"It's about more than just the game; it's about the community," Wiebe says of the movie, adding that he's pleasantly surprised that the fever created by the film has lasted as long as it has. "I had no idea it was going to revitalize the gaming industry. Today we're keeping the hobby alive by having championships like these. We're keeping it from dying and becoming just people playing in their basement."

In fact, this weekend the 1UP will be entirely devoted to Donkey Kong, with sixteen Kong consoles and hundreds of spectators flooding the place for the Kong Off II, one of the world's largest Donkey Kong championships and the largest event in the 1UP's relatively short history.

After the movie revived interest in Donkey Kong, Knucklez decided to find a way to keep the momentum going at the national level. So last year, he launched the first Kong Off, a championship to determine the best player in the world. And like the movie itself, it was a big hit.

Jourdan Adler keeps all the 1Up's games in top shape.
Aaron Thackeray
Jourdan Adler keeps all the 1Up's games in top shape.
Jon Jamshid
Aaron Thackeray
Jon Jamshid

Location Info

Map

The 1up LoDo

1925 Blake St.
Denver, CO 80202

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown Denver

The 1up Colfax

717 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Central Denver

Details

Around the same time, Adler began strategizing how to connect the burgeoning success of the 1UP to the larger gaming community. Like most members of that community, he had watched The King of Kong several times (all of his employees have seen it, too). In April 2011, he invited Wiebe to visit the venue, where the latter played a public game and led a master class in Donkey Kong. Both were surprised when approximately 200 people showed up to see Wiebe reach a kill screen in Denver, many of them toting copies of The King of Kong for its hero to autograph.

"Jourdan recognizes that there's a culture out there that still has a nostalgia for the game," Wiebe says. "Even the newer crowd, once exposed to it, would enjoy it now through places like his. He has the drive and knowledge and foresight to know what's going to click."

That visit from Wiebe inspired Adler to continue expanding the 1UP's reach. Through Wiebe, he got in touch with Knucklez and said he'd like to be involved with the next Kong Off. "I was very negative about it," admits Knucklez, who's been followed for the last few years by cameras filming The King of Arcades, a philosophical followup to The King of Kong. "Absolutely not. No. This is my project, and I don't want it in the hands of a stranger."

But an Adler-funded visit to Denver changed Knucklez's mind. The quality and selection of games at the 1UP, as well as the staff's knowledge, quickly convinced him to allow the 1UP to be the host of this year's world championship. And so on November 16, twelve of the world's top players — eleven of whom have achieved scores of 1 million points or higher — will meet in Denver to battle against their own high scores and a slew of wild-card players who hope to claim their retro-gaming notoriety.

Record-holding Donkey Kong players do not just play Donkey Kong. They perfect it. For this elite segment of the gaming community, playing involves more than just avoiding death. Players like Mitchell and Wiebe and Chien battle barrels, climb ladders, escape the factory and deftly avoid fireballs in order to pass through the game's four boards and reach the rarely seen kill screen without dying — but their dominant goal is to collect as many points as possible along the way. This is called point-pressing, and players who do it have perfected even minor, in-game minutiae — grouping barrels together, jumping a certain way, etc. — to reach the million-point level.

Organizing the competition has involved endless, excruciating detail. Thousands are expected to pass through the 1UP's doors this weekend; they will be given wristbands and must be respectful during play. The games will be broadcast live online, and every player will be monitored to maintain performances within strict world-record standards.

And who's the ultimate arbiter? That could well be up to Adler. Not content with opening the town's first adult arcade and hosting the world Donkey Kong competition, he's now made a bid for Denver to become video-gaming's official governing body.

*****

For decades, video-game standards have been dictated by Twin Galaxies, the official scorekeeping entity that featured heavily in The King of Kong. Walter Day founded the company in 1981 through very simple means: Over the course of a few months, he traveled from state to state to record scores at more than a hundred sites, and the results became Twin Galaxies' first record database. In the intervening years, those records have expanded to include hundreds of Guinness Book of World Records titles documented by Twin Galaxies each year. But during that same time, Twin Galaxies had come under considerable scrutiny for its scorekeeping system.

Under the most recent model of Twin Galaxies, score-seekers were required to both record their game-playing performances and prove that they were legitimate. As documented in The King of Kong, players had to videotape their entire game, and then, without turning off the camera, film the insides of the machines on which they'd played in order to prove that they adhered to Twin Galaxies' insistence on original equipment without any tampering or adaptation. A volunteer-only staff would then watch the videos to determine whether the claim was legitimate — but those volunteers were regularly accused of both delaying their findings and indulging in favoritism. Ultimately, Walter Day quit operating Twin Galaxies and the service became dormant.

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