15 January 2009

How High Can You Go?

Last year, I watched a documentary called King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters about a man named Steve Weibe and his quest for the Donkey Kong world record. Perhaps you were unaware there were world records for 1980s arcade games, but then you were probably also unaware that Calvin Coolidge kept a hippopotamus as a pet, so don't go thinking you know everything about everything. The movie chronicled Weibe's triumph and heartbreak as he went toe to toe with Twin Galaxies (the official video game records repository) and Billy Mitchell, a bemulleted hot sauce maker, video game savant, and all around interesting fellow.

Apparently unable to watch a movie without being affected by it in some deep, mildly ridiculous way, I decided I needed to conquer Kong myself. As Donkey Kong arcade machines are not on every block like they were in the early 80s, I was forced to make do with MAME, the computer-based arcade emulator. I fired up the Kong, and away I went.

Though intimated in the film, I was sorely under-prepared for just how difficult my new challenge was going to be. Albert Einstein famously remarked that getting to the kill screen (the final board where the game's code goes haywire and you die) in Donkey Kong was more difficult than developing the theory of relativity.[citation needed] He was not wrong. After a year of playing Donkey Kong off and on, I have yet to score more than 177,000 points, putting me a fair distance from the 1 million+ scores proffered by Weibe and Mitchell. Still, the practice has been good for the soul, and I feel confident that I'll be able to survive should I ever find myself in the unenviable (but nonetheless very real) position of having to jump over barrels, fend off fireballs, and climb a decaying scaffold to rescue my girlfriend from a cunning ape.


Hugo H. Ottolenghi said...

Definitely need a cite on that Einstein reference. The Nobel Prize winner died in 1955.

Day Marie said...

'Lo Shawn. I'm in Mr. Otto's class as well.

I never knew Calvin Coolidge had a hippopotamus.

And goodness, I didn't know it was that difficult to beat Donkey Kong... I hope Steve Weibe succeeded in his quest at least?