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.

Lunchtime Scrabble results

Another fun game today:

Scrabble Game

High-scoring game, even though there was only one bingo (from my opponent, SIEVING). Some nice plays on the big letters though: JEANS (for 80) along with that bingo put me behind for most of the game, but ZEAL (for 94) put me back in the running. My first high-scoring use of ZA, there. The Q got a lot of play: QUIRKY, QUIT, QUITE, QUITED (can’t find a definition for that one, but it’s in the scrabble dictionary it seems), and finally a nice touché move from my opponent with REQUITED. Pulled out a win at the end only by leaving my opponent with 9 points in his rack.

Lunchtime Scrabble results

I usually play a game of Scrabble online over lunch. Today’s was a fun one. Not the highest-scoring game I’ve ever played, but it was satisfying to pull a win after my opponent got two bingoes:

Scrabble Game

(I’m nonfamous, in blue.) Most of the Scrabble games I play tend to end up with compact, closed-in boards but this one was wide open the whole game, which made it a lot of fun. I’ve never seen a game where all 8 triple-word-score tiles get used, but this one came close. Not too many wacky scrabble-player-only words, either, not even the newly-allowed two-letter powerhouses ZA or KI or JA.

Robot bowls a perfect 300

… in Wii Sports Bowling

Still, a very impressive effort, documented in detail here. Wii Bowling is a frustratingly realistic game — it picks up my natural (and unintendended) left spin with such accuracy that I have difficulty breaking 200 in the game. It’s impressive that the robot is consistent enough to strike every time. It’s also impressive that Wii Sports still picks up a bit of natural variation — each strike has slightly different pin action.

I remain impressed by the sensitivity of the Wii Remote. I just got Tiger Woods golf, it’s an amazing game. I have a nasty hook with almost every stroke, and it’s easy to pin that on a fault with the game. But I’m confident it’s just my lack of skill. (I suck even more at real golf.) I’m confident a robot like this would be consistent enough to challenge Tiger in the game’s final championship.