Billy Mitchell (video game player)
Mitchell (center) with fans on December 19, 2007
|Born||William James Mitchell, Jr .
July 17, 1965
|Hometown||Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.|
William James "Billy" Mitchell, Jr. (born July 17, 1965) is an American video game player best known for recording 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 in July 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 is arguably best known to the broader public for his appearance in the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
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 (aka. "Mr. Awesome"). Shildt has on numerous occasions publicly and in YouTube videos disputed Mitchell's credibility and accused him of cheating. In a notable incident during the 2010 "International Video Game Hall of Fame", where Mitchell attended, Shildt was ejected from the premises after vehemently defaming Mitchell in public. Mitchell has stated that he avoids interaction with Shildt.
Mitchell is known for his mullet haircut and wearing 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 has been married for over 20 years and has three children. The oldest is his stepdaughter who is a 2010 graduate of Florida State University. His middle daughter is a 2015 graduate of American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida, and the recipient of an academic scholarship to the University of Alabama. Mitchell's youngest child, William "Billy" Mitchell III, is ranked as a top American football prospect among kickers in the high school class of 2017.
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 to claim both the live and taped records.
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 played in public and 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 May 5, 2016, Copeland posted a score of 1,218,000, the highest to date.
Mitchell set numerous 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 eventually matched or surpassed Mitchell's accomplishments.
- First acknowledged highest overall score on Donkey Kong, with 886,900 in 1982.
- Believed to have been, together with friend Chris Ayra, first to reach the ultimate "split-screen" level 256 of Pac-Man in the summer of 1983. Mitchell commented this in 2016 by claiming he had achieved "perfection".
- Moved the record score for Ms. Pac-Man to 703,560 in January 1985. Score not surpassed until 2001, by Chris Ayra.
- First person to achieve a perfect Pac-Man score of 3,333,360, achieved July 3, 1999 at Funspot Family Fun Center in New Hampshire. As of September 2010 (28 years after setting initial Donkey Kong record) this is the one championship Mitchell still holds, sharing it with 6 other players as of August 2015.
- Moved the record score for Donkey Kong Jr. to 957,300 in 2004.
- First acknowledged million-point score on Donkey Kong, with 1,050,200 in 2007.
- 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. As of 2015[update], both these records have been surpassed.
Honors and legacy
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 and filed a lawsuit, which was thrown out by the judge.
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