The competitive retro gaming scene has been rocked by scandal once again. Less than a week after Todd Rogers was stripped of his world record time in the Atari 2600 game Dragster over claims that his score of 5.51 seconds was technically impossible (the record had stood for 35 years), the spotlight has turned to a far more prominent figure in the competitive gaming community.
Billy Mitchell, an arcade legend and one of the most polarizing characters in the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, is now under the microscope over claims that some of his high scores in Donkey Kong were generated in MAME – an open-source arcade emulator – and not on original arcade hardware.
Allegations and evidence (lots of animated GIFs) against Mitchell were recently published on the Twin Galaxies forum by user Xelnia, whose real name is Jeremy Young. Xelnia’s case largely boils down to the technical differences in how the game is rendered on screen on an original hardware cabinet and through the MAME emulator.
The use of MAME isn’t forbidden with regard to Donkey Kong world record scores; the issue seems to be that Mitchell allegedly tried passing off runs conducted in MAME as having been done on original hardware (MAME runs go through a different approval process).
For a full technical breakdown of Xelnia’s claim (and the community’s response), please do check out his post on Twin Galaxies.
Xelnia also happens to be the moderator of Donkey Kong Forum and has removed Mitchell’s score of 1,062,800 from the Donkey Kong Forum high score list. What many in the community are waiting to see, however, is how Twin Galaxies will approach the matter.
The organization’s stance as of press time is as follows:
"Twin Galaxies is in the process of fully-reviewing the compelling evidence provided by Jeremy Young to support his current score dispute case against Bily Mitchell's Donkey Kong score. We will do this thoroughly and impartially. In the meantime we will continue to observe this discussion by experts in the community and will also examine any further evidence that may be provided during this review period."