Billy Mitchell (video game player)
Mitchell (center) with fans on December 19, 2007
|Born||William James Mitchell, Jr.
July 17, 1965
Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
|Hometown||Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States|
William James Mitchell, Jr. (born July 17, 1965) is an American video game player. He has recorded high scores on classic games from the golden age of arcade video games. David Ramsey, writing for the Oxford American in 2006, called Mitchell "probably the greatest arcade video game player of all time." Mitchell's signature achievement is earning the first perfect score of 3,333,360 points on the original Pac-Man arcade game on July 4, 1999. He owns the Rickey's World Famous Restaurant chain based in Hollywood, Florida, and sells a line of hot sauces known as Rickey's World Famous Sauces. He appeared in the documentaries The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007), Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007), The King of Arcades (2014), and Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler (2015).
Mitchell was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and later grew up in South Florida and began playing games at age 12. Already a dominant pinball player, he was at first uninterested in video games appearing in the early '80s until he noticed that "everyone was standing around the Donkey Kong machine and wanted attention".
Mitchell attended Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in 1983 and soon began work as a manager in the kitchen of his parents' restaurant, "Rickey's Restaurant". Mitchell assumed ownership of the Rickey's World Famous Hot Sauce in the mid-1980s, continuing to own and manage it as of 2016[update].
In 2015 Mitchell filed a lawsuit against Cartoon Network claiming that in Regular Show a character who cheats at video games called Garrett Bobby Ferguson (GBF) infringed on his likeness. United States District Court for the District of New Jersey Judge Anne Elise Thompson threw out the lawsuit, saying that "the television character does not match the plaintiff in appearance".
Mitchell has a long-standing, and well-publicized rivalry with his King of Kong co-star Roy Shildt (a.k.a. "Mr. Awesome"). Shildt has disputed Mitchell's credibility and accused him of cheating. In an incident during the 2010 "International Video Game Hall of Fame", which Mitchell attended, Shildt was ejected from the premises after vehemently defaming Mitchell in public. Mitchell has stated that he avoids interaction with Shildt.
Mitchell has long hair and wears neckties showing American patriotism during game competitions. The ties stem from his 1999 race to become the first person to achieve a perfect game of Pac-Man. One of his competitors, Rick Fothergill, wore a Canadian flag cape and called himself "Captain Canada". Mitchell began wearing his patriotic ties in response.
Mitchell is the brother of Karen Harrington, a South Florida Republican politician who has run two unsuccessful campaigns (2010 and 2012) to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the United States House of Representatives.
Video game career
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters tells the story of newcomer Steve Wiebe's attempt to surpass Billy Mitchell's high score at the game Donkey Kong, which Mitchell had set in 1982.
Mitchell never showed up to play the game in the film, though he states the importance of playing in public, saying, "To me, most important is to travel to a sanctioned location, like Funspot that makes it official; if tomorrow Tiger Woods golfs a 59, big deal. If he does it at Augusta, that's where it counts." However, throughout the film Wiebe traveled to various locations such as Funspot to play him publicly, and each time Mitchell refused. More controversy arose when at Funspot, Wiebe set the Donkey Kong live score record and was given official recognition, something he did not receive for sending in a tape in which he scored the first million point game on record. A few hours later, a tape submitted by Mitchell in which he scored over a million points was accepted, and Wiebe lost his record. The film records speculation that Mitchell's tape may have been fraudulent. In Mitchell's hometown later on, Wiebe waited for four days to play Mitchell, who showed up one day and refused to play against Wiebe. In the film, Wiebe, while playing the game says hello to Mitchell, who does not respond, and says to his wife, as he walks away, "There's certain people I don't want to spend too much time with". Mitchell offers no explanation for his behavior towards Wiebe but later explained that at the time of filming, he had not played video games for "more than a year", and that the filmmakers had not given him enough advance warning to train for a public record-breaking attempt. Seth Gordon, the film's director, in referring to Mitchell's character says that Mitchell "is a true puppet-master", "a master of information-control" and that there was a lot of "stuff we couldn't include because of inter-state telephone rules."
At the film's conclusion, Wiebe beats Mitchell's score to gain a new Donkey Kong record on tape.
In a 2007 interview, Mitchell has stated that he never expected to play the role of the villain and did not anticipate hate mail and badgering phone calls he would receive post-release.
After King of Kong
On July 26, 2007, on the 25th anniversary of Mitchell's first record-setting performance, Mitchell again retook the Donkey Kong record with a score of 1,050,200, though that score was surpassed on February 26, 2010 by Hank Chien, who was temporarily the record holder of Donkey Kong. Mitchell reclaimed his title once again on July 24, 2010; it was the last time he would hold the record. The record was broken numerous times over the next six years by Wiebe, Chien, Wes Copeland, and Robbie Lakeman; each held the record at least twice in that span. On February 2, 2018, Robbie Lakeman set the new world record with 1,247,700.
On February 2, 2018, Donkey Kong Forum removed three of Mitchell's highest scores from its high-scores list following analysis by Jeremy Young who stated that the scores were set using the MAME arcade emulator instead of arcade hardware. Mitchell stated on the East Side Dave Show, "I’ve never even played MAME. I don’t have MAME loaded in my home." Mitchell continues by saying "The film footage that he has, that Jeremy has, shows MAME play... I’m not disputing what he says. What I’m disputing is the fact that I want him to have the original tape.” Young's analysis has been criticized by Mitchell as being from an altered tape that otherwise matches Billy's gameplay pixel-for-pixel, to which Young responds that "The amount of foresight, patience, and technical knowledge required would be staggering" to make such tapes. To date, Mitchell's score remains on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard while Twin Galaxies investigates the dispute.
To date, Mitchell has a single publicly witnessed high score of 933,900 from 2004.
Mitchell set high score records on a number of games in the 1980s and 1990s. Decades after his 1982 setting of an initial highest score in Donkey Kong, and after a return to record-breaking achievements between 2004 and 2010, others have matched or surpassed Mitchell's accomplishments.
- Together with friend Chris Ayra they reached the ultimate "split-screen" level 256 of Pac-Man in the summer of 1983. Mitchell commented on this in 2016 by claiming he had achieved "perfection".
- First acknowledged highest overall score on Donkey Kong, with 886,900 in 1982.
- Moved the record score for Ms. Pac-Man to 703,560 in January 1985. Score not surpassed until 2001, by Chris Ayra.
- Moved the record score for Donkey Kong Junior to 957,300 in 2004.
- Moved the record score for BurgerTime to 7,881,050 in 1984. Score not surpassed until 2005.
- Became fifth (and last, as of 2015[update]) person to achieve a score on Centipede, in marathon play, of over 10 million points, achieved July 8, 1985.
- Recaptured the world records for both Donkey Kong (1,062,800 points) and Donkey Kong Jr. (1,270,900) on the weekend of July 24, 2010. In 2015, both these records were surpassed. The Donkey Kong record was removed in 2018 after video evidence suggested that Mitchell used MAME to achieve it. There is also substantial evidence that the score was falsified.
Honors and legacy
In 1982, he was the first person to reach the kill screen of Donkey Kong. He discovered it at a Life Magazine competition after reaching the 22nd floor.
On September 17, 1999, he was proclaimed the "Video Game Player of the Century" while at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show. In a ceremony on the Namco stage, company founder Masaya Nakamura presented Mitchell with an award commemorating the first "perfect" game on Pac-Man.
On June 21, 2006, MTV selected Mitchell one of "The 10 Most Influential Video Gamers of All Time." He was also nominated as leader of the Nerd Herd. Mitchell had been featured previously in the True Life episode "I'm A Gamer" in 2003.
A character similar to Mitchell called Garrett Bobby Ferguson (GBF) appears in Regular Show. Mitchell, however, took offense at the portrayal (a villain who cheats at video games) and filed a lawsuit, which was thrown out by the judge.
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- Details of Jeremy Young's analysis of Mitchell's gameplay tapes