When I was a teenager at school in Hertfordshire, England there was a little bait shop just around the corner from the school grounds.
There was nothing particularly distinctive about the shop – it sold bait, fishing tackle, rods – everything a fisherman would need to … well – fish.
But every lunchtime there would be a queue of boys outside the shop waiting to go in, desperate to get there before the end of the 45 minute lunch break and the start of the afternoon school time tedium.
I was among that number and I had, and still don’t have, any interest in fishing.
The reason so many of us flocked to the little bait shop was because it had a Street Fighter 2 machine in the corner.
We would get to the shops from school, head straight to the bait shop and put our 50p on the machine before joining the back of the line.
Two people would then play at a time with the winner staying on – it got pretty competitive at times.
We all had games consoles at home and most of us had Street Fighter 2 at home as well. In fact we would regularly play each other – at home.
But there was nothing like the battle in the bait shop. Playing while others watch over your shoulder – watching your every move – live combat in a virtual world.
Except it wasn’t – most of the time I’d last about two minutes, die very quickly and then slump off to get something painfully unhealthy to eat.
I’ve never been much of a gamer.
The King of Kong
So why am I telling you this? Why have I just written 271 words confessing to being a rubbish gamer, geek and unhealthy eater? Because of ‘The King of Kong’.
The Branchage Jersey International Film Festival organisers have brought over an impressive and diverse range of films – from the beautiful, touching and annoying to the hard hitting, thought provoking and weird.
One film that touched almost all of those (beautiful if you’re a geek that loves the look of retro games) was The King of Kong.
It tells the tale of a science teacher and hot sauce mogul – both hoping to gain a place in the Guinness book of World Records. There record – highest score on the arcade classic Donkey Kong.
The two main protagonists are Billy Mitchell, 1982 Donkey Kong Champion (score 874,300) and Steve Wiebe, the man trying to take Billy’s long held crown.
This is one of the most infuriating, irritating and down right hilarious films I’ve seen in a very long time.
There were points where the small but dedicated audience were clearly and audibly muttering ‘oh my god’, ‘noooo’ and I’m sure I even heard a boo at one point.
Or maybe it happened in my head – who knows – Billy Mitchell is such a great character, an archetypal bad guy – somebody who doesn’t seem to have a single redeeming feature – if I didn’t know this was a documentary I would suggest he was written straight out of a textbook.
On the flipside though – Steve Wiebe is almost the opposite. A dedicated family man, a teacher, a nice guy that does everything to prove himself to his peers.
He goes to the events to show his skills in a live arena (something Billy Mitchell is shown on camera to be extolling the virtues of) while Billy stays at home and sends in a tape of his achievements.
It’s a film of obsession, dedication, passion and … OCD. It’s funny, heart warming and frustrating all at the same time. A documentary that could be a perfectly scripted drama with strong characters, a great plot and some nice twists.
Oh and some brilliant retro gaming video action. So much so that I think I’m going to look online for a SNES and get myself a copy of Street Fighter 2 – maybe my five year old will play me? Surely I can beat him?
Your school lunchtime confessions
So I’ve confessed to spending my school lunch breaks playing, or at least loosing at video games – what about you?
Where there any similar gaming meccas in shops around Jersey’s schools? How did you while away the 45 minutes between lessons – or even the lessons themselves?