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Interviews: Ask "The King of Kong" Billy Mitchell About Classic Video Games 122

samzenpus (5) writes Billy Mitchell owns the Rickey's World Famous Restaurant chain, sells his own line of hot sauces, and was called, "probably the greatest arcade-video-game player of all time". He was the first to achieve a perfect score in Pac-Man, and held many record scores in other arcade games. He is probably most famous for the 2007 documentary,"The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters". The film follows a challenger on his quest to surpass Billy's high score in Donkey Kong, which Mitchell had set in 1982. Since the film was made, the Kong crown has been held by a number people including twice by Mitchell. Billy has agreed to put down the quarters and answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
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Interviews: Ask "The King of Kong" Billy Mitchell About Classic Video Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @11:57AM (#47246545)

    Do you play many modern computer games these days, such as the current (Xbox One / Playstation 4) or recent generation? How do you think they differ from decades ago with cabinet based titles you are so well known for playing?

  • OK (Score:5, Funny)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:00PM (#47246577) Homepage Journal

    Why did you waste all that money on Donkey Kong when Galaga is clearly the superior game?

  • Regret? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Catiline ( 186878 ) <> on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:01PM (#47246581) Homepage Journal
    What (if anything) do you regret about your fame as a champion video game player?
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      I suspect after he reads the comments on /., answering these question will become his greatest regret.


  • A Lost Era (Score:5, Interesting)

    by niado ( 1650369 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:03PM (#47246593)
    Every arcade that I have been inside in the last 10 years or so has been filled with terrible ticket-churning games. The commoditization of gaming hardware seems to have permanently killed off the classic arcade. Do you think this is an accurate observation, and do you see any way that the arcade-game scene could be rejuvenated?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dok.P ( 3696025 )
      As an amateur operator, with only about 100 or so games, the claim that the classic arcade era is dead, is a grave mistake. Barcade is wildly successful all over the country, and Arcade "museums" are as popular as ever. Perhaps the days of getting burned by an older kid being careless with his cigarette in a jam packed mall arcade are finished, but that's no real great loss.
      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        Barcade is wildly successful all over the country

        All over the country? The Barcade website lists 3 locations. NY, Philly and New Joisy. So has the country reverted to the original colonies, or do you mean "Barcade like" locations?

      • Re:A Lost Era (Score:5, Interesting)

        by psyclone ( 187154 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:55PM (#47247083)
        Even if there are arcade "museums" and other classic arcade venues to be found, do any of those have NEW games? There's a new 4-player pac man game (amidst many ticket-churning games) at a local arcade, which is fun, but it's an iteration on an old game.

        My Billy Mitchell question: Is there anything new out there in arcade games that play in a more or less classic style, but don't churn out tickets?
        • by tepples ( 727027 )
          Why can't that 4-player Pac-Man game be sold for PC, where players get matched up with other players all over the world (or all over the region, if it's latency-sensitive)?
        • by Dok.P ( 3696025 )
          I don't see any appeal to new games... It's about nostalgia, not about some Xbox Live indie store clone...
        • You can find places with new pinball games and yes they can be setup with tickets but most places do not use the ticket part.

    • Same question.
      I grew up playing Wonder Boy, Double Dragon, Yie Ar Kungfu, etc...
      Grew out of it after Street Fighter 2.
      Most of these games could be played and beaten with a single coin (Double Dragon being my favorite).
      Then something changed. Suddenly you couldn't even finish the first level without putting back money into the machine.

      Did you also feel this transition (or maybe those games aren't classic enough), or did I just suck too much and these games were beatable after all?
      • When I first started putting games into arcades, players would play for an hour on a single quarter. My Double Dragon machine was a complete waste of money.
        Then I got smart and bought some of those arcade-killer games...
  • Wasn't hr the first guy to sink a battleship by bombing it from the air?

  • Do you think Creationists should be denied universal healthcare if they claim the right to bear arms?

    Based on past interviews, this should be the most discussed question when he answers.

    • Couple minor tweaks:

      Do you think unvaccinated Creationists should be denied universal healthcare if they claim the right to bear Linux-based arms?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Have you ever been approached by an extraterrestrial recruiter?

  • Billy, is it as heart breaking for you to see someone butchering classic games that, with a little effort, could easily be restored, for the sake of some assclown hacking together a glorified Bally/Midway 60 in 1 with a bag of Skittles dumped on the control panel?
    • Converting old cabinets to MAME boxes is hardly butchering. Old arcade hardware (late 80s to 2000 or so) is a pain in the ass to own. There are at least five different architectures, none of which are compatible with each other, and you can only fit so many games in one cabinet and have to reboot the whole thing to switch between them, sometimes even having to open the cabinet up and physically switch boards in order to boot to a different game. The hardware is STILL prohibitively expensive to own, with eve

      • by Dok.P ( 3696025 )
        What in the hell are you talking about? Hundreds or thousands of dollars? I don't think I've spent more than $50 on an intact cab, ever. I suppose an idiot who spends $1000 on a horribly "restored" Ms. Pacman doesn't know how a soldering iron or a ROM programmer work either...
        • You're responding to the wrong thing.

          He's saying that some boards are expensive, should you restore, say, a JAMMA a cabinet and want to actually own multiple games and swap original hardware.

          There are numerous $200-500 boards on eBay right now, and a quick search for expensive JAMMA boards has threads discussing rare boards costing well over $1000.

          Of *course* you can get a 60-in-1 board from Hong Kong for cheap in your "real" JAMMA cabinet, and you can *absolutely* just emulate nearly everything in MAME, bu

  • You were the bad guy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:14PM (#47246707)
    In the documentary, you were definitely made out to be the 'bad guy'. I'm sure reality was a bit more complicated than what the movie portrayed.

    Have you and the challenger kept in touch? Are things more amicable than they were back then?
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:56PM (#47247089) Homepage Journal

      How about answering the main charge directly: Why don't you play in public like all the other challengers?

      • All the other challengers? They're almost all video-taped sumissions.

        Or by "in public" do you mean sitting in your garage like Steve Wiebe recording yourself? Or like Tim Sczerby, who had the #2 score in 2007 (not Mitchell), since Wiebe was already #1 in 2003 with a previously submitted video tape -- he was bumping up his own score.

        The record has changed hands like 10 more times since then, to 4-5 players, including Mitchell.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          There are regular public events where people come to break records in public, negating the need for a video tape. There has been a lot of controversy about video submissions and the possibility that they were faked. When all you have is a low quality VHS tape it's hard to tell if what you are seeing is the result of emulation or if the machine was set to the correct competition settings etc.

          More over, in The King of Kong Mitchell says that playing in public is what really counts, but in an unguarded moment

          • A lot of these records simply don't make sense in public -- in that they take hours. Robotron, for example, in the default Marathon setting is a marathon. Despite some nagging questions about the supposed Marathon high score, a great player can rack up enough free lives to run to the bathroom (quickly) before dying completely. It's purely a matter of how long a great player can stay awake, since any top tier player can average more than 25,000 points per life. Missile Command clocks in the same way at

  • Do You Regret... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:18PM (#47246737)

    Do you regret wasting your life on pointless video games?
    How many hours do you estimate you've put into DK and other games?

    I'm not even trolling. I really want to know.

    • If you weren't trolling you wouldn't have asserted that he was wasting his life, and you wouldn't have called video games pointless. Video games most certainly have a point, as much as any entertainment product. As for wasting his life, he owns a restaurant chain and is slinging hot sauce. What are you doing with your life, other than trolling?

      • If you weren't trolling you wouldn't have asserted that he was wasting his life, and you wouldn't have called video games pointless. Video games most certainly have a point, as much as any entertainment product. As for wasting his life, he owns a restaurant chain and is slinging hot sauce. What are you doing with your life, other than trolling?

        I do lots of things with my life, including trolling and wasting my time on pointless video games. However I'm not trolling now - I am legitimately interested in how much he considers this time to be a waste, particularly when those hours are tallied up.
        Maybe you're still in your teens, but as you get older you'll become increasingly aware that the sand is quickly draining from your hourglass.

        • I am legitimately interested in how much he considers this time to be a waste

          That is a different question than this:

          Do you regret wasting your life on pointless video games?

          One of those is trolling, one of them is not.

          • I'm asking Billy Mitchell a question - I don't need to run it by you or other slashtards first to get your blessing.

            • I don't need to run it by you or other slashtards first to get your blessing.

              Well, you kind of do though. Right now there are eight +5 comments, and yours is not one of them. If you don't get the community's blessing then he never even sees your question.

              I don't care about your question though, I'm just calling you out on your "I'm not even trolling" BS when you are obviously trolling.

        • I do lots of things with my life, including trolling [...]

          Haha why would you write such a thing?

          Is this what kids do for fun nowadays? Even if you do "troll", why the hell would you tell anyone this?

          I don't know if I should shake my stick at you for being a shitty internet netizen or shake my stick at you for being a shitty troll.

    • If you're not trolling, you may want to try re-phrasing without loaded language, e.g. "Do you ever regret spending so many hours playing video games?" Otherwise, we might ask you why you spend so much time posting to pointless Slashdot Q&A articles...
    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:36PM (#47247463) Homepage Journal

      The allegedly loaded language in sexconker's question raises another question for Billy Mitchell:

      Which video games do you think are pointless, and what makes a game pointless?

  • How much time? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:21PM (#47246765) Journal

    Can you estimate how many hours you have spent playing Donkey Kong? Is it still fun to play?

  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:24PM (#47246797)

    What is your opinion on today's competitive gaming, where there are corporate sponsors, live streams viewed by thousands, tournaments with prize money in the millions of dollars, and a focus on games made to be played competitively - games like Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike GO, DOTA and its dozens of clones, Street Fighter, and even modern competitive Pac-Man (Championship Edition DX II)? Do you think it is an improvement over the eighties, where perfect-scoring Pac-Man got you some media attention and that was pretty much it?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do you have a favorite pre-1990's console conversion of Donkey Kong? Maybe Colecovision or Atari 7800, etc..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:30PM (#47246879)

    Really, let's find out about your performance in that game. That's what really matters. No other game matches it.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:34PM (#47246909) Homepage Journal

    How do you feel about the modern trend of getting away from joysticks and buttons to almost exclusively shifting towards a combination of a revival of pre-video game type arcade games and novel/gimmick interfaces?

  • by Kagato ( 116051 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:40PM (#47246965)

    Most documentaries have a particular point of view and editing can really define how someone comes off. Most people would agree you did not come off particularly well in the documentary. Would you ever consider doing another documentary?

  • Donkey Kong Clones? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yorgo ( 595005 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:49PM (#47247033)

    What is your experience and opinion on the many Donkey Kong clones, like Congo Bongo, Crazy Kong, Konkey Kong, Monkey Kong, Donkey King, or even Popeye?

  • I for one have never heard of "Rickey's World Famous Restaurant chain" (Australian living in the U.K.) So it can't be *that* world famous...!
  • by andyring ( 100627 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:53PM (#47247061) Homepage

    Mr. Mitchell,

    What attracted you to Donkey Kong? There are several video games of that era which could easily be considered classics, such as PacMan, Donkey Kong, etc. What was it about Donkey Kong in particular that kept you coming back to it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16, 2014 @12:57PM (#47247097)

    The movie, "King of Kong" made it appear that your cozy relationship with the adjudicator introduced a bias and double standard that undermined the credibility of Walter Day's record keeping. Despite your unflattering portrayal in the movie Seth Gordon claims to have portrayed you as a more light-hearted character than you are in reality because if he showed the real you the movie would have been "darker". Has viewing the movie altered how you see yourself and your approach to life?

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:06PM (#47247179)
    I excelled at every video game I played at far above anyone else I've met. Every competition I've been in, I've done very well too. I ranked high in the Nintendo World Championships in what 89? I got #1 in ladder in Starcraft back in 99. I got first to 1500 wins in Warcraft3 and #1 in ladder in 1v1,2v2 and 3v3.

    So my question is: Have you ever wanted to design an ultimate skill based game?

    I'm also a programmer/designer. I got into game design in 87 when I played all the games that were out there and had ideas for my own. My main ideas as a kid was "Action/RPG", and MMORPGS. These were good ideas and as anyone can tell they're where we went as an industry. The problem is that MMORPGS have little reflex skill involved, and Action/RPG can be beat by just leveling your player up.

    So lately I've been wondering in how to make a video game similar to those 80s games in terms of relying on reflexes, yet still be fun for the modern player who likes to bathe in powerups(levels, skill trees and equipment). Do you have an idea you might want to share? We could work together to see it through. I'm just finishing a video game that is like Zelda and is going on hopefully in the next few weeks. If you want to play the engine the game was built on, just be sure to login to save your progress. []
  • by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:19PM (#47247297) Journal
    How much money did you spend in the 1980s on video games? I recall thinking $10 to $20 a day was a lot of money at the arcade back then - but nowhere near enough game time to build up 'pro gamer' skills... were you independently wealthy, or had some other secret?
  • Hot sauces? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:21PM (#47247317)
    Do you have a ghost pepper hot sauce? If not, do you know where I could get a good one?

    I've been eating so many nachos that it surprised me when I can barely even notice Habaneros give me any heat.

    The obvious step is to go up a notch, but I can't find any ghost pepper sauces at my local grocery store, and I'm hesitant to buy ghost peppers from out of the country on Ebay. Ebay is pretty bad when people screw up your order to begin with, but ingesting something you buy on Ebay steps it up to a new level of trust I don't think Ebay deserves.
  • Question: what is your Ms PacMan record?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Myself and my friends who have seen the documentary and the actions of you and your cadre have just one question. How come we could never see your arm as you operated your army of ass puppets? Seriously you must have been shoulder deep in Steve... Some of us think you wore green washing up gloves and it was edited out.

  • Hey - how about you forgo all this old timey stuff and just ask him to do a reddit IAMA? Ask him all you want in REAL TIME. Whoa - we're in THE FUTURE! :-)

  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @01:43PM (#47247497) Homepage Journal

    What's it like knowing that the only thing people will remember you for is that you're a dick?

    Do you want to remembered differently than your words and deeds in that documentary portrayed you, or, as in the words of Jack Sparrow, is it simply enough that "you have heard of me?"

    • What's it like knowing that the only thing people will remember you for is that you're a dick?

      Some people need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. And I don't mean Billy.

  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Monday June 16, 2014 @02:29PM (#47247905) Journal

    Thanks for taking the time, Mr. Mitchell!

    My question: What do you think of the evolution of video games *since* Pac-Man and that sort of golden era of arcade and Atari gaming? Do you think changes in gamers's expectations for difficulty and entertainment from the games have changed?

  • What exactly happened, between yourself and Roy Shildt, to cause you to take out a restraining order on him?
  • what's your high score?

  • When the King of Kong came out you, and Steve were the only ones who could score at least 1.04 million on this game. It was rumored you even had a private personal best of around 1.15 million. Since then some major things have changed. There are now about seven people who can score over 1.1 million, and three that have scored higher than even your private person best.

    As you have said on previous occasions, that you are a family man first, and a business man second, and Donkey Kong at the moment is prett

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hey Bill,

    I will have the large order of wings (medium) with a large order of curley fries and 2 large cokes.

    How far did you ever get playing Ms Pac-Man blindfolded?

    Do you still phone prank people like you did with Mogermen and Demner?

  • Do you ever look back on those bonkers games from the 70s and 80s and wonder how gaming could otherwise have developed over the years?

    Nowadays, even the hardware is geared towards 3D, and most games are generally some sort of photorealistic adventure involving humanoids. In the early days of gaming, people didn't know what the trends were gonna be. Was it inevitable that it turn out that way? There are games for the early Atari or Commodore etc. consoles where it's difficult to even figure out what the butt

  • by Scarletdown ( 886459 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2014 @12:58AM (#47252001) Journal

    Were you at any time, the gamer who signed any of the countless vanity boards out there as either ASS or FUK?

BLISS is ignorance.