SIFF review: King of Kong

Jay and I went to see King of Kong at the Seattle International Film Festival last night.  I’d heard about the film — a story about a Seattle-area man vying for the world record score on the 80’s arcade classic Donkey Kong — on tech-blog Digg, and immediately wanted to see it.  I have fond memories of playing games like Donkey Kong as a kid at the local deli, and I was briefly involved in the competitive gaming arena in my early 20’s (though for pinball, not arcade games).

As we were waiting in line at the Egyptian for the sold-out show, there was a guy walking the line looking to buy 4 tickets, first for $40 per ticket and later, apparently getting no takers, for $80 a ticket.  It was a tempting offer, but I’m so glad we didn’t sell out, because the film was wonderful.   Of course, I loved the geeky game aspect of the film, but at it’s heart it’s really more of a charming human story.  The film follows good-natured Seattle family man Steve Weibe as he seeks justice from the geek-lords of classic gaming when his record-breaking high-score video submission is unfairly rejected. We follow Steve through his attempts to claim his rightful title from bad-guy title-holder and hot-sauce baron Billy.

Seeing this film in Seattle was a real treat: the crowd was cheering and hollering throughout the film at every one of Steve’s triumphs, and you could feel the room sharing in his disappointments.  Best of all, Steve joined director Seth Green on the stage after the film to answer questions, and he seemed as nice a guy in person as he appeared on-screen.

I’m sure this film is going to do well when it goes into wide release in August, probably eclipsing the success of similarly-themed documentaries like Spellbound or Wordplay. Make sure you go and see it then if you can’t get tickets to today’s showing.  And if Nintendo doesn’t release the arcade version of Donkey Kong for Wii and/or DS in conjunction with the film’s release, they’re missing a great opportunity to support a revival in classic arcade gaming.

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