to dismiss, but it got Young investigating the infamous tape of Mitchell’s 1,062,800-point
performance – the one that made Mitchell the first person on record to break the million-point
mark. From there, the evidence began to stack up. It comes down to some pretty technical stuff,
but one of the most compelling pieces of evidence involves a frame-by-frame comparison of how
the first level of the game is rendered on the monitor. The slight differences between the true arcade
version and its emulated equivalent led Young to conclude that Mitchell used an emulator
called MAME, or Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, for his record-setting score. Arcade vs. Emulator So here’s the big question: if the actual
code of the game is the same across platforms, then why does it matter if he played on an
emulator? For starters, emulated games are going to
be easier to manipulate, down to adjusting how the game adds points to your score. Even if the game’s code remains unaltered,
however, running it on different hardware can create slight differences in how the game
is played. Regardless of the platform, emulation is almost
never 100% perfect. When you’re dealing with something like world-record
arcade scores, where split-second timing and minor variations in pattern recognition can
make all the difference, then the slight changes from emulation can make for an entirely different
set of patterns to exploit. But that doesn’t necessarily make them easier. Even Jeremy Young admitted as much, telling
Polygon: “to say that [emulation players’] accomplishments on emulator are somehow less
than that of their arcade competitors is ridiculous.” If Mitchell’s score was recorded on an emulator
and not arcade hardware, then it was presented under false pretenses, in violation of the
rules. In this case, it’s the lie that matters more
than the actual score. “I’m not God. I don’t have all the answers. So I have to be careful how I share my opinions.” Struck from the record After launching the initial investigation
in February, Twin Galaxies announced on April 12th that they had determined Mitchell’s Donkey
Kong score was fraudulent, banned him from future competition, and removed all of his
records. Not just this particular high score, but everything
– including scores in other games and that original 25-year Donkey Kong world record
from 1982. Even his Guinness World Records are gone,
as Guinness relies on Twin Galaxies for their video game scores. As for Mitchell, he maintains that his score
was legitimate, and that he’ll be able to prove it and reclaim his rightful place in
video game history. “Everything will be transparent, everything
will be available. I wish I had it in my hands right now. I wish I could hand it to you.” He’s even accused Young of creating falsified
footage using an emulator, which would require Young to have done a pixel-perfect recreation
of Mitchell’s legitimate game in order to discredit him. Young responded by calling the allegation
ridiculous, saying: “The amount of foresight, patience, and technical
knowledge required would be staggering.” Wiebe victory Given their history, it’s tempting to see
Mitchell’s downfall as a victory for Steve Wiebe, but that’s not exactly the case. But there is one big change that comes for
Wiebe as a result of Mitchell’s disqualification. With Mitchell’s score removed from the records,
Wiebe is officially the first player on record to ever break 1,000,000 points in Donkey Kong. No matter how many new high scores are set,
being the first person to do something is the kind of record that can’t be taken away. Unless, you know, you cheated. “There’s some poor bastard out there who’s
getting the screws put to him, hahaha.” Thanks for watching! Click the SVG icon to subscribe to our YouTube
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