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I loved King of Kong. But is it real? More specifically, what evidence proves the scoring battles of King of Kong really happened?

If you haven't seen it, the movie's main characters are the perfect David/Goliath contrast... one a super-nice teacher guy down on his luck, the other an arrogant, smug, successful-small-business jerkwad with a mullet. And the good guy wins in the end!

But looking back, the King of Kong story and especially those characters seemed a little too perfect. So I looked into things on the 'net.

A few minutes of Googling led to articles and even some photos (like the one below) appearing to confirm that the Billy Mitchell character is real and has been in gaming for awhile. Billy Mitchell 1982 (?)

But photos are easy to fake. That one of Bily Mitchell could have been easily forged in Photoshop using an old photo of the actor who played Mitchell. And look closely at his sweatshirt... the C in Centipede seems oddly cut-off, no?

And when I dug further on the 'net, I noticed much of the material confirming the scoring battles appears to come from just a few sources, most notably TwinGalaxies.com, the website mentioned extensively in the movie. For instance, many of the gaming-history-related Wikipedia references for the movie come from "articles" on TwinGalaxies.com. This site and its contents easily could have been created by the movie's makers.

Then there's other evidence suggesting King of Kong is a mockumentary:

  • The tagline for the movie -- "Don't get chumpatized" -- seems less appropo for the movie as a documentary but very appropo for the movie as a mockumentary
  • The movie references a character called "Mister Awesome" who seems like he would have a significant Internet presence, but basically all that exists is a half-assed website and a Youtube video with footage from the movie repackaged as a fake news-show segment
  • Director Seth Gordon is no stranger to comedy, having directed an episode each of Modern Family and Community, two episodes of The Office, and multiple episodes of Parks and Recreation.
  • (update 1) YouTube has short clip of 1983 "That's Incredible" episode which purports to show Walter Day hosting video game tourney, but clip's edits seem strange, and more importantly: no Billy Mitchell

(update 2) Evidence suggesting King of Kong is real:

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The "oddly" cut C in Centipede is due to a fold/crease in the shirt, and lends credence to the fact that the writing on his shirt was not photoshopped. But that's not saying much. It's cheap to print a t-shirt. Especially one that basic. –  Flimzy Feb 9 '12 at 15:09
    
actually, if you look closely, the C seems to be cut off by a right-angle-shaped line. also, something seems off on the other side of the shirt, where the last zero in the score seems awkwardly cut. fishy... –  Shiz Z. Feb 11 '12 at 3:22
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3 Answers

Very intriguing question. I haven't seen the film--only discovered its existence a few days ago--so while I won't understand all the context I may be a little more impartial. I have a few comments and have also done a little research.

Firstly, regarding the "C" of young Billy Mitchell's top. It just seems to me that the left half is folded underneath a crease, like the "2" of "25,000,000" directly below it.

Twin Galaxies seems to be by far the main compilation of gaming records, statistics, etc. Its Wikipedia page contains a lot of its history dating back to 1981, however this is not entirely convincing for the same reason--a lot of its references are from TwinGalaxies.com. It claims to have collaborated with Guinness World Records; the link is dead but an old version can be seen here which confirms a lot of the history. Additionally, performing a whois on TwinGalaxies.com suggests that the site has been up for at least 9 years (King of Kong was released in 2007). So to me it seems like a legitimate entity.

It's hard to tell with Mr. Awesome because I can't believe anyone like that could take themselves completely seriously. From what I've researched, my opinion is that Mr. Awesome is Roy Shildt's half-serious persona--and the serious half reflects Shildt's willingness to do anything to be famous. I found an appearance of his on the Howard Stern Show here (it's Stern, so it's NSFW) in 2001 (source here, and do a search on "awesome"). Again it seems to not be created specifically for the film.

Seth Gordon's biography suggests mockumentary. As well as what you've mentioned, he apparently cites as an influence, Christopher Guest, who is well known for his work with mockumentaries such as This is Spinal Tap. I can't come up with any examples of documentary directors who have later worked in comedy, although I don't think it's impossible.

All of this evidence considered, I think King of Kong is genuine. If you believe Guinness WR and whois, then you should recognise Twin Galaxies. And if you recognise them you should believe the information they present. I guess it could be a hoax, but it would have to be incredibly well thought out years in advance, as well as executed perfectly.

Now I should really go watch the movie =)

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if the movie is a hoax, twingalaxies.com could have been around for a few years before the filmmakers turned it into its present incarnation. –  Shiz Z. Feb 11 '12 at 3:24
    
Even if Mr. Awesome is real, the movie could still be a hoax. Hey, maybe the filmmakers remembered hearing him on Stern and got him involved in the movie... just one of a jillion possibilities. –  Shiz Z. Feb 11 '12 at 3:28
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More proof that a Florida man named Billy Mitchell was very good at videogames in the early 1980's.

Faking these seems beyond the ability of a hoaxer.

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this is good stuff and I gave up-vote, but I don't find it conclusive. No pictures of Billy, for one thing. Filmmakers could have seen this info and borrowed the name. –  Shiz Z. Jun 10 '12 at 19:20
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There's plenty of archive footage of Billy Mitchell in the documentary Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007).

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