Fans of the 2007 documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters probably remember Billy Mitchell as the kind-of jerky Donkey Kong player who battled underdog hero Steve Wiebe for DK World Record bragging rights. The two have traded blows since then, claiming new records, and others have gotten into the competition as well. However, three of Billy Mitchell’s world record scores have now been deemed ineligible.
Twin Galaxies, an organization dedicated to tracking video game world records, recently made the announcement that three of Mitchell’s high-scoring runs, which he claimed were direct feed recordings of play on arcade hardware, were actually generated in MAME. It’s complicated, but essentially, MAME is an emulator that recreates classic arcade games on modern PCs.
The discovery that Mitchell was, at best, being dishonest about his recording methods was made by Twin Galaxies judge Jeremy “Xelnia” Young. Young realized the way in which the game as presented by Mitchell loaded was reminiscent of MAME, not actual arcade hardware.
The important bit: prior to version 0.127, MAME generated video in essentially a ‘snapshot’ fashion,” Young said in a blog post. “The Z80 would run for 1 frame, then the video emulation takes the ‘snapshot’ of that point time and displays the image. Then the Z80 runs for 1 frame, the next snapshot is taken, displayed on the monitor, etc. etc. Real DK hardware, on the other hand, generates video in a ‘rolling shutter’ fashion: the video generator scans left-to-right/bottom-to-top, while the Z80 builds the screen in memory from the opposite direction right-to-left, top-to-bottom.”
That’s a really complicated way to put it, so Young uses an analogy later in the post: Real Donkey Kong arcade hardware generated video like opening vertical blinds — from side to side. MAME generates video the way you’d put together a puzzle — piece by piece.
It’s unknown why Mitchell, who has been openly critical of players using MAME in the past, would have used MAME instead of actual hardware, unless he was attempting to cheat. While there isn’t evidence as of yet that suggests he did cheat, the scores must be deemed invalid due to the dishonest way in which they were presented.
The scores that have been invalidated were all over 1 million points: 1.047 million, 1.05 million, and 1.062 million. Those scores have since been surpassed by other players. Mitchell has not responded to the accusations.