Exclusive Interview: Steve Wiebe, the King of Donkey Kong
- The Return of the King -
On August 20th of this year, affable everyman, Steve Wiebe, reclaimed the Donkey Kong World Record with a high score of 1,064,500. This score was confirmed by video game scoring authority, Twin Galaxies, on September 20th as 1,700 points higher than the 1,062,800 point effort recorded by Wiebe’s arch-rival and super-mulleted, hot sauce magnate, Billy Mitchell, on July 31st. Wiebe’s monumental score is also 2,800 points higher than newcomer, Hank Chien’s 1,061,700, posted in February.
For the uninitiated, Steve Wiebe’s quest to become the top Donkey Kong player in the world was chronicled in the 2007 documentary film, “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”. In my mind, “King of Kong” is one of the finest “video game” films ever produced (not saying much, I know…) because you cannot help but get caught up in the unlikely drama (manufactured or not) that it presents. The main reason for this, I think, is just how down-to-earth and genuinely likable Steve Wiebe comes across. Much like Philadelphia’s Rocky Balboa or Notre Dame’s Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, you want to see Steve succeed no matter what the cost. While the oddly fascinating and conniving Billy Mitchell may be the Hans Gruber of the competitive video gaming scene, Steve Wiebe is certainly its John McClane – its indomitable heart and soul.
After a much needed break from his record shattering performance, Steve was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
GD: How does it feel to be the “King” once again?
SW: It feels great to be on top again. I'm just enjoying the time while it lasts.
GD: What was the most challenging/difficult part of breaking the DK record once again?
SW: The most difficult thing about pursuing the record was keeping positive mentally. There were so many failed attempts during the record run that it seemed like the record wasn't going to happen. I just had to keep at it and believe that the hard work was going to pay off and it did.
GD: Have you refined or brought any new techniques to the table this time around that enabled you to reclaim the title?
SW: I have some new point pressing techniques (ed. note – “point pressing” is a style of play where you aggressively seek out points by jumping barrels, using the hammer, etc. rather than just attempting to survive and clear the level) that I was using over the summer that would push my score to over 1.1 million. In my record game, I tapered the point pressing back a bit so I could at least get the record. So, there are definitely more points to be had in future record runs.
GD: In the actual playing of Donkey Kong itself, what do you consider to be your greatest strength(s)? Weakness(es)?
SW: I think my greatest strength in Donkey Kong is just knowing the behavior of the barrels and fireballs so well that I can anticipate their movements and move accordingly. I think my weakness is not being able to stay relaxed at the higher levels when I'm approaching the record. I'm getting better at being calm, but I'm still working on it.
GD: In regard to your two closest, DK opponents (Billy Mitchell and Hank Chien), what do you consider their strengths and weaknesses to be?
SW: From the limited play I've seen of Billy, I think Billy has great point pressing ability on the barrels. I haven't seen much of Hank's play, but I can tell he has great dedication and commitment to the game and is a quick learner. I can't really say anything about weaknesses in either Billy's or Hank's game since I haven't seen enough of their game play.
GD: Do you ever think that Billy (and/or Hank) will ever play you head- to-head in a “DK mega event” for all the marbles?
SW: I believe Hank would play in a tournament setting. I'm hoping Billy would be up to a DK tournament someday.
GD: How many hours per week do you devote to Donkey Kong when you are “in training"?
SW: When I'm seriously going after a DK record, I'll play 3 to 4 hours a day.
GD: If Chuck Norris was a competitive Donkey Kong player, do you think you could take him down?
SW: I think Chuck Norris would be extremely tough to beat in DK. I'm hoping he doesn't pick up the game anytime soon!
GD: Do you play any modern games or do you stick to the classics? If so, what are your some of your favorites?
SW: I mainly stick to the classics, but I enjoy a good game of Mario Kart every now and then.
GD: In the film “King of Kong,” the Twin Galaxies/ Classic Arcade Gaming community seemed a bit frosty toward you; you seemed to be the “outsider,” as it were. Since the success of the film, have they grown to accept you more and do you participate in their events more often now?
SW: I have to say that the Twin Galaxies people have been quite kind to me. I've been at several events since the “King of Kong” and everyone involved with Twin Galaxies has been great. The most recent event was the International Video Game Hall of Fame where I had a great time with all the inductees and Twin Galaxies officials.
GD: You recently produced a CD of original music, “The King of Song”. What was the best part, for you, of that process?
SW: The greatest part of releasing my CD was seeing all of my efforts from several years finally be realized. The process was extremely long and difficult, much like my Donkey Kong journeys. I was just glad I was able to see it through and release the CD for others to hear.
GD: Personally, what is your favorite track on the CD and why?
SW: It's tough to pick a single top song, but if I had to choose one I'd have to say “One More Rainy Day”. I just like the mood and the message of persistence through troubled times.
GD: Because of the “King of Kong,” you’ve gained a certain amount of celebrity, or notoriety, if you will. For you, what is the best part of that, or what is the best thing that has come out of that kind of renown?
SW: The coolest part of becoming known through the movie is all the opportunities that have come about from the film. Getting to be in the movie Four Christmases and playing a drum solo at a My Chemical Romance show have definitely been among several of the highlights.
GD: What are your thoughts, if you have any, on the California violent video game law (EMA v. Schwarzenegger)?
SW: I don't play any of the violent games, but I can say that there are movies out there that contain similar violence. So, the question is whether this should be legal within the video game industry. I don't see how it legally could be banned. The problem is keeping these games from reaching the younger gamers that shouldn't be exposed to the content, but this is true with movies as well.
GD: As a father, a guy with a “day” job and many passions outside of those roles myself, I know how difficult it can be to find time for yourself, or have the ability to keep all those things separate. What is your secret, or how do you manage to keep all the “balls in the air,” as it were?
SW: Life is definitely busy and it seems that I don't always have enough time to do all the things I would like. I wish I had a secret of keeping things in balance. I just rely on my faith in God to keep me on track and I know everything will work out.
A professional writer, journalist, critic, publisher, and more who enjoys video games and has a good sense of humor.
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