Somewhat legendary Donkey Kong master and documentary film subject Steve Wiebe has dedicated all of his free time over the last several years to playing competitive Donkey Kong. He was the primary subject of the 2007 documentary, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and has flirted with having the highest score of all time. He was in town on Saturday to help The 1Up reach its first ever kill screen and he did it with a score of 882,700.
The kill screen in Donkey Kong is reached when the player gets to the 22nd stage and a miscalculation in the game's code only affords the player seven seconds to beat the level, which isn't enough time. Wiebe got there around 7 p.m. on Saturday after several attempts over the course of about six hours.
For its part, 1UP was packed for the bulk of the day, with fans drifting in and out to watch Wiebe play; his efforts also were broadcast in black and white on the televisions above. A few people seemed to be hanging around doing nothing but watch him play, but as Donkey Kong isn't exactly the most entertaining thing in the universe, people tended to wander off to quickly lose their own games before returning for a beer and a gander at his score.
More Donkey Kong: "It's on like Donkey Kong: A brief history (infographic)"
One of the reasons Wiebe was the much-rooted for underdog in King of Kong was because he came across as being exceptionally nice. It turns out that's true in real life, and throughout the day, he was talking with people in the crowd and offering pointers when he wasn't playing. Even when he had his game face on he was still rather pleasant considering the atmosphere of 1UP, which on a Saturday afternoon apparently means it's filled with loud drunk people.
We missed the morning session, when Wiebe was giving a mini-workshop teaching people some of the skills he has picked up over the years, but it seemed to have been well received from those who attended, and several gave it their best shot throughout the day on the Donkey Kongmachine next to Wiebe's.
Unfortunately, no record was set on the machine, so Hank Chien still holds the top score of 1,090,400, with Wiebe in at a close second with 1,064,500, but a kill screen in a public atmosphere, especially one as chaotic as 1UP is nothing to scoff at.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.