King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Dir: Seth Gordon
Cruising on a wave of geek chic, this documentary is an interesting portrayal of a vintage obsession, the drive and determination left over from a voracious decade – that of the 80’s, with its shoulder pads, oversized mobile phones, and importantly arcade machines. Though there were countless classic arcade games – Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Q-bert – this documentary focuses not on the culture of retro gaming, but one game in particular – Donkey Kong.
Following the brief history of competitive retro gaming, the documentary focuses in on Billy Mitchell, a world renowned arcade gamer and originator of many a record. Through his success we are gradually shown the world of Twin Galaxies, an institution devoted to global highscores, and an official body for competitive retro-gaming. Within this world, colourful characters emerge, each taking their small role in what could so easily be a carefully scripted opera, and one with a suitably synthesised 8-bit soundtrack.
The film itself is very cleverly paced and expertly pieced together, keeping you at a certain distance from the true narrative for the first third of the film, before slowly luring you in with real-life characters that seem to be from another galaxy. As each absurd brick is placed on an ever teetering tower of bricks, the inherent drama and fierce rivalry of a world – which is so outlandishly irrelevant to a wider community – becomes ever more fascinating. The result is a surprisingly powerful documentary, that is undoubtedly entertaining, with humour which can be enjoyed by even one without a passing interest in gaming.
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