Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007, Seth Gordon) [7]

Not being a gamer myself, I had a hard time believing the hype about this crowd-pleasing documentary. However, I was quickly won over, largely because the characters are so engaging. There surely must be some editing-room magic at work in making Billy Mitchell into the manipulative villain here, but no matter- the film works best as a contrast between cunning gamer-world "insider" Billy and straight-shooting outsider Steve Wiebe. Steve doesn't fit the gamer stereotype, but more important he's completely guileless, challenging Mitchell to a mano-a-mano to break the Donkey Kong record in the spirit of healthy competition. For his part, Mitchell shirks from the challenge, covering his anxiety with mindfucks and manipulating the system, run largely by his cronies. In a way, gaming needs guys like Mitchell, charismatic lifelong gamers who have built a mystique through decades of long-standing records. But what the film shows us in the end is that gaming also needs someone like Wiebe, who can claim the record as his own and give hope to all others who would try, and do so in the most sportsmanlike manner.

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