The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters | Raleigh City Plaza | Screen: Special Showings | Indy Week

Screen: Special Showings

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

When: Fri., June 26, 8:15 p.m. 2015



CITY PLAZA—Video game players now test their skills from home, on elaborate global leaderboards, but in the arcades of the late-20th century—an endangered species now enjoying a retro afterlife thanks to the rise of barcades such as The Baxter—they etched their initials and top scores on the screens of certain cabinets in their hometown malls and stores. Back in the day, I lost countless quarters behind the mirror-paneled, neon-scrawled exterior of Tilt, the arcade at Durham's long-gone South Square Mall, and I had beef with random Street Fighter II players in the Wal-Mart lobby. Few films have captured the territorial days of competitive gaming better than The King of Kong, which focuses on the '80s emergence of national scorekeeping organization Twin Galaxies as well as the rivalry between two top Donkey Kong players. Steve Wiebe is the mild family man who, after a lifetime of minor failures and bad luck, buys a Donkey Kong cabinet for his garage, becomes proficient and sets out, in the '00s, to beat the record Billy Mitchell set in the '80s. Mitchell is a cocky, oily showman, portrayed by director Seth Gordon almost as a villain you love to hate, and the reigning king makes it clear he'll be defending his throne. As the competition escalates, it becomes fraught with various accusations of gamesmanship and cheating, and our initial sympathies get deeper and blurrier, as they always do in great documentaries. It's a poignant double character study clasped in a vivid time capsule from when gamers were a secret tribe, prone to indifferent mullets and track clothes, standing spread-legged and blankly intent for hours in front of bleeping reflex-training machines, searching for arcane glory. 6–10:30 p.m. (movie at sundown), free, 400 block of Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, —Brian Howe

Price: free

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