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The King of Kong comes by

Posted at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Steve Wiebe seems like a normal guy. He's a teacher from Seattle, a family man, apparently content with his lot.

He was in the MPR studios to talk about life, and how videogames changed his.

A few years back he set himself a goal: to score a new world record for the Donkey Kong arcade game. The existing record had stood for twenty years and he knew he could beat it.

He had just lost his job and was looking for something to give him a focus in life, and that focus became dodging electronic barrels, flame balls, and plumber-killing springs armed only with a virtual hammer.

Wiebe's world record attempt and the resulting struggle with Billy Mitchell, the self-described "God of Video Games" is laid out in "King of Kong: a fistful of quarters."

If you have ever played the game you'll know that it is hard. Very hard. In the movie Mitchell says most games last less than a minute. However when the top guys play, the games last for hours, and in the case of Donkey Kong can be played until the machine collapses from the lack of memory.

Director Seth Gordon provides a compelling story of competitive obsession, and a profile of the excitable world of competitive videogaming, including Twin Galaxies" the small but powerful group of gamers which keeps the records. Wiebe is accused of essentially cheating at first, an accusation which is all the more painful because it's made by Mitchell supporters within the group.

Wiebe says he was inclined several times to just walk away in disgust as Mitchell and his supporters pulled stunt after stunt. He admits it was only the fact that the documentary team kept coming back to shoot the next part of the story which kept him going.

In the film both Wiebe's mother and wife describe him as obsessive compulsive, and needing something where he is recognized as the best.

When asked about that he admits it's true, but the great thing is that now he has found fame for his accomplishment, he's ready to move on and see what else life has to offer.

Now that's a story. The interview will air on Minnesota Public Radio tonight.

August 2007
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