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The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

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    The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    Unlocking the Cage on Donkey Kong Junior: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton
    by Catherine DeSpira


    When 19 year-old Calvin Frampton walked into RiddleMaster Arcade, in Pleasant Grove, Utah, September 20, 1983, there were few things on his mind at that moment except Donkey Kong Junior. Like many arcade gamers at the time, his plans that day were to beat his highest score of 935K, put in his high score initials ACE and, perhaps, see if he could beat a couple more scores on some other games.

    What he didn’t plan on that day was making history.

    RiddleMaster Arcade, in Pleasant Grove, Utah, opened in 1981, in an old mechanics garage, as an answer for a much needed youth community center so kids could do something more productive than hang around the streets, causing trouble. Working with little overhead, Jim Carter, co-owner and operator, in partnership with his mother, built a floor in the space and cut out an entrance in the old wooden garage door, then painted a sign. A local vendor supplied the games.

    “We started at a 30/70 split, with 30 percent going to the House... so we were really on a budget.” Carter says, affectionately remembering the early days. “When we got established after a year of being in business, he raised us to 40/60 and began to bring in first run consoles, games that had not seen play anywhere else. That is the condition we received Donkey Kong Junior. The game still had the shipping labels from the dock in L.A.”

    According to Jim Carter, Calvin Frampton came to the arcade from the very beginning, a tall, lanky kid with a shy, contemplative demeanor. Carter noted immediately his instant prowess at achieving high scores, noting, “Because of his competitive nature, his signature "ACE" became prominent at the RiddleMaster and around the valley at other arcades. Being pretty competitive myself, I began competing with Calvin on many games, and through that competition we became friends.”

    Somewhere around the beginning of summer, 1983, the friendly competition between the two young men heightened when Carter scored 720K on Donkey Kong Junior, prompting the ultra-competitive Calvin Frampton to try and beat it.

    “I remember very well the day Calvin creamed my Donkey Kong Junior score of 720K. “ Carter, recalled. “I was amazed at his 935K score! We posted it everywhere! But this was not to be the end of the story by a long shot.”

    On September, 20, 1983, armed with nothing but sheer intent, Frampton entered The RiddleMaster Arcade, stepped up to Donkey Kong Junior and in less than three and a half hours ended the competition once and for all.

    “It was cool when it happened. I was not focused on obtaining a world record when I started this game or any other game. I was aware of some records through the video game magazines I read, but never looked at them with an obsession to beat any of them. The DKJ score came as a surprise.”

    “I can tell you that it was hard to see someone keep killing my best scores... but it was a joy at the same time.” Carter admits.” My best score that week had been 400K and I was not shocked to watch Calvin blow by that and then overtake his 935K run. But the excitement became very intense as he drew near 1,000,000. The crowd was not very big. 6-10 people in the arcade was a normal afternoon. We did not know what would happen if he hit 1,000,000 as none of us had ever seen anything like this. Calvin seemed not to notice the score. He was lost in the flow. And when the game ended at 1,259,300 everyone was excited. “

    That is, except Frampton. “I died for no reason and was mad as hell. I didn’t know what happened. It just ended.”

    It is not without a doubt one of the most poignant aspects of this story, but certainly not the last, that Frampton did not know he had reached the kill screen nor did any of the people assembled, including Jim Carter, a skilled Donkey Kong Junior player himself. For if they had known, the name Calvin Frampton would be more widely known in the Gaming world. Even publisher, Marcella Walker, from The Pleasant Grove Review, the newspaper who interviewed Frampton after his incredible game, did not mention the “sudden death” because, in all likelihood, she was to be included among the majority of people whose knowledge of kill screens was restricted to a mere less than 1% of the gaming population at the time.

    Carter sums it all up like this, “Was there a kill screen? First of all, I will make the statement I did when I first was told (in 2009) about the possibility of Frampton’s 1983 Kill Screen: ‘Kill screen? What’s a ‘kill screen?’ "

    It’s curious that all we ever know in life, no matter our age, is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown to us throughout our lives. For unbeknownst to Frampton, and the people watching the game, Frampton had, indeed, reached the kill screen, the Promised Land of Classic Arcade Gamers, the point where the game runs out of memory and abruptly ends with the player’s man suddenly dying, an achievement that marks the extreme ability of a player.

    Like the majority of players from that era having never seen or even heard of a kill screen, Frampton was baffled as to why the game ended. Certainly some knowledge of kill screens (referred to as a “split-screen” on Pac Man) was known as, in 1983, Walter Day, of Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard, took The US International Video Game Team on a tour of the East Coast to visit video game players who claimed they could get through the split-screen/kill screen level on Pac Man. Not one single video game player could demonstrate this ability. Today, due to the underground success of The King of Kong (2004), not to mention 30+ years of dedicated studies on gameplay by gung ho aficionados, there is a tremendous amount of knowledge of kill screens and play patterns with most professional players on the Donkey Kong Series, as well as Pac Man, well-practiced in the skills needed to achieve this event.

    But for Calvin Frampton, kill screen or not, the score was remarkable and, at that time, the highest known score ever achieved on Donkey Kong Junior in the world. It appeared in every Video Game magazine in print, often under Twin Galaxies’ postings of recognized high scores, as well as in Italy, in Videogiochi, published by Riccardo Albini, Twin Galaxies’ International Video Game Scoreboard partner. The postings were taken from composites of Twin Galaxies data.

    In comparison with three other known scores recognized by Twin Galaxies at the time, as Frampton’s was, the difference in points is astounding:



    Calvin Frampton: 1259,300K 9/20/83 Riddle Master Arcade, Pleasant Grove, UT

    Tim Williams : 999,200K 8/11/83 Mr. Bill’s Arcade, Moscow, ID

    Billy Mitchell: 957,300K Score originally listed 1983 in Joystik/Twin Galaxies, IA

    Listed again in 2004 as a recent high score

    Matt Brass : 951,100K 1/20/83 Montana University, Bozeman, MT



    Yet for some reason, accidental or otherwise, there was an oversight of both Frampton’s and William’s scores. In fact, almost immediately after Joystik Magazine published the scores from Twin Galaxies composites in 1983, the scores disappeared from Twin Galaxies data base altogether, never once being heralded as the World Records they were.

    One could surmise an explanation for this by proposing that many scores were lost during Twin Galaxies boon period between the years 1982-1884 simply due to the fact that so much was going on at Twin Galaxies that keeping track of every single score was next to impossible. Yet another could be the fact that Frampton himself failed to chase the glory, instead hoping Twin Galaxies would do right by the score during a period when, unbeknownst to Frampton, their attentions were taxed by other more pressing circumstances. But that doesn’t explain why previously verified scores were suddenly ignored and then disappeared altogether.

    In fact, when one considers the following, it weighs heavy with suspicion.

    It is rather compelling to note that, two months prior to Williams and Frampton achieving their highest scores, on July 25, 1983, The US National Video Game Team was being assembled in Ottumwa, Iowa, by Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard, under supervision of Walter Day. Initially consisting of Billy Mitchell, Steve Harris, Jay Kim, Ben Gold, Tim McVey and Cat Cabrera, the USNVG Team was considered by many to be the best gamers in the country, those who were able to consistently achieve the highest scores. On November 15, 1983, less than two months after Frampton’s amazing score, Walter Day, designated Riccardo Albini/ Videogiochi, the sole organizer of the Italian Team slated to face the Americans in a World Championship. Curiously enough, Frampton’s “lost verified score” appeared in the first roster of high scores Albini received and published in Italy, although Bill Mitchell’s much lower Donkey Kong Junior score was the only score Twin Galaxies continued to publish and promote in The United States.

    What is important to note regarding these two events is, having known and recognized Frampton’s score previously and knowing it was the highest score ever achieved on Donkey Kong Junior, why was Frampton not contacted about his world record score? His information was widely distributed thus readily available, especially to Twin Galaxies , who had recently reported the score to Videogiochi. So why was it not reported as the World Record it clearly was?

    It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to guess that someone behind the USNVG Team had noticed that most of the highest scores being achieved in America were not by members of their own team –which reportedly represented the best in the country- but by individuals outside the Twin Galaxies clique, in arcades across the nation. It would have definitely been a concern to a fledgling competitive team to be representing themselves as “the best” when the scoreboards in gaming magazines were indicating otherwise. Perhaps postponing the celebration of individuals, like Frampton, was a way to build the team’s reputation, or that of a certain celebrity player first, before awarding the real high scorers with the fanfare they deserved. The USNVG Team certainly did this later on by adding additional high score players in the following years. In an age before home computers, it’s also likely that Frampton’s score was misplaced as it sat in a box of papers, awaiting recovery. But for almost 30 years? That is a long incubation for something considered merely “misplaced”. In a country rich with creative and whimsical opportunities, the wildest dreams often hatch quicker than that.

    Calvin Frampton lost an opportunity of a lifetime. And he is well aware of that.

    We may never know the answers as one can never be certain about facts in history. After all, to know the truth of history is to often realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity. Nonetheless, to this day, Calvin Frampton, now a Life and Relationship Coach, remains optimistic, if only a bit concerned, about the mysteries surrounding the event.

    “When I got the score, I did not race to get recognition. If anything, I was embarrassed of all the attention I got. If I was concerned about recognition I would have made damn sure it did not take almost three decades to get my name in the Guinness Book of World Records, Wikipedia, and Twin Galaxies. If the record was verified by Twin Galaxies, as it appears to have been, then it should be noted as the record. If it is then, that is cool. If it is not because of "conspiracy", jealousy or ego, then that is unfortunate. All I know is that it must have been important enough to them to ignore the score.”

    Which is what makes it all the more important for us to remember it.

    C.C. DeSpira


    Frampton's score reported by Walter Day, Twin Galaxies International, 1983








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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    Not to change the main topic, but the Robotron 500 million high score listed on your note will raise more eyebrows than anything else. The current high score in the database has been a subject of controversy for a long time, because of the superhuman effort it would take to achieve 300+ million points.
    litox
    Q*Bert - M.A.M.E. - 3,001,235
    Sky Raider - M.A.M.E. - 68,300 (1st place, WR)
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    I am aware of the Robotron score and of many scores for that matter. Of course, I ran into many Lost Scores while combing old magazines and going through piles of papers from "back in the day".

    My focus has been, since 2009, on The Frampton Story.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    I would simply look at it the same I would with other early claims where there is question about the record being set in the first place. While I don't know what verification requirements were in place back then, I'll venture to say that they weren't even met to begin with and it's possible that the record was ignored after the fact because of this.

    I could very well be wrong on all of that, I know little of the story.

    But what I do know is that it doesn't help to advocate for someone by adding embellishment and further confusion to the issue. I notice that a lot of Calvin's "quotes" have been rewritten from what you've posted before in other places.

    http://www.classicarcadegaming.com/foru ... /wap2.html

    A quick look through there reveals an evolving and changing dialogue going on that just establishes further doubt with regard to the facts. Not only does that prove critical changes in the reported conversation, it makes me wonder what was changed from Frampton before it was posted the first time.
    For example;
    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    That is, except Frampton. “I died for no reason and was mad as hell. I didn’t know what happened. It just ended.”
    Quote Originally Posted by CAG post
    CCDeSpira:
    From Calvin Frampton:


    Never had a "kill screen" stop my DKJ game. This is the first I have heard of it.
    Coupled with the notion that it's not the player advocating for recognition here, the lost in translation hearsay going on undermines would be attention to any possible facts that might be hidden at the bottom of the mess.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    Many of those comments were also gleaned from many telephone conversations and numerous emails which changed syntax each time the story was narrated or written in correspondance. The CAG portions most likely mirror my own because what was posted on CAG also came in an email to me. So to assume "rewritten" is merely a jump to conclusions that I have embellished the initial claim. Three years of investigating, digging up documents and conducting interviews would tend to change small portions of the story simply because many facts were not known then. For instance, back then in 2009, none of us knew Walter had upheld the score for as long he did, publishing it as the high score five times between 1983 and 1985. It only disappeared when Mitchell assumed control.



    Plus, much more has been learned and said over the past three years -with much of it not being included in this story- for instance, during the time of Frampton's and other scores, Bill Mitchell was owner of Twin Galaxies and ran the scoreboard both as a reporter and as a judge to the legitimacy of former scores, to which he instantly negated the ones that were in direct competition with his, leaving far more questionable scores intact as they did not pose a threat to him.

    It's also worth taking into consideration that Mitchell and his group had a tremendous advantage in reporting their high scores as they were not only present at Twin Galaxies but in control of the scoreboard. Others had an advantage of knowing Mitchell and his crew personally, leaving people in far away arcades and towns pretty much out of luck if the high score happened to be in competition with Mitchell's and friends chosen games.

    Anyway, I'm just reporting what I know, what I can prove. I make no apologies.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    You took a direct copy and paste claiming to be from an email, and then reworded it on another site. You added to it. I don't care if you got additional information at a later time, you put words in quotes that were not given to you that way, and then tried to make it look like they were.

    It's not a stretch to see that you've obviously embellished the story. There are also claims supposedly Frampton made that are false by the documents you present, and all of this information came from you.

    Another example of many;

    Quote Originally Posted by photo you posted
    Calvin, married and the father of one, racked up a score of...
    Quote Originally Posted by your CAG post
    CCDeSpira:
    From Calvin Frampton:

    Many of these guys on the forum do not seem to understand something: After that part of my life, I got married, went to school and had a family.
    I personally don't think Frampton wrote that at all. I think you wrote it as part of an explanation as to why Frampton knows nothing about DKJ (married, started a family... all things that were already present at the time the score was supposedly achieved). Now THAT could be a stretch but one thing isn't; there is no consistency in your story... at all... and we haven't even started to look at the merits of the record claim.

    Another;
    Quote Originally Posted by photo you posted
    Calvin said he came to the Arcade on Tuesday with his mind made up that he was going to try to break the record for Donkey Kong Jr.

    In the past few days he had been playing the game frequently in preparation for the attempt on a world record.
    Quote Originally Posted by CAG post from Frampton

    It was cool when it happened. I was not focused on obtaining a world record when I started this game or any other game. I was aware of some records through the video game magazines I read, but never looked at them with an obsession to beat any of them. The DKJ score came as a surprise.
    No consistency here. I could give many more examples, but the CAG forums really go into detail about how this story is bogus. I also think it's funny how Frampton puts too many commas most of which are in the wrong places, just like you do.

    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    It's also worth taking into consideration that Mitchell and his group had a tremendous advantage in reporting their high scores as they were not only present at Twin Galaxies but in control of the scoreboard. Others had an advantage of knowing Mitchell and his crew personally, leaving people in far away arcades and towns pretty much out of luck if the high score happened to be in competition with Mitchell's and friends chosen games.
    I won't dispute that at all. But it's not really relevant either.

    Look through my posts. I criticize and doubt TGI on many levels. Ask PSP, or Nelson, or TSTodden... I'm hardly a mouthpiece for TG. But what is certain is that you're not telling the story straight. That's all you've proven. But I do notice a pattern; for example alleging some TGI conspiracy about PSP not being in Michael Sroka's (not TGI's) film when Michael was on the fricken thread saying he wanted him in.

    If you're serious about making the claim, stay consistent and get the facts straight. If you don't care whether people don't believe you, then just keep doing what you're doing.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    I'm not even going to address your points as you CAG people have been hostile to me going way back when I first showed interest in Frampton. In fact, it was people like you who made me abruptly leave and stay away for some time. Your hate mail, your rude comments, your private CAG discussions in which I was referred to in the most derogatory of terms.

    CAG even chased Frampton off when he came to your forum to discuss his record. Frampton is a gentleman and acted accordingly. CAG treated him like trash.

    I expected you guys to show up. What took you so long?
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    I'm not a CAG member at all and as a matter of fact you can see me criticizing the site here;

    viewtopic.php?f=50&t=26450

    ... so you're wrong about THAT too.

    I knew nothing about, and had no opinion on this matter before you brought it up. Your story doesn't add up, plain and simple. It's inconsistent.

    Reading through the CAG posts very few people were ever out of line with you. As a matter of fact, several members supported your claims, and those that didn't generally disagreed from empirical standpoints.

    From what I see, the only real question is why TG recognized the score in the first place.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    Maybe so, Maybe not. We will never know for sure. Does it really make that big of a difference one way or the other?

    Aside from any inconsistencies in the story the point pressing required to get this score is VERY tedious. Nobody played that way back then. Hardly anyone, including apparently Frampton even knew there was a kill screen.

    There is a bug in DK jr. that causes some very strange behavior from the game. It is not that hard to get pretty consistent doing it. You start a 2 player game and play the p1 game normally, trying to score as many points as you can. Then on the p2 game you do the jump in the splash trick, essentially jumping through the bottom of the screen. This causes the game to bug out, it switches back to p1 without losing a man. Here's the key, it starts p1 back at level 1-1. So you could start back at level 1-1 numerous times in a single game. This could account for the higher than normal score upon reaching the kill screen. You would still have to be a very good kill screen capable player. I personally used this trick back in the eighties. I know it works, and it was pretty widely known. Food for thought.
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    Re: The Mysterious Lost Triumph of Calvin Frampton

    Eh, it matters to me. If the guy did a run that was accepted and then just *poof* for political reasons, I'd want to advocate for him too. I take my own records very seriously, but they only have integrity if others' do as well.

    On the other hand, if it turns out to be one of hundreds of BITD BS claims, I like it to be exposed as such.
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