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Donkey Kong legend suing over wiped scores

Mitchell’s scores were vacated from the leaderboards in April 2018

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Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Former Donkey Kong and Pac-Man high-score champion Billy Mitchell has been in court with Twin Galaxies over its decision to remove his high scores from their leaderboards, according to court documents obtained by Ars Technica.

Mitchell, known for his appearance in a 2007 documentary called The King of Kong, was accused of falsifying his Donkey Kong high score. In 2018, after a lengthy investigation, arcade game authority Twin Galaxies announced its decision to remove Mitchell’s scores from its records and ban him from participating in competitive leaderboards. Mitchell was accused of achieving these scores on emulated software, which is “strictly forbidden.” Mitchell has been fighting the ruling since — in September 2019, Mitchell threatened legal action in a letter to Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records.

The documents obtained by Ars Technica, however, suggest Mitchell had already filed suit before then, in April 2019. Mitchell told Ars Technica the case was “officially served to Twin Galaxies” in February before a detailed complaint was added in March.

Mitchell is suing Twin Galaxies for defamation over the organization’s April 2018 statement. In court documents, Mitchell’s lawyers claim the statement is “libelous in its face” as it “asserts that Mitchell did not achieve his record scores legitimately.” They allege the investigation was “pre-ordained” and “intent on generating publicity and internet ‘clicks’ by accusing Mitchell, the most visible of all video gamers, of cheating.” Lawyers state that Twin Galaxies failed to contact “key witnesses” and fact-check information.

Mitchell said he achieved his high scores on “certified arcade boards in front of hundreds of people,” and more than 25 witnesses “signed sworn affidavits testifying to their observation of Mitchell” earning the scores.

Twin Galaxies CEO Jace Hall responded in a lengthy court document where he outlined the process. Hall said Twin Galaxies spent “thousands of dollars to adjudicate the claim.” He called the process the “most professionally documented and thoroughly investigated video game score of all time,” noting the “expense, transparency, and length of investigation.”

A decision has not been made in the case. Arguments will be presented to a judge on July 6.

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