How many times will Steve Wiebe try to prove that he’s the world’s greatest Donkey Kong player? If his efforts at the E3 conference in Los Angeles this morning are any indication, the answer is “as many times as it takes.” But given how much entertainment the world has already gotten from watching him play the classic arcade game, that’s not such a bad thing.
The 2007 documentary The King of Kong chronicled Wiebe, a high school teacher from the Pacific Northwest, as he honed his savant-like talent for the game of Donkey Kong in an effort to break the world record set by the gaming Goliath Billy Mitchell. It was a classic underdog tale that made both Wiebe and Mitchell pop culture icons — but due to the complications of determining an official score, one that ended without a crystal-clear resolution. The documentary’s conclusion was that the only scores that really counted were those performed live, at an official gaming event, on a regulated machine.
Mitchell and Wiebe have subsequently made regular appearances at gaming conventions to attempt new world records, and with 1,050,200 points, Mitchell is currently the record-holder. Thus, the gauntlet is Wiebe’s to pick up.
And today, cable network G4 and live-streamer Justin.TV are there to give him a platform. At 11 AM EST/8 AM PST, with Twin Galaxies referee Walter Day in attendance, Wiebe began attempting to achieve a new Donkey Kong record. While G4’s E3 coverage only has occasional updates on his progress, the whole thing can be watched live (embed after the jump).
In Wiebe’s first attempt this morning, he played for more than two hours before dying with a score of 923,400; at approximately 11 AM PST, he began playing again. The Justin.TV streaming matches with G4’s on-air Wiebe Watch split screen, with the Donkey Kong game in action on one side and Wiebe’s intent face on the other. The sound effects from the game mingle with the audible clacking of the arcade game’s plastic controller and buttons, making the live-streaming experience, on one level, a more visceral one than watching it in person.
Also, there’s something Zen-like about watching another player go through the motions of slaying monsters or discovering another world, their victories and conquests offering you a vicarious thrill. In this case, though, it’s not the graphics and game play that people are tuning in for — the event is completely devoid of context unless you’ve seen King of Kong or you’re watching it in sync with G4’s E3 coverage. But if you do know the backstory behind Wiebe’s many previous attempts, this battle of Man Vs. Cartoon Ape is one to watch. The Justin.TV feed has so far acquired nearly 37,000 views, and currently over 6,500 viewers are watching Wiebe’s second attempt. As of 12 PM PST, he’s closing in on 400,000 points with two lives left. Go, Steve, go!