One of the highlights of attending the San Diego Comic Con this year was competing in a Donkey Kong Tournament hosted by Picturehouse, the studio distributing the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
While wandering around the gigantic exhibit hall I noticed a two story booth with several classic Donkey Kong arcade games on the second floor and large flat plan displays on the sides. The displays allowed people down below to watch the game action going on upstairs.
There was a sign with the rules and instructions for signing up for the tournament. The basic idea was that the top four players from each of the first three days of the convention would come back for finals on the last day.
Although I own a classic Donkey Kong arcade game, I hadn’t really played it much in the last year and was pretty rusty. After watching some games it became obvious that most people did not have much skill or experience playing the game. I decided to give a try and was given a pager which would beep when it was my turn. About 45 minutes later the pager went off and I returned to the booth for my turn to embarrass myself.
They send me upstairs which turns out to be a lounge with bean bag chairs and the two Donkey Kong games. I notice that the games are in really nice shape. The cabinets and artwork are outstanding and the monitors look great.
I play the game and despite making a number of stupid mistakes I manage to land in the #4 position for that day’s high score. Since my score wasn’t very high I figured someone else would probably beat it before the end of the day.
At that point I headed back out into the exhibit hall and resume my wandering through the endless rows and isles of dealers. Towards the end of the day I was back in the exhibit hall and decided to check on the status of my score. As expected, someone had beat my score and I figured that was it.
Toward the end of the next day the organizer called me on my cell phone and asked if I could show up for the finals the next morning. It turns out that I was in the #13 position and they wanted me there as a backup just in case one of the finalists didn’t show.
The next morning I show up at the booth and fate has it that someone couldn’t make it and I was in the finals.
The first 20 minutes or so is spent doing media photos and being interviewed on camera. I had to agree that Picturehouse could use my picture or video to promote the film and/or possibly appear on the DVD extras.
The picture to the left is of the 12 finalists and Steve Wiebe who is in the movie and a world Donkey Kong champion.
Steve is the one standing in the middle wearing a white shirt and I’m the guy standing next to him on his right (i.e., left side of picture).
The tournament was held as a standard single-elimination. Each player was paired up with another person and the winner of a two player game would advance to the next round.
I did okay on my first game and moved on to the second round of finals which started about an hour later. The six remaining finalists were split up into three groups and we went at it again. This time my game did not go so well and I was knocked out of the competition.
The experience of playing in the tournament was really a lot of fun. Donkey Kong is one of my favorite classic games and just being there with other people who are passionate about the game was awesome. Meeting Steve Wiebe was also very cool and it turns out he lives about 20 minutes from my house in Woodinville. It’s a small world.
The tournament sparked a renewed interest for me in Donkey Kong and I’ve been devoting some time to it since returning from the convention. I’ve actually made a lot of progress in my game and my current high score is 228,200 (27th screen). I’m hoping someday to achive a score of around 500,000, however I know that is a long way off.