The Billy Mitchell Saga

Once regarded as an insurmountable video game record holder, the Donkey Kong competitor is now facing a heated battle.



Billy Mitchell poses with Pac-Man at the 2014 Twin Galaxies trading card event

Sunny Li, Staff Writer

A universal truth of competition is the inevitability of cheating. Usually, any infringement against the rules of a contest can be swiftly swept away. However, when the person who is accused has a starring role in a hit documentary, allegedly achieved multiple video game world records and world firsts, and was once the joint owner of the (at the time) most prominent high-score-keeping organization, things are inevitably going to get messy.

Currently, a series of heated legal battles have been steadily rising in prominence in the gaming community, and all of them revolve around one man: William (Billy) James Mitchell.

Billy Mitchell was once considered a celebrity in the retro gaming community. He got his start in 1982, where he allegedly set a score of 874,300 points on the classic arcade game, Donkey Kong. This score was recognized by Walter Day–the owner at the time of high-score-keeping organization, Twin Galaxies–and replaced a previous world record that was later found out to be fraudulent. Additionally, Twin Galaxies recognized Mitchell as the first to reach the Kill Screen in Donkey Kong.

(The Kill Screen is a phenomenon that is present for many classic arcade games. It is considered the finale to said games, but is not an intentional ending that was programmed in. Instead, the Kill Screen is the result “of the player advancing so far that an internal counter (like the current level number) reaches its inherent limit (often 255 or some other similar number) and ‘overflows’ (e.g. resetting itself back to zero).”)

Following his Donkey Kong world record, Mitchell would join Twin Galaxies and continue claiming records. One of his most publicized accomplishments was the alleged first perfect Pac-Man on July 3rd, 1999. Apparently, by the declaration of both Day and Mitchell, this score earned Mitchell the title of “Player of the Century’ by Masaya Nakamura (the creator of Pac-Man) at the Tokyo Game Show in Japan.” 

While his scores were earning him fame–even being recognized by Guinness World Records–Mitchell remained relatively unknown to the general public until 2007, where he had a starring role in the documentary, The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters, which became one of the most well-acclaimed films of the year. 

Unfortunately for Mitchell, his career was about to take a drastic turn for the worse. Up until 2014, he and Day were the joint owners of Twin Galaxies. However, in March of said year, they sold the company to Jace Hall. 

Before the change in ownership, doubts of both the authenticity of Mitchell’s scores and the validity of Twin Galaxies were scattered about here and there. However, without that strong grip over the company and its leaderboards, previously private suspicions were now becoming public.

Firstly, it had been known that much of the information in The King of Kong had been inaccurate, or even outright false. 

For example, the film claimed that up until 2005, Billy Mitchell held the official world record since 1982. However, the truth is that his time was toppled in 2000 by a player named Tim Sczerby, who scored 879200. But this score was omitted for (supposedly) the sake of improving the narrative.


Opinions on Mitchell shifted again in 2015, when Billy Mitchell sued Cartoon Network for “misappropriating his likeness for a character in The Regular Show,” a popular TV show at the time. However, his case was dismissed “as barred by the First Amendment,” and the loss took a major toll on his image in the gaming community.

Mitchell’s trustworthiness only continued to decline as time went on, and by 2018, his reputation hit rock bottom. After months of extensive investigation, serious accusations against the authenticity of Mitchell’s Donkey Kong scores were being made. 

The evidence asserted that Mitchell had not been playing on official hardware, but rather, an emulator–which was banned under Twin Galaxies’s ruleset. Using frame by frame analysis, it was determined that the way in which the transition screens in Mitchell’s footage loaded in were not reflective of the original hardware. However, his footage matched perfectly with the emulators available at the time of his performance.

In February of 2018, the evidence was officially presented and published by Jeremy Young, the moderator of Donkey Kong Forum (the official high score leaderboard for the game). Two months later, Mitchell’s scores were stripped from Twin Galaxies, and he was banned from the leaderboards. Shortly after, Guinness would follow up by removing their recognition of his records.

But in a surprising turn of events, on June 17th, 2020, Guinness made a public statement that they would be “revers[ing] [their] decisions made in April 2018 in regards to video game high scores achieved by Billy Mitchell between 1982 and 2010.” 

However, this decision did not just stem (at least not entirely) from the presentation of new evidence, or even a simple change in faith. The truth is, Billy Mitchell had sent a letter  in September of 2019, threatening to file legal action against both Twin Galaxies and Guinness in California. 

Guinness’s decision did not sit well with various gaming communities. On July 23rd, 2020, YouTuber, Karl Jobst uploaded a video titled, “Guinness World Records Should Stay Out Of Gaming.” In it, Jobst voiced his opinions against Guinness’s decision to reinstate Mitchell’s records. This did not go unnoticed by Mitchell.

Just two weeks later on August 8th, Jobst reported in his new video, “The DUMBEST Lawsuit In Video Game History,” that Billy Mitchell had threatened a $150,000 defamation lawsuit against him. This sparked a rivalry between Jobst and Mitchell, with Jobst becoming the most prominent reporter of Mitchell’s legal activity in the process. However, their battles would have to be postponed, as Twin Galaxies was starting to take action.

On October 28th, 2020, Mitchell posted on his Twitter account (which has since been privatized), that he had “defeated Twin Galaxies in court in its misguided attempt to prevent me from having [his] day in court on my defamation claims.” Apparently, Twin Galaxies attempted an anti-SLAPP motion, which was overruled by the Los Angeles Superior Court. However, Mitchell’s so-called “victory” would soon turn to disaster.

On November 16th, Jobst reported a shocking turn of events: Twin Galaxies retaliated against Mitchell with their own “multi-million dollar lawsuit, citing misrepresentation, fraud, and racketeering.”  

Following this lawsuit, Mitchell’s situation only continued to worsen, and Jobst’s videos were publicizing his losses. Both David Race and Robbie Lakeman, former supporters of Mitchell and current champions for Pac-Man and Donkey Kong respectively, have since taken a stand against him.

Additionally, Mitchell’s separate lawsuit against Twin Galaxies in Florida was promptly dismissed in August of 2021, as Mitchell failed to take action in due time. 

On the other hand, Mitchell has remained actively engaged in the rest of his lawsuits. Aside from Twin Galaxies, Mitchell has filed suit against Young (who originally started the dispute against Mitchell’s records on the Twin Galaxies website), Jeff Harrist (the owner of Donkey Forum who allowed posts of the exact evidence used against Mitchell’s alleged scores on the website), Race, and Jobst…three separate times.

Back in September of 2021, Mitchell had already officially filed suit against Jobst. However, just two weeks ago, Jobst uploaded another video revealing that Mitchell has since filed two more defamation claims against him. 

As of now, the battle between Mitchell and the various defendants remains active. Neither Mitchell, Twin Galaxies, Jobst, nor any of the other parties involved are willing to give an inch; the end of the saga still remains out of reach. The future of competitive gaming–whether retro, modern, high-score, or speedrunning–may very well lie in the hands of the victor.