One of the most talked about and endearing stories within the world of video games is Billy Mitchell's quest to become the king of Donkey Kong. It's a story that has resonated with gamers and non-gamers alike for years after the success of the 2007 documentary King of Kong was released, which showcased Mitchell's rivalry with another player to set the highest score in the arcade game Donkey Kong. Well, that is, until now. There are accusations about Billy Mitchell using emulators to set his latest Donkey Kong records.
There's a massive two-part forum post on the Twin Galaxies forum, where a verified member decided to dig into Mitchell's record-setting runs in the classic Nintendo arcade game, Donkey Kong. The summary is that Mitchell appears to have used the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator software for his direct-capture runs to set the records in the game and not the original arcade hardware.
The dispute has led to the Twin Galaxies committee scrubbing Mitchell's most recent runs from their record books. According to the post, Twin Galaxies, which is known for keeping tabs on video game records, decided to revert back to only maintaining Mitchell's live score of 933,900, which he achieved in person on an actual arcade cabinet back at the Midwest Gaming Classic on May 7th, 2004. This score is being used because, according to the post, it was a live score that was witnessed by Twin Galaxies member Dwayne Richard.
The dispute came about after there were re-examinations of Mitchell's most recent record-setting runs in Donkey Kong, which led people to compare his snapshots with the original arcade machines. It turns out that the footage that was used to capture Mitchell's latest runs seem to indicate that the frame renders were based on the MAME, which compiles the frame render output differently from the original arcade machines. There are comparison captures between how the MAME and the original arcade machines display the images on screen, and in the case of MAME it has a snapshot effect, whereas the arcade machines render using what they call a "shutter effect."
The evidence is fairly compelling, given that you can clearly see that from the actual arcade cabinets the screens kind of slide into view, whereas the MAME renders the game on a frame-by-frame snapshot effect. The post shows footage of Mitchell's latest runs, which appear to render the high scores in a frame-by-frame snapshot effect, as opposed to the arcade's sliding frame effect.
It's not entirely definitive, given that maybe there's an explanation for it, but as of the writing of this article Mitchell has not responded to accusations nor the scrubbing of his records.
The significance of this is that the record he set during the 2007 documentary King of Kong is also being scrubbed from Twin Galaxies' archive. If it is found to be true that he did in fact use an emulator to set the score, then it means it discounts his efforts that were on display in the documentary.
The reason that emulation is sometimes considered cheating is because it's not entirely 1:1 to the hardware, and can sometimes afford glitches, controls or frame data to be exploited to the player's advantage.
Nevertheless, this only affects Mitchell's personal score. He hasn't held the top spot in Donkey Kong since 2010, according to the Donkey Kong Blog, which lists the most recent record holders. The current holder is Wes Copeland, who managed to set a brand new high score back in May of 2016.
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