Seth Gordon's top "Donkey Kong" score is 120,000. When compared to his friends' average scores of 4,000 and 5,000, he's looking pretty good. When compared to "Kong" wizards Steve Weibe's and Billy Mitchell's top scores of a million-plus points, well.
"Aw, dude, I got nothing on them," said Gordon, director of "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." "I thought I was pretty good, you know. I grew up going to FunSpot, I'm into gaming. But when I saw those guys, it was like, no way."
Gordon's feature film making debut, "King of Kong," tracks the two "Donkey Kong" champs as they vie for the Guinness Book of World Records title for top "Donkey Kong" player. The spot had been held by Mitchell since 1982 until more recently, when Weibe entered the scene.
Playing out as a weirdo showdown between heroes and villains, "King of Kong" is more than a documentary about video games. It's a story of the human spirit.
"I wanted to make a, quote, sports film. I wanted to show these people as real people and beyond just them as video gamers," Gordon said. "If you walk away with a sense of humanity, then I did my job."
When Gordon starting filming in 2004, he thought he knew what he was getting into. He was wrong. The deep realm of gaming that he had entered was bizarre, almost otherworldly.
These gamers, deeply cemented in the orbits of "Donkey Kong," "Pac-Man" and other classic video games, lived and breathed the stuff. Their lives revolved around video gaming competitions and keeping dibs on other gamers.
But the strangest part was "these people had no idea they were so weird," he said. "They are pretty much only around other gamers like that, so they thought it was, you know, normal. "
The most mainstream of the bunch was Weibe, the good-hearted underdog of the film. A family man from Seattle, Weibe is a self-taught video game prodigy. In attempting to break Mitchell's long-standing "Donkey Kong" record, he was met with prejudice, corruption and biased judges.
"I had no idea there was going to be all this drama at the story's core," Gordon said. "Once we really got into it, it all just unfolded. I mean, Billy (Mitchell) won't even say Steve's (Weibe) name. We'd try to prod it out of him, but he wouldn't even say it."
As the decided antagonist of the tale, Mitchell at first seemed like a nice guy, but by the end of film, Gordon said, he revealed himself to be a classic narcissist. He was unaware of the way his words affected others. He was smug, arrogant and almost always followed by his band of "Kong" worshipers.
But the real draw to Mitchell was his hair.
"It's not really a mullet. It's just long hair," Gordon said. "He has a very distinct way of prepping it every day. He takes a, what are those clamp things called? A flat iron, to his hair every day, then sprays it with Aqua Net. And I've never seen him without a tie. Ever. It's like the guy is stuck in 1982. We have a whole section on the DVD of just him doing his hair. It's awesome."