Billy Mitchell (video game player)

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Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell, Craig, & Kyle.jpg
Billy Mitchell with fans on July 7, 2018
BornWilliam James Mitchell Jr.
(1965-07-16) July 16, 1965 (age 54)
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.

William James Mitchell Jr. (born July 16, 1965) is an American businessman, restaurateur and competitive gamer. He initially rose to fame in the 1980s when Life magazine included him in a photo spread of video game champions during the height of the golden age of arcade video games. Mitchell was subsequently recognized by Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records as the holder of several notable records on classic games. In 2018, Twin Galaxies conducted an extensive investigation and determined two of Mitchell's previously accepted scores for the game Donkey Kong to be invalid, concluding that the score performances were not from an original Donkey Kong arcade circuit board "as per the competitive rules." As a result, Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records vacated all of Mitchell's previous scores and banned him from submitting future scores.[1]

Mitchell's signature achievement is earning the first perfect score of 3,333,360 points on the original Pac-Man arcade game in a publicly witnessed live performance at the Funspot arcade in New Hampshire on July 3, 1999. David Ramsey, writing for the Oxford American in 2006, identified Mitchell as "probably the greatest arcade video game player of all time."[2]

Throughout the early 2000s and 2010s, Mitchell was a frequently sought-after interview subject for documentaries on the worlds of competitive gaming and retrogaming, including Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007),[3] The King of Arcades (2014),[4] and Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler (2015).[5][6] Additionally, Mitchell is a subject of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007),[2] which follows his attempts to maintain his high score on Donkey Kong after it was threatened by newcomer Steve Wiebe. A VHS tape that Mitchell gave to Twin Galaxies during the course of the documentary proved to be instrumental in the 2018 investigation into Mitchell's score performances, with the team that led the investigation citing the film's DVD extras as a crucial source of evidence.[1]

In addition to professional gaming, Mitchell owns the Rickey's World Famous Restaurant chain based in Hollywood, Florida, and sells Rickey's World Famous Sauces.[7]


Mitchell was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in South Florida. He began playing games at age 12. Already a pinball player, he was initially uninterested in video games as they appeared in the early 1980s, until he noticed that "everyone was standing around the Donkey Kong machine and wanted attention".[2]

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.

In 2015, Mitchell filed a lawsuit against Cartoon Network saying that in Regular Show a character who cheats at video games called Garrett Bobby Ferguson (GBF) infringed on his likeness.[8][9] 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".[10][11][12]

Mitchell has a long-standing and well-publicized rivalry with his King of Kong co-star Roy Shildt (a.k.a. "Mr. Awesome"). According to that film, animosity first developed between the men after Mitchell caused Shildt's high score on Missile Command to be called into question. Shildt, in turn, has disputed Mitchell's credibility and accused him of cheating.[13][14][15] In an incident during the 2010 "International Video Game Hall of Fame" Shildt was ejected from the premises after haranguing Mitchell in public.[16] Mitchell has stated that he avoids interaction with Shildt.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Mitchell has long hair and wears neckties showing American patriotism during game competitions. During 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" so Mitchell began wearing his patriotic ties in response.[7]

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.[18]

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.[19]

Video game career[edit]

Mitchell (center) with fans on December 19, 2007

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters[edit]

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.[20] 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".[21]

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.[22]

Records after King of Kong[edit]

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,[23] though that score was surpassed on February 26, 2010 by Hank Chien, who was temporarily the record holder of Donkey Kong.[24] Mitchell reclaimed his title once again on July 24, 2010; it was the last time he would hold the record.[25] 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.[26][27][28][29] On February 2, 2018, Robbie Lakeman set the new world record with 1,247,700.[30]


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.[31] 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.”[32] Young's analysis has been criticized by Mitchell as being from an altered tape that otherwise matches Mitchell'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.[33]

On April 12, 2018, Twin Galaxies announced that an investigation conducted into Mitchell's submitted scores found conclusive evidence that Mitchell used a modified Donkey Kong circuit board for the footage of his two high scores, but could not confirm that he was specifically using MAME software. Twin Galaxies said that they had removed Mitchell's scores from their records and that he would be prohibited from submitting scores in the future.[34][35]

Subsequently, Guinness World Records released a statement that it would be removing all of Mitchell's scores as well: "The Guinness World Records titles relating to Mr. Mitchell’s highest scores on Donkey Kong have all been disqualified due to Twin Galaxies being our source of verification for these achievements."[36] The removal also includes Mitchell's Pac-Man high score and first recorded perfect game: "Twin Galaxies was the original source of verification for these record titles and in line with their decision to remove all of Mr. Mitchell’s records from their system, we have disqualified Mr. Mitchell as the holder of these two records."[36]

To date, Mitchell has a single publicly witnessed Donkey Kong high score of 933,900 from 2004.[31] In August 2018, Mitchell recorded himself playing on an arcade cabinet and scored 1,047,500 on a Twitch live stream.[37]

Mitchell with his friend Steve Sanders during the Life Magazine reunion photoshoot, Ottumwa 2014

Notable scores[edit]

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. None of these records is considered valid by Twin Galaxies or by the Guinness Book of Records as of April 12, 2018.

  • Together with friend Chris Ayra they reached the "split-screen" level 256 of Pac-Man in mid 1983.[2] Mitchell commented on this in 2016 by saying he had achieved "perfection".[38]
  • He achieved the first acknowledged highest overall score on Donkey Kong, with 886,900 in 1982.[2]
  • He moved the record score for Ms. Pac-Man to 703,560 in January 1985. This score was not surpassed until 2001, by Chris Ayra.[39]
  • He moved the record score for Donkey Kong Jr. to 957,300 in 2004.[40]
  • He moved the record score for BurgerTime to 7,881,050 in 1984. This score was not surpassed until 2005.[40][41]
  • He became fifth (and latest, as of 2015) person to achieve a score on Centipede, in marathon play, of more than 10 million points, achieved July 8, 1985.[40]
  • He 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.[42] In 2015, both these records were surpassed.[40] The Donkey Kong record was first removed in February 2018 by the Donkey Kong forums. This process and evidence produced helped to lead Twin Galaxies to remove the records in April 2018 after an investigation concluded Mitchell did not use an original unmodified version of the Donkey Kong arcade hardware, instead using an emulator or other disallowed means to achieve it.[35] There is also evidence to suggest that the score was falsified.[43]
Billy Mitchell and Pac-Man give an approving "thumbs up" at the 2014 Twin Galaxies / Walter Day trading card event at the Icon art gallery, Fairfield Iowa

Honors and legacy[edit]

On January 14, 1984, he was selected as one of the 1983 "Video Game Players of the Year" by Twin Galaxies and the U.S. National Video Game Team.[44]

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.[2]

On November 24, 1999, he offered $100,000 to the first person who could get through Pac-Man's "split-screen level".[45] The prize was never claimed before the January 1, 2000 deadline.

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.[46] Mitchell had been featured previously in the True Life episode "I'm A Gamer" in 2003.

Mitchell placed eighth out of eight in the Microsoft Xbox 360 Pac-Man World Championships on June 4, 2007.[47]

In 2008, Mitchell became the first video game player to be honored with a Topps Allen & Ginter trading card.[48]

In the 2015 feature film Pixels, Peter Dinklage portrays former video game champion "Eddie", with physical appearance and personality styled after Mitchell and other gamers.[49][50]

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.[51][52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Crecente, Brian (April 12, 2018). "'King of Kong' Star Stripped of High Scores, Banned From Competition". Variety.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Perfect Man". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  3. ^ "Chasing Ghosts on IMDb". Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  4. ^ "The King of Arcades on IMDb". Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "Man vs Snake". Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  6. ^ "MAN vs SNAKE". Mr. Mitchell appears at 1:11 in the trailer. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Modell, Josh (February 7, 2008). "The King Of Kong, continued: Donkey Kong champ Billy Mitchell calls The A.V. Club out of the blue". The A.V. Club.
  8. ^ O'Connor, Brendan (November 23, 2015). "Judge Throws Out Former Donkey Kong Record Holder's Lawsuit Against Cartoon Network". Gawker. Archived from the original on November 27, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Phillips, Tom (November 24, 2015). "Donkey Kong diva denied in Cartoon Network depiction lawsuit". Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Vanderbilt, Mike (November 24, 2015). "Billy Mitchell loses Regular Show lawsuit, doesn't care as long as he's trending". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  11. ^ Associated Press (November 23, 2015). "Former 'Donkey Kong' record holder's cartoon lawsuit tossed". Archived from the original on November 28, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  12. ^ "Former 'Donkey Kong' record holder's cartoon lawsuit tossed". Associated Press. November 23, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Plunkett, Luke. "An Awesome Interview With Missile Command's Mr. Awesome". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "The seedy darkside of....Video Game World Records". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  15. ^ "Roy "Mr.Awesome" Shildt calls Billy Mitchell a cheater, claims to know 'ALL the secrets'". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  16. ^ Plunkett, Luke. "Mr. Awesome: Champion Gamer, Playgirl Model". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  17. ^ "The King Of Kong, continued: Donkey Kong champ Billy Mitchell calls The A.V. Club out of the blue". February 8, 2008. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  18. ^ "Chris Sailer Kicking & Rubio Long Snapping Player Rankings - Voted best kicking, punting and long snapping camp in the world". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  19. ^ Mooney, Michael J. (October 7, 2010). "Karen Harrington Says Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is "Within Striking Distance" | New Times Broward-Palm Beach". Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  20. ^ Boyer, Crispin (February 4, 2008). "Killing Bill: King of Kong's Nemesis Talks Back: News from". Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  21. ^ "Interview: Seth Gordon, Director of The King of Kong". 2006. Archived from the original on November 7, 2007.
  22. ^ "Ex-'Donkey Kong' Champ Finally Speaks After Getting Bruised By New Doc". Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  23. ^ Day, Walter (26 July 2007). "Man Shatters Donkey Kong World Record Exactly 25 Years After First Setting It in 1982". Twin Galaxies. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  24. ^ Plunkett, Luke (9 March 2010). "Salute Your New King Of Kong". Kotaku. Gizmodo Media Group. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  25. ^ Bradford, Matthew (August 7, 2010). "BILLY MITCHELL TAKES BACK DONKEY KONG RECORDS". Twin Galaxies International. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  26. ^ "Steve Wiebe regains Donkey Kong World Record from Billy Mitchell". Twin Galaxies. 20 September 2010. Archived from the original on 23 September 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  27. ^ Hilliard, Kyle (6 September 2014). "The World Record For Highest Score In Donkey Kong Has Been Beaten". Gameinformer. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  28. ^ Fahey, Mike (6 September 2014). "A New World Record Ends Hank Chien's Reign As Donkey Kong Champion". Kotaku. Gizmodo Media Group. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  29. ^ Good, Owen S. (9 January 2016). "New Donkey Kong world record set, and there's not much room left for another". Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  30. ^ Wong, Kevin (February 9, 2018). "Embattled Donkey Kong Record Holder Billy Mitchell Wants To Clear His Name". GameSpot. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Donkey Kong scoreboard strips Billy Mitchell's high score claims". Ars Technica. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  32. ^ "Billy Mitchell Breaks Silence About Donkey Kong High Score Controversy". Kotaku. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  33. ^ Good, Owen S. (February 23, 2018). "The case against an all-time Donkey Kong great, explained". Polygon. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  34. ^ "Dispute Decision: Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong & All Other Records Removed". Twin Galaxies.
  35. ^ a b Crecente, Brian (April 12, 2018). "'King of Kong' Star Stripped of High Scores, Banned From Competition". Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  36. ^ a b Crecente, Brian (April 13, 2018). "Guinness World Records Disqualifies Billy Mitchell's Perfect 'Pac-Man' Run, Other Achievements". Variety. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Great Big Story (July 21, 2016). Meet the Man Who Beat 'Pac-Man'. Retrieved 19 April 2019 – via YouTube.
  39. ^ "Ms. Pac-Man points records". Twin Galaxies. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  40. ^ a b c d "Billy L Mitchell (profile)". Twin Galaxies International. Archived from the original on 23 January 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  41. ^ Dean, Paul (5 September 2005). "bryan wagner burgertime world record". Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  42. ^ Bradford, Matthew (August 7, 2010). "BILLY MITCHELL TAKES BACK DONKEY KONG RECORDS". Twin Galaxies International. Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
  43. ^ Orland, Kyle (February 3, 2018). "Donkey Kong scoreboard strips Billy Mitchell's high score claims [Updated]". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  44. ^ Harris, Steve (1 February 1984). "Twin Galaxies' Coronation Day Crowns Video's Best of '83". Twin Galaxies. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  45. ^ "$100,000 Prize Promised to First Video Game Player to Solve Pac-Man's Mysterious "Split Screen"". Twin Galaxies. 24 November 1999. Archived from the original on 22 November 2006. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  46. ^ Totilo, Stephen (20 June 2006). "Playa Rater: The 10 Most Influential Video Gamers Of All Time". MTV News. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  47. ^ Ransom-Wiley, James (7 June 2007). "Chasing pellets: Pac-Man tries to make history again". Engadget. Verizon Media. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  48. ^ "Billy Mitchell Appears on TOPPS Gum Card". Twin Galaxies. 3 June 2008. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  49. ^ White, James (May 19, 2015). "New Pixels Promo Attacks The Web". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  50. ^ Sony PIX [@SonyPIX] (10 January 2017). "Eddie Plant is based on several video game champions like Patrick Scott Patterson, Nicole Richie, etc! #Pixels #NowOnPIX" (Tweet). Retrieved 19 April 2019 – via Twitter.
  51. ^ Vanderbilt, Mike (November 24, 2015). "Billy Mitchell loses Regular Show lawsuit, doesn't care as long as he's trending". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  52. ^ Orland, Kyle (24 November 2015). "Court: King of Kong's Billy Mitchell isn't an exploding, floating cartoon head". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved August 21, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

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