Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Watching others play video games is boring, but that’s because most people are recreational button-mashers. Competitive gaming demands savant-level skills — recognizing and memorizing patterns in a cognitive minefield of pixels and bleeps.
As a lifelong gamer notes in 2007’s The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, “Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.” Right there, what seems like a paradise only for the pale and pasty becomes like any other pursuit where competition curdles into compulsion and passion becomes unhealthy obsession.
Seth Gordon’s unexpectedly engrossing documentary — about two men trading blows to get the highest-ever Donkey Kong arcade-game score — engaged and enraged.
After engineer Steve Wiebe lost his job, he turned his mathematical mind on Donkey Kong — earning the record from his garage while his son bellowed in the house to have his butt wiped.
Wiebe unseated Billy Mitchell — competitive gaming’s poster boy, who parlayed popularity into a chicken-joint chain. Now likening his controversial nature to “the abortion issue,” Mitchell casts aspersions on Wiebe, leading Wiebe on a 3,000-mile journey to an officially sanctioned machine.
A showdown never materializes, for reasons that will make you want to punch Mitchell and Brian Kuh, a sycophantic Smee to Mitchell’s odious Captain Hook.
But the moment when Wiebe and Mitchell meet is fraught with unbearable tension — a boiling point of pressure-cooker therapy for Wiebe’s expectations of himself in an arena that champions viciousness. King offered a fascinating, infuriating look at the bleakly funny morass of American social expectations.