Donkey Kong legend Billy Mitchell has groomed his reputation as the greatest video game player of all time for over 30 years. However, that rep may be permanently tarnished after being found guilty of cheating.
Officials at the retro-gaming records website Twin Galaxies concluded a two-month investigation on Thursday into allegations that Mitchell’s scores in Donkey Kong were not achieved on arcade hardware, but rather through the MAME software emulation program. Posting scores from MAME is not disallowed, but misrepresenting them as arcade scores is.
As a result, Twin Galaxies has announced that it will be removing Mitchell’s Donkey Kong high scores from its registry. The site is also stripping any other scores from other games that the King of Kong has posted. Furthermore, he is banned from future postings to the TG leaderboards as well.
The investigation into the bogus scores started last February when the moderator of Donkey Kong Forum Jeremy Young removed Mitchell's 1,062,800 high score from its boards and reported him to Twin Galaxies. Young claimed that Mitchell had used the MAME emulator and provided several gifs to show the difference between it and an arcade machine (specifically board transitions).
After conducting a thorough examination, TG investigators determined that the footage Mitchell supplied to the registrar was not recorded using original arcade hardware. They did not conclude that he used MAME, but only because that was beyond the scope of the investigation. Officials just needed to determine whether the recording was from arcade hardware or not.
“From a Twin Galaxies viewpoint, the only important thing to know is whether or not the score performances are from an unmodified original Donkey Kong arcade [printed circuit board] as per the competitive rules,” TG said in its summary decision. “We now believe that they are not from an original unmodified Donkey Kong PCB, and so our investigation of the tape content ends with that conclusion and assertion.”
Interestingly, the footage in question was the same footage that was used in the documentary film The King of King: A Fistful of Quarters. What this means is that not only did Mitchell misrepresent his high score to TG, but the film also misrepresented how the score was achieved.
So in an ironic twist of fate, Steve Wiebe, Mitchell’s rival in Fistful of Quarters, is now recognized as the first person to score more than one million points in Donkey Kong — at least in Twin Galaxies eyes.