Former Pac-Man Champ Billy Mitchell Can Now Sue World Record Leaderboard Group

Former Pac-Man Champ Billy Mitchell Can Now Sue World Record Leaderboard Group
Screenshot: Guinness World Records, Fair Use

Billy Mitchell, a pro gamer best known for making the numbers on an arcade machine get really big, is going to court. As spotted by Axios’ Stephen Totilo, a U.S. appeals court gave the green light yesterday for Mitchell to proceed with a defamation suit against Twin Galaxies, the popular gaming leaderboard site.

Mitchell, for those who don’t know, achieved fame for becoming the first person in the world to (supposedly) set a “perfect” score (3,333,360 points) in Pac-Man. He also set several records in Donkey Kong during the 2000s, some of which were depicted in the 2007 documentary King of Kong. And based on available photographic and videographic evidence, he could easily nab a world record for Person Who Owns The Greatest Number Of Ugly Ties Imprinted With American Iconography, or something along those lines.

Record keepers, including Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records, affirmed Mitchell’s accolades. But evidence emerged that he may have used emulation devices — specifically, M.A.M.E. (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) — to achieve his scores, rather than the authentic arcade circuit boards that are required for competitive play. Guinness stripped his records in 2018, but un-stripped them last year. Twin Galaxies, meanwhile, which stripped the records as well, has yet to reinstate them.

This isn’t important to the case, but it is really freakin’ funny, so I just want to take a second and mention that Mitchell’s old website is currently being used to host extensive documentation “debunking” his old Pac-Man scores.

In 2019, Mitchell filed suit against Twin Galaxies. The site, for its part, responded with what’s called an anti-“strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP) motion, meant, as Totilo noted, to “dismiss purportedly frivolous lawsuits.” (SLAPP suits are a favoured tool of corporations that want to silence unflattering public conversations they cannot control, and can afford the legal costs required to do so.) So yesterday’s ruling, which was decided on appeal by the State of California’s Second Appellate, more or less just says that Mitchell and his legal team can continue apace with the suit. Anyone who thought this story was about to end must now contend with the reality that it’s only getting started.

But hey, if nothing else, there is now a legal document on the official record that says, without a hint of irony or snark, “King of Kong.” No matter how this whole charade shakes out, no matter who ultimately loses, one thing’s for sure: We’ve all already won.

 

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