Billy Mitchell, long considered a champion of old school arcade games for his record-breaking high scores, has now had those scores scrubbed from the record books, according to an announcement by Twin Galaxies. Earlier this year, Mitchell’s Donkey Kong scores came under fire after members of the Twin Galaxies forum suspected that many of his high scores on the game were achieved by using an emulator rather than a legitimate arcade cabinet.
Proof was provided to show how Mitchell used the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) rather than a true cabinet. The proof lies in how MAME renders new levels versus how the arcade machine does; a frame-by-frame analysis shows that Mitchell had been using the emulator. Using MAME versus using a legitimate arcade cabinet creates differences in how the game is played, particularly with regards to timing and controls. MAME also allows players to record and replay inputs, which essentially could allow for splicing together multiple runs to create one record-breaking attempt.
This is significant because of how Donkey Kong awards points. When Jumpman/Mario smashes enemies using a hammer, the points are doled out in a random fashion. Mitchell’s submitted videos showed an abnormally high amount of points being awarded for those smashes, which led to speculation that emulation was being used in order to manipulate the game’s internal random number generation.
Mitchell was notably considered the first person to achieve a score of more than 1 million points on Donkey Kong; now, after a months-long investigation by Twin Galaxies as well as by other third parties, it has been determined that Mitchell’s scores are illegitimate. Accordingly, Mitchell’s scores for not just Donkey Kong but for every other game he submitted scores for have been scrubbed from the Twin Galaxies leaderboards; the organization has also notified Guinness of their decision.
Mitchell is also banned from further competition via Twin Galaxies.
“Anyone looking into their own past with honesty and a desire to improve will likely find things potentially messy and uncomfortable. Twin Galaxies has experienced a nice big dose of that again with this dispute. However, Twin Galaxies understands that this is required for it to continue its commitment to accuracy. As we all have learned, this cannot occur overnight and must be a step-by-step process,” the Twin Galaxies statement reads. “Our methodic approach has allowed many things to surface, not only related to this specific score, but other scores as well as some previously never-before-discussed video game related history. We must repeat, the truth is the priority. That is the concern. Whatever it takes.”
With Mitchell’s high scores now considered invalid, Steve Wiebe is now the gamer who legitimately was the first person to score more than 1 million points in Donkey Kong. Wiebe and Mitchell’s rivalry for the title was the subject of the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, released in 2007.
Mitchell has long been considered somewhat of a notable character in the gaming community, not just for his various high scores but for his eccentric personality. He has been parodied in the film Pixels as well as in the cartoon Regular Show.
More information about this case can be found at NintendoLife.