New Donkey Kong record-holder Steve Wiebe talks cheating controversy
Redmond High School has a celebrity in its math department.
Math teacher Steve Wiebe now holds the world record as the first person to hit 1 million points on the ’80s-era video game Donkey Kong. Former record-holder Billy Mitchell was stripped of his title last week. Mitchell reportedly attained his scores on an emulator, not an original version of the classic video game. This means Wiebe’s records, on an original machine, just rose higher.
The controversy over Mitchell’s disqualification has sent shock waves through the video game world. Wiebe talked to the Dori Monson Show about the issue, as well as his own passion for gaming.
Wiebe is featured as the protagonist in “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” a 2007 Seth Gordon documentary about the rivalry between Wiebe and Mitchell.
“I believe his scores were real back in the ‘King of Kong’ Days,'” Wiebe said of Mitchell.
Mitchell seems to have less of a sportsmanlike attitude toward Wiebe, his rival; the former record-holder made a video over the weekend assuring his fans that the story was not over, and that he would prove his scores are valid.
“It’s definitely a soap opera in the making,” Wiebe laughed.
Wiebe explained that a person could cheat at Donkey Kong by splicing together tapes or slow down a screen frame-by-frame. It took forensic scientists “analyzing microseconds of still frames” to catch the cheating, Wiebe said.
Wiebe himself spent his teen and college years perfecting his Donkey Kong game. With the dawn of the internet, Wiebe realized he was a contender for world records.
“It seemed very natural to me – the game just seemed easy,” he said.
Wiebe credits his other interests, such as baseball, playing the drums, and of course, his profession — math — with giving him the skills needed for Donkey Kong.
“Having the hand-eye coordination [from baseball], drumming gives you a timing and rhythmic [skills], and that’s similar in Donkey Kong … I’m a math teacher, having a problem-solving mind is helpful too, finding the patterns,” he said.
Wiebe’s video game fame spawned a bit of an acting career – he has appeared in other Seth Gordon productions, such as the movies “Four Christmases” and “Horrible Bosses,” and TV series “The Goldbergs” and “Sneaky Pete.” The math teacher said that he would be willing to get in front of the camera again if the opportunity arises.
“It’s a wild ride … I don’t know if there are any more gigs out there for me in the Hollywood business, but if it comes my way, I’m always happy to do it,” he said.
When it comes to Donkey Kong, though, Wiebe is content to rest on his laurels; he said he has no interest in competing with current overall Donkey Kong record-holder Robbie Lakeman.
“If I got the recognition for first to a million, that was one of my first goals was to do that … to get recognition for that, that’s definitely something I’ll take, and if I’m never the champ again, that’s fine with me,” he said.