Billy Mitchell Breaks Silence About Donkey Kong High Score Controversy [Updated]

Billy Mitchell Breaks Silence About Donkey Kong High Score Controversy [Updated]
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Last week, a popular Donkey Kong website announced that it would be removing former champion Billy Mitchell’s scores from its list after an analysis that it said showed his playthroughs of the game were achieved on the emulator MAME and not on original arcade hardware. Yesterday, Mitchell made what is so far his only response to the accusations, on an internet talk show called East Side Dave.

Billy Mitchell at the launch party for the International Video Game Hall of Fame and Museum on August 13, 2009 in Ottumwa, Iowa. Photo: David Greedy/Getty Images

The analysis of Mitchell’s high-score videos by Donkey Kong Forum moderator Jeremy Young purported to show that all three videos showed evidence of having been created in MAME. Half an hour into the East Side Dave interview, after covering topics such as the King of Kong documentary and Mitchell’s line of hot sauce, the host finally asked Mitchell about Young’s analysis. “I’ve never even played MAME. I don’t have MAME loaded in my home,” Mitchell began.

But then he went on: “The film footage that he has, that Jeremy has, shows MAME play,” Mitchell said. “Now, I contend that if he gets the original tape, or he gets the original room shot, he will see that what I say is true. I’m not disputing what he says. What I’m disputing is the fact that I want him to have the original tape. And the fact of the matter is that that original footage was given to Twin Galaxies, Twin Galaxies has it or should have it, and if it’s anywhere other than Twin Galaxies, that’s a real problem.”

Update – 5:25AM AEDT, 10 February 2018: Young has responded to claims that he received a doctored tape from Twin Galaxies scoreholder Dwayne Richard. In an email to Kotaku, he said the following:

The amount of foresight, patience, and technical knowledge required would be staggering. By my reckoning, Dwayne would have to:

1) Know, for over a decade, this bug existed in MAME, and not tell anyone

2) Know every potential independent source that would, in the future, publish clips of Billy’s gameplay, know exactly what that footage would contain, and whether that footage would contain the MAME signature

3) Either a) know that the press conference video is also MAME, or b) organise a conspiracy to swap the tapes being shown that day.

4) In the case of 3a… why wait this long?

5) In the case of 3b… he would have had only a few days to craft a full performance of TWO games (DK and DKJR) faithful enough to fool Billy himself AND convince someone to swap the tapes at the event.

6) Apart from 3a, he would need to craft at least 2 full-length (~2.5 hours) games to match the independent footage. These would have to match Billy’s original gameplay, pixel-for-pixel, frame-for-frame.

7) Wait, for years, for the right amount of general scepticism and technical knowledge to coalesce.

Later in the interview, the host Dave McDonald brought up the subject again: “Let me paraphrase here for a second. There is a tape, that is MAME, that people claim is Billy Mitchell. Everyone says the tape is MAME, the tape is MAME. Blah, blah, blah. It’s possible that it’s not even Billy’s MAME tape. That they’re trying to pass off a MAME-d tape and say it’s Billy when he had nothing to do with it.” Mitchell did not respond.

Mitchell speaks to host Dave McDonald on East Side Dave.

Mitchell speaks to host Dave McDonald on East Side Dave.

In the interview, Mitchell says that Twin Galaxies referee Todd Rogers (himself recently embroiled in a high-score controversy) witnessed his highest Donkey Kong score when he set it on 31 July 2010 at Boomers Arcade in Dania, Florida, and also says that former Twin Galaxies owner Pete Bouvier was present as well. The “original tape” that he was referring to, he said, was a live recording of the successful high score. The only remaining footage was direct capture of the game itself that does not show the arcade cabinet.

“When I absolutely had the good fortune to get the score on Donkey Kong and I turned around, one of the people shaking my hand, one of the people patting me on the back was Pete Bouvier, owner of Twin Galaxies,” he said to McDonald.

But during the announcement of his high scores on 6 August 2010 in Ottumwa, Iowa, Mitchell said Bouvier wasn’t in the room: “There was a lot of hugs and kisses and hooting and hollering, and from Twin Galaxies, Pete, was on the phone, and Pete was on his way over,” he said.

Whether Bouvier, who passed away last year, was in the room or not, former Twin Galaxies employees said to Kotaku that they have heard of the existence of a video tape recording of Mitchell’s 2010 scores, but that no one can locate it.

The interview ended with Mitchell having put forth no substantive defence against the analysis of the gameplay videos. Instead, he focused on the lost video tape of the Boomers high score which he claims will exonerate him if it is located. Twin Galaxies has not made a final decision on the dispute.


  • With all this controversy, I keep seeing Twin Galaxies at the centre of it. I reckon TG shouldn’t be the forum for gaming high scores and record keeping. We need a new platform and I think Twitch could definitely jump in with their own leader boards especially because players are constantly streaming on their platform to get speed runs and gaming records

    • I agree. Wipe the scoreboard, start fresh, all records must be loaded as a vod etc. It might be the hype needed to rekindle peoples spirit for retro gaming too.

    • The problem would be that Twich doesn’t have any mechanism for actually manually verifying the player’s hardware etc.

      In this case it seems like Twin Galaxies’ problem is that there was a bit of a fraternity going on where people who were on the ‘inside’ tended to trust ‘known’ people (Mitchell had multiple high scores back in the early 1980s, when Twin Galaxies was just getting started) and take their scores at face value and maybe not do enough due diligence in this particular case.

      And the fact is, Billy Mitchell’s score was made much more controversial because of the King of Kong documentary which basically cast him as a villain. Hard to be sure whether he actually was or not. He’s been dogged with accusations of cheating his high scores for years.

      Incidentally the score only stood for 2 months before it was defeated, and it’s not even in the top 10 any more.

      • Definitely no way for Twitch to do anything as it currently to keep some form of integrity on scores. I’m more leaning that Twin Galaxies shouldn’t be trusted with a lot of old records, especially those labelled as “seen be referee”. I think what ever platform that stands as record keeper for scores, times etc, should be done with openness on game records which has video evidence containing view of game, view of input (key/controls presses) and view of both

        • That’s fine for records made now, but the problem is that in a lot of these cases they’re old 80s arcade machines and the record scores were made way back in the 80s as well, before people were actually serious about recording stuff etc.

      • I thought that was the case…. It was a major plot point in the movie, Billy had a mysterious tape that appeared moments after Steve beat his (then) current score.
        However the documentary ends with Steve even beating that one, despite the twin galaxies bureaucracy. After the documentary was released both Steve and Billy went on to exchange the top score a few times each before another new player knocked them off top spot.

        If this ‘video’ was the current top score I get it, however does it really matter at this point Billy himself has at multiple times beat the video score. After looking at Twin Galaxies, it isn’t even in the top 20, and according to the site:
        “Mitchell, on the other hand, is no longer competing.” and “The “Billy vs. Steve” era is now history. The movie brought hundreds of new competitors to the game from all over the world”
        Currently Steve Wiebe is 19th, and Billy Mitchel is 20th. With scores that were made long after the docu was released.

        File this under ‘give no fox’

    • This has happened with regards to speedruns, where the community did use Twin Galaxies leaderboards for their times until they started running up against rigid and unchanging rules around things like glitches.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!