The Donkey Kong Cheating Scandal Is Scheduled for a Court Hearing Soon

The Donkey Kong Cheating Scandal Is Scheduled for a Court Hearing Soon

Billy Mitchell filed suit against retro gaming scorekeepers Twin Galaxies last year.

You can say this for Billy Mitchell: he doesn't give up easily. The hot sauce magnate and Donkey Kong whiz who rose to fame or infamy through 2007's The King of Kong was hit with a major cheating scandal in 2018, for which scorekeeping organization Twin Galaxies elected to move all of Mitchell's scores. Over two years later, the matter is set to go to court.

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland published a report on the lawsuit today, casting a spotlight on proceedings that have been playing out at the courts' slow pace for months. Mitchell and Twin Galaxies are now set for a Los Angeles County hearing on July 6; Mitchell's suit argues that Twin Galaxies' decision to strip all of Mitchell's scores in 2018 constitutes libel, which Twin Galaxies hopes to counter with an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motion.

Mitchell has also filed suits against Jeremy "Xelnia" Young and Jeff Harrist, two moderators of the Donkey Kong Forum. Young, also a score judge, filed the initial score dispute with Twin Galaxies in February 2018 that ultimately led to the removal of Mitchell's records. Mitchell has also filed suit against YouTube Ben "Apollo Legend" Smith, who has released several videos criticizing Mitchell in the wake of the scandal.

While Twin Galaxies elected to remove all of Mitchell's scores across multiple arcade titles and ban his future participation, the particular scores under dispute were for Donkey Kong, one of them being the 1,047,200 point game that dethroned Steve Wiebe's first-to-one-million record in King of Kong. In the post explaining the decision to strip Mitchell of his scores, Twin Galaxies noted that its investigation only led it to believe that the King of Kong score and a second 1,050,200 point game were not performed on an unmodified original Donkey Kong machine.

Young's dispute filing was accompanied with a thorough explanation of Mitchell's alleged misconduct. A frame-by-frame rendering analysis of three million-plus scores suggests that the games in question were played using a MAME emulator, opening up the possibility that the gameplay itself was pre-recorded or otherwise manipulated. Twin Galaxies noted in its decision that it could not definitively determine MAME was used without also testing every other possible emulator.

In the suit, Mitchell claims that "25 sworn affidavits" from eyewitnesses were not considered by Twin Galaxies in its investigation and maintains that the games in question were played "on certified arcade boards in front of hundreds of people" [emphasis Mitchell's].

Mitchell tells Ars Technica he plans to "speak more openly" on the matter and the Broward suits in particular after the July 6 hearing. In a statement filed with Los Angeles County court, Twin Galaxies owner Jason Hall says he is personally "indifferent one way or another whether [Mitchell's] Donkey Kong scores or other scores appear on the Twin Galaxies Website leaderboards," adding that he only wishes to maintain the leaderboards' integrity.

For what it's worth, none of Mitchell's disputed scores or even Wiebe's 1,006,600 score (now recognized by Twin Galaxies as the first game over one million) rank near the top of the Donkey Kong leaderboards in 2020. Wiebe's highest score ranks 14th in the world—current record holder John McCurdy leads the board with a 1,259,000 point game.

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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