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ersatz_cats
02-21-2019 at 03:15 PM
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A long lost interview with Robert Mruczek has revealed yet more evidence against Billy Mitchell

Has it really been a year? Heck, has it only been a year? Last February was a magical time. We were all knee deep in board swaps and rasterizations. Billy Mitchell, who never does interviews, bounced from interview to interview, hoping to produce something that sounded halfway reasonable. Apollo Legend had gone missing, while East Side Dave exhorted his followers to "Rip him apart". Chris Gleed hooked what felt like every cable and device in the known universe to a Donkey Kong cabinet to see if something new might happen. And through it all, we eagerly awaited the verdict in the Second Video Game Trial of the Century.

So much has changed since then. The verdict was "Guilty", as most who followed the case closely had expected. Billy Mitchell, having since embraced Twitch, has achieved one million points live on stream (after numerous failed attempts). Still, Billy has offered no apology nor any acknowledgment of any wrongdoing. Not that this should be surprising. Instead, with regards to the dispute evidence, Billy has invoked some sort of shadowy evil conspiracy against him, laying the blame for this alleged miscarriage of justice at the feet of any who refuse to play his game. The list of people Billy has thrown under the bus has gotten long, and today, it may get a little longer.

In researching this case, I recently came across a series of long lost and forgotten interview segments with former Twin Galaxies head referee Robert Mruczek. This interview was conducted all the way back in February 2006 by Stephen Totilo, at the time with MTV. Now, some of you who are up on your game are already saying "Ersatz, stop. This is old news. We've seen the Stephen Totilo interview." Indeed, there have been links and references to a 2006 interview by Totilo titled "Gaming's top ref pays big bucks for record-breaking scores":

https://web.archive.org/web/20060412014125/http://www.mtv.com/games/video_games/news/story.jhtml?id=1524620

But I'm not talking about that written interview. I'm talking about the videos.

BILLY GOT FINGERED

Since there may be people reading this who are not familiar with the details of the Billy Mitchell case, or even some people who would like a quick refresher, let's go over the important points one more time. (Skip to the next section if you don't need the recap.) There had long been speculation within the competitive Donkey Kong community that Billy Mitchell's three score submissions of over one million points - two submitted by tape and one spot-refereed by his friend Todd Rogers, yes, that Todd Rogers - were not authentic, having likely been played on the arcade emulator MAME. (Note that the actual verification methods relied upon for these scores are more complicated and in dispute, but that's at least a good summation.) The videos of the first two submissions were public, revealing a combination of inhuman luck and needlessly risky gameplay, both indicating reliance on emulator tools like save states. Adding to this was a clearly faked board swap video () where Billy's technician Rob Childs claimed to be removing the DK circuit board Billy had just set the record on, but is really removing a Donkey Kong Junior board instead. While this evidence of chicanery was convincing to many in the community, it still lacked a definitive smoking gun.

That changed on February 2nd of last year, when Jeremy Young published the results of an investigation by himself and others into Donkey Kong screen transitions. It turned out, in the fragments of a second it takes the Donkey Kong game to draw levels on the screen, earlier versions of MAME drew these levels in a significantly different fashion than authentic hardware. On either platform the elements of the stage were written to a buffer in a predictable order, but MAME would draw from that buffer in the form of a snapshot. An original Donkey Kong cabinet, on the other hand, would draw from the buffer in a left-to-right sweep, whether the output was an arcade monitor or an external direct feed. The result was two very different intermediate screens lasting no longer than a single frame:

(Credit to FBX for that image comparison.)

On the left is the image one should see from a genuine direct feed, with five partial girders. On the right are loading screens produced by MAME. The pointing girder figure on the MAME screen would come to be known as the "girder finger". A screen transition need not necessarily produce the "girder finger" to be sourced from MAME. It was more of a dead giveaway, in that despite earnest attempts from many parties, no method was ever found of showing that "girder finger" from authentic Donkey Kong hardware.

It should be noted that the investigation was complicated by various technical limitations inherent in trying to visually capture objects in motion within fractions of a second. First, many still and video cameras use a rolling shutter effect, where the image is captured piece by piece rather than all at once. This isn't an issue when taking pictures of stationary or slowly-moving objects, but becomes a problem when trying to capture stills from a television or game monitor running at sixty frames per second. When the cycle of the camera is not consistent with the cycle of the electronic display being filmed, it can result in multiple frames being jumbled together. Thus, any examination of single frames of game play involving an external camera capturing a display from a television or monitor can produce stills and frames not present in the original game play footage itself. It won't produce just anything of course. It won't make Donkey Kong look like Sonic the Hedgehog, for instance. Rolling shutter is not magic, but it is a distorting factor that must be taken into account. Second, some media (including VHS and YouTube) can use compression techniques that smoosh and blend different frames together. We see this above with the frames taken from Billy's 1.047M and 1.05M scores. The "stacked kongs" screen never coexists with the girder screen in original Donkey Kong game play, and (especially with the three kongs) that's not the kind of thing rolling shutter would produce, but video compression can cause elements of two different frames to coexist together. What this means is, if one examines all 117 screen transitions of a "kill screen" game of Donkey Kong, many of those will be indeterminate. In this case, with Billy's known submission tapes, of the screen transitions that were determinate, 100% of those were conclusively drawn from MAME or a MAME equivalent, and 0% indicated authentic hardware.

Both Twin Galaxies and Donkey Kong Forum do indeed track score submissions on MAME, but such submissions are subject to much tighter rules and scrutiny. One must use particular variations of MAME that don't allow cheats and other manipulations, and must send saved input files to help demonstrate the continuity and authenticity of their game play. Regular MAME, on the other hand, offers many user-friendly tools, including the ability to seamlessly stitch together many segments into one uninterrupted playback, making any submissions that don't follow the required protocols impossible to verify for competition. Plus, some people feel scores achieved on original hardware carry a certain prestige. Some people even feel that scores submitted on MAME "don't count". ( at 3:56) In any event, attempting to pass off MAME game play as genuine arcade is an extreme violation both of the rules (i.e. "cheating") as well as of the trust of the community. In the eyes of Twin Galaxies, as expressed in their "summary decision", this warranted removal of all standing scores and a lifetime ban for the offending player.

For what it's worth, Twin Galaxies wasn't comfortable concluding that the footage was definitely MAME, only because, in their words, "Twin Galaxies would need to comprehensively rule out the possibility of all other methods that could produce what is seen on the tapes", including other emulators or visual effects software. Above I referred to "MAME or a MAME equivalent", but hereafter I will refer simply to "MAME". While there are other emulators, and while Hollywood does have any number of visual effects studios that can whip up any digitally rendered footage you want for the right price, MAME has always been the go-to emulator for classic arcade games, and would certainly be the tool one would use for such a ruse. Billy's people can and have harped on and misconstrued this point, but it is not fundamentally relevant. While we can be confident that the tool used was MAME, the actual weapon of the crime is not as significant as the crime itself.

Soon after the verdict, Billy announced a "Road to Redemption Tour". This "Tour" did not involve acknowledging or apologizing for having cheated of course, but did involve playing Donkey Kong on Twitch in an attempt to re-achieve the exact scores that were the subject of the dispute. Most notably, Billy did a one-man "panel" at the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo last June (), wherein he laid out his case for innocence. Billy addressed the scientific evidence of the dispute by suggesting everyone has scientific evidence, and that the best way to determine things is to rely on peoples' memories. ( at 20:37) Even just with regard to the elements of the case that are on the public record, Billy's presentation was replete with factual errors and misrepresentations. For instance, Billy insinuated that the "girder finger" does not appear in earlier versions of MAME available during his earlier submissions. ( at 35:59) This is unequivocally not true. Some earlier versions of MAME do require the refresh rate to be changed to match arcade (which one would likely do if they were looking to pass MAME play off as arcade). On comment 1970 of the official dispute, FBX was able to produce the girder finger on the oldest version of MAME he could get working, a version dating back to 2001. Also, throughout the presentation, Billy flaunted a stack of papers in his hand which he claimed were several things, including evidence which would totally for sure exonerate him, but which he won't publish, because reasons. His repeated references to these papers led to a whole host of derived claims for which we are left merely to take his word. Fundamentally, his version of events is that this is all the result of a conspiracy by bad faith actors producing fake tapes in an effort to discredit him. The details of how exactly such a far-reaching scheme would be carried out is left to the listener's imagination.

Billy has since achieved 1.047 million live on Twitch, in what would appear to be an authentic fashion (assuming no shenanigans). Some people who choose to believe in Billy's innocence have presented this as some sort of evidence pertaining to events from years ago. The chain of logic, if one wishes to call it that, would appear to be "Since he can achieve this score today, he would have had no motive to cheat a decade ago." Of course, this doesn't actually make sense for a number of reasons. I would compare it to completing Super Mario Bros. in under five minutes. In 2004, this would have been perhaps the most incredible speedrun of all time. Today it would be 91st place. Indeed, the contemporary significance of the claimed achievements were exactly why these Donkey Kong scores were fabricated in the first place.

We are thus left with piles of evidence of Billy Mitchell's guilt, and effectively nothing outside of innuendo and character reference to suggest even the possibility of his innocence. And yet, there are still many who refuse to believe the assembled body of evidence against Billy thus far. Which brings us to today.

YOU PLAY THE DK ON THE MTV

As linked above in the introduction, Robert Mruczek, one-time head referee of Twin Galaxies, gave an interview to MTV's Stephen Totilo, who these days is the editor-in-chief of Kotaku. Referenced in that written interview was a session wherein Mruczek sits Totilo down and shows him segments of Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong score of 1,047,200 (known today as the "King of Kong" score):

> He pulls out a tape of Billy Mitchell, the legendary player of a perfect "Pac-Man" game (and current hot-sauce maker), cracking a million points in "Donkey Kong." When Mitchell sent in the tape last year, it was the first time Mruczek had ever seen such a feat — and as far as he can tell, it's the first time anyone has done it.

> He cues up the tape, which, having been output from a "Donkey Kong" arcade machine, plays sideways on his TV. Mitchell's good enough to have cleared one of the game's boards at just the right moment to make sure that the score is a flat-out 1 million. The six-digit counter rolls from 999,999 to all zeroes. Billy goes on to score 1,047,200 points, a new world record. Somewhere in there he has the game's hero jump from one girder to another in a move that floors the gaming referee. "Every now and then he does something that surprises me," Mruczek marvels. "And I thought I'd seen it all."

Before I continue, while I disagree with Mruczek on some things here and there, I have the highest respect for the immense amount of work he has done for actual decades to verify and eternalize gaming history. Perhaps even more important to me is his moral compass and his dedication to the truth, whatever that truth may reveal. The point of this post isn't to highlight his imperfectness or impugn his work or his integrity. Obviously, he trusted the wrong people; I think he would tell you that himself. As far as the flaws in Billy's tapes (as we're about to discuss), even though Robert was tragically staring right at it, he simply didn't know. Nobody did until years later.

While the interview was presented without accompanying video, it turns out that five video segments from this session survive today. These video segments never came up in the official Donkey Kong dispute last year, and as far as I can determine, not one of them has been linked to anywhere on the searchable Internet since 2008. When I came across them, still hosted on the MTV site all these years later, it may very well have been the first time they were watched in a decade.

One of the five videos, titled "Saving the game -- forever", does not pertain to Billy at all:

http://www.mtv.com/video-clips/al7vzf/saving-the-game-forever

The longest of these five videos is an MTV News segment on high score bounties offered by Robert Mruczek. Titled "Increasing the stakes", this video contains snippets of Billy's game play:

http://www.mtv.com/video-clips/q9uio0/increasing-the-stakes

The next two videos, titled "Outdoing George Costanza" and "Preparing for the big race", feature Mruczek talking about unrelated topics while Billy's game play continues:

http://www.mtv.com/video-clips/7wual3/outdoing-george-costanza

http://www.mtv.com/video-clips/4l1hdw/preparing-for-the-big-race

In this fifth and final video, titled "Smashing apart the 'Donkey Kong' world record", Robert draws the interviewer's attention toward Billy's impending kill screen, including a few segments captured directly from the video tape itself:

http://www.mtv.com/video-clips/k4dw8f/smashing-apart-the-donkey-kong-world-record

(For those especially curious, the original 2006 links for those five videos are as follows: http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76066 ; http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76067 ; http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76077 ; http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76078 ; http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76079 ; One of those was found on Internet Archive here: https://web.archive.org/web/20071217220309/http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?vid=76067 ; an archived playlist showing all five was found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20070504065037/http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?type=28&id=1524627&vid=76066 ; And no, I couldn't find any relevant videos using the in-between numbers.)

The first order of business is to compare the footage from these four videos to the other known copies of Billy's 1.047 million score. I focused on six screens across each of the four videos, comparing them to the copy on YouTube (uploaded by expandedidea at) and the crisper copy uploaded by Jace Hall on comment 2188 of last year's Donkey Kong dispute:

Also, where available, I compared those same stills to the footage seen on the bonus features of the King of Kong DVD. The results are as follows:

Note: The other stills were adjusted to match the height of the MTV stills. A higher resolution version with legible timestamps is available here:

https://i.imgur.com/HaUDwx3.jpg

Those two barrel boards are the exact moments of the two kill screens. Even on something as trivial as entering the initials, each of them overshoots the "S" in the same way. Note that on the YouTube version of the rivet board, it's hard to see Pauline yelling "Help". This is because the YouTube copy is low-quality. If you watch it in motion, you will see a blue blob is indeed present on that frame. I encourage anyone to follow the links and watch the footage before and after those stills as well for added verification. While we don't have footage around the pie factory still from the MTV video, I think you'll see that the circumstances leading up to that exact shot were quite unusual. At any rate, these are all undeniably, unmistakably copies of the same game play.

But honestly, it's not even fair to compare this MTV footage to the others for authenticity. It should be the other way around. We should be checking those against this, because this is now the earliest known publicly available third-party recording of Billy's 1.047 million score, excluding any footage taken by documentary film crews at the one-time screening at Funspot in 2005. What's more, this video has sat outside the custody of anyone associated with Twin Galaxies for thirteen years, across a timeframe that, from TG's perspective, spans four ownership groups. What I'm saying is, this is as close as we're ever going to get to taking a time machine back to 2006 and seeing the original submission in its original era for ourselves.

In the conclusion of the DK dispute, the following was said from the official Twin Galaxies account:

> The 1047 and 1050 score performance videos we have in our possession (and are basing our determinations on) are in fact the performances that were used by previous Twin Galaxies administration as justification for those scores to be entered into the database and for Twin Galaxies to attribute those specific accomplishments to Billy Mitchell. We have several different and unique sources of these performances and access to private historical Twin Galaxies referee e-mail distribution records showing where these sources acquired their copies and what the purpose was.

This is all to say, we no longer have to accept the authority of TG administration that the copies floating around on YouTube, or even the bits of game play seen on the King of Kong DVD, are representative of the real submission tapes. We, the public, have now established that baseline for ourselves.

I did attempt to reach out to Mruczek himself to ascertain with certainty the origin of this specific copy of this specific tape, but I wasn't able to get that process finalized in time for my publishing schedule. I'm sure RTM will weigh in on this himself in the near future. Note that the score page for this submission listed the verification date as "January 31, 2006", which was shortly before this interview.

Someone somewhere is shouting "Okay! Okay! Get to the good stuff!" Strap yourselves in folks, because it's time!

MAME SIGNATURES BEFORE THEY WERE COOL

First and foremost, the "Smashing" video features two barrel board transitions, both of them kill screens for Billy's last two lives. Let's start with the second one of those:

The second frame seen there is one of those mangled frames we discussed earlier, likely a combination of compression (blending the stacked kongs frame with the first girder frame) and the result of rolling shutter or some other distortion capturing only some of the girders. This is one of those transitions that isn't particularly conclusive. Note that those three girders are consistent with the MAME girder finger frame, and not consistent with any known arcade transition frame. So even mangled as it is, it points toward MAME and away from arcade, but as it is, you would never convict on that alone.

For curiosity's sake, I tracked down that same transition (kill screen #2) from both the TG hosted video and the YouTube video linked above:

There were clearly some frames dropped from the YouTube copy, which only took three frames compared to the TG copy's five. While the TG copy still had some blending of girder frame 1 with the stacked kongs, you get a better idea of what Totilo's recording of the transition left out.

So that's kill screen #2. What did we get from kill screen #1? Billy supporters, avert your eyes now!

Wait, is that it!? ENHANCE!!

Now THAT'S the girder-finger-y goodness we all came here for!

This is now the earliest documented instance of the girder finger caught on video. (Though it's entirely possible the King of Kong filmmakers have it as well among all their unused footage from 2005.)

In my insatiable curiosity, I compared this again to the same transitions from the TG and YouTube copies, which did yield something marginally interesting:

This time, it was the TG-hosted copy that dropped the transition frames. I have no way of knowing if this happened in the process of recording the video, or hosting the video, or what. Of course, I can already hear Billy's staunch defenders saying "But you dropped frames! How do you know those weren't the frames that proved Billy's innocence?" (Other than the fact that those frames were picked up by the other copies of the same performance and still showed evidence of MAME, of course.) This would be like a defendant, having clearly been caught on tape robbing a bank, saying "Your camera dropped all the frames that showed me stopping the robbery!"

Oh, we're not done yet. An astute and informed viewer may have noticed something in one of the kill screen transitions above. Specifically, this one:

That smudge by Robert Mruczek's finger isn't a ladder. It's the oil barrel near Mario's starting position.

Allow me to refer back to Jace Hall in the DK dispute, comments number 729, 1050, and 1130:

> Your 3rd image provided contains information that helps make that determination (based on our internal testing so far) as an Original Arcade Donkey Kong PCB does not ever render the Donkey Kong character to the gameplay screen without also rendering the Oil Barrel in the bottom left corner simultaneously. From our direct testing we have determined that their moment of screen rasterization are always together in the Original Arcade version without exception. So far, all of our testing indicates that they can never be separately depicted under any capture conditions.

> Yes. We have been considering the possibility of a PC capture-to VHS recording, which could easily miss signature transitional frames if not done correctly. However, we are having difficulty supporting that premise due to the fact that all our original arcade testing so far has shown that the arcade rasterization NEVER outputs the Donkey Kong character to the screen without simultaneously rasterizing the Oil Barrel in the bottom left corner.

> Any type of signal conversion from RGB to NTSC (or otherwise) from an unmodified Original Donkey Kong PCB can not produce an image of the Oil Barrel without the Donkey Kong character present, since that image does not ever exist in the original signal.

Now, before you go thinking this is a major breakthrough, it has one very big caveat. In researching this assertion, Scoundrl (comment 1127) and Bounty Bob (comment 1133) showed examples of the oil barrel appearing without DK in external recordings of authentic games by both Ross Benzinger and Hank Chien. The reason these frames were captured in the manner they were was specifically because those videos were external recordings pointed at the arcade monitors, introducing the possibility of the rolling shutter effect. Jace Hall explained this discrepancy in comment 1145:

> At 25 fps, there was literally no way for all of the displayed frames to be captured by the camera. And the camera snapping away at 25 fps while looking at a 30fps screen is invariably going to catch the screen drawing right in the middle of a frame transition resulting in a split screen (part of the old frame and part of the new frame) image being compressed and encoded.

Jace continued:

> It is important to understand that this can not happen in a direct-feed scenario. An RGB to NTSC conversion going straight to VHS tape never has this moment in the signal. There are no CRT phosphors to hold a partial image for 1/60th of a second and the framerate / field recording is exactly the incoming signal with no image recomposition being performed. The above appears to be a visual artifact and image that got created by the external camera being out of sync with an actual video display.

Chris Gleed confirmed that this image does not exist on genuine direct feed with his own research on comment 1099. And Asterra on comment 1147 provided a useful demonstration of the external camera's effect on this as well.

Simply put, Jace Hall wasn't incorrect in his assertion about the oil barrel never appearing without DK on authentic DK hardware. However, the assertion only applies to direct feed. Once you start pointing cameras at monitors or televisions, things like that start to get dicey. What this means vis-à-vis the MTV tape is, while that frame we see in that kill screen transition does fall under the category of MAME signatures, it's not conclusive. It's certainly interesting to see, but just like the fact that the tape contains no sound (because MAME's incorrect sound effects would have been a dead giveaway), it's not something one would necessarily convict on just by itself. However, it is yet another thing that once again points toward MAME and points away from genuine arcade.

But there's yet another problem with this oil barrel. DustPuzzle joined the dispute on comment 1565 to point out that original arcade direct feed always generates the "Bonus" timer before generating the oil barrel, as confirmed by Jeremy Young's presentation on page 19. Earlier versions of MAME, however, would generate the two in the opposite order: oil barrel first, then the bonus score. This would appear to have been fixed as of MAME version 0.116, released in 2007, over a whole year after this interview. Even rolling shutter makes this hard to explain, because at that point, you're asking the oil barrel side of the screen to be a whole two frames ahead of the bonus side of the screen. How slow does your camera have to be to mangle that?

While, in my interest of the truth, I am gracious in explaining why an apparent MAME signature is not necessarily conclusive proof of MAME origin, I will point out that I have not had to explain why an apparent arcade signature is not necessarily conclusive proof of arcade origin, because the video has no apparent arcade signatures. Literally every identifier I can find, no matter how conclusive, points toward MAME origin.

There is one final thing to note about the contents of this video, something rolling shutter could never mangle. Do you notice something interesting about this shot from Billy's "Big Bang" presentation in 2010, as filmed by Michael Sroka and uploaded to YouTube by GDLarcade ()?

No, don't look at what's on the screens. Look at the TVs themselves.

As was noted in the dispute, MAME during the time in question output the video at the wrong orientation. Robert's TV, had it been tilted upright, would have been tilted the wrong way. Billy's 2005 and 2007 submissions were both oriented in this incorrect fashion. (Since what little video we have of Billy's 2010 score also shows indications of MAME transitions, it is generally believed that he or his accomplice had since caught the error and corrected it with a simple line command.) During the dispute, this incorrect orientation was cited by Jace Hall (comment 1847) as proof that, regardless of whatever originally created the video, it had to have gone through a computer to be output in that fashion.

Simply put, the video Robert Mruczek and Stephen Totilo watched was as phony as a fourteen-dollar bill. Again, if you want to take the Twin Galaxies standard of complete scientific certitude, you couldn't say for certain it was MAME in particular as opposed to another emulator (Why would it make a difference?) or generated whole cloth by ILM studios. But knowing what we know now, there is actual zero chance this came from original, authentic, unmodified Donkey Kong hardware, as specified by the rules.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Some of you may be thinking "So what? This is like the 22nd nail in the coffin on this by now." Indeed, this doesn't change the outcome, because frankly nothing at this point will. But this does add a lot to what we can demonstrate for certain in a way that doesn't bode well for ol' William Mitchell. Allow me to illustrate.

What's important about this video is not so much the "what", it's the "when". While there are no dates attached to the videos directly, they are all clearly from the same session. And that session is referenced directly by Totilo in his written interview.... from February, 2006. In terms of Donkey Kong high score competition, this may as well be ancient history. The movie "King of Kong" premiered at Slamdance Film Festival in January 2007. This girder finger predates the movie itself by almost an entire year. Remember at the end of the movie when (spoilers) Steve Wiebe finally claimed his first fully recognized DK world record playing in his garage, something which had to be stapled onto the end of an almost completed film by that point? When Totilo sat with Mruczek observing this Billy Mitchell tape, that Wiebe garage score wouldn't happen for another five months. That Billy tape was, in fact, the current recognized world record at that time.

I know it's hard to imagine that era from the perspective of today, but close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a world without all the video game documentaries. A world where the general public had never heard the name "Wiebe". A world where niche arcades in places like New Hampshire are quietly enjoying a retro revival of games from the '80s. This was an era where Billy Mitchell, strictly within gaming circles, was lauded as a hero, an unquestioned legend, while the west coast newcomer Steve was the one being scrutinized for 8-way joysticks and gummy substances. (Sorry, RTM!) Around this time, MTV decides they want to appeal to gamers young and old, and so they track down a real life video game referee, leading them to an organization called Twin Galaxies and the home of one Robert Mruczek. The referee and the reporter chat and watch gaming records from Crazy Taxi and Halo 2 on PS2 and Xbox. And that referee proudly and without any drama shows this reporter their latest acquisition: The first score of a million points on an old Donkey Kong arcade game, done by the same guy who was in the news for that Pac-Man thing a few years ago. Unbeknownst to both the reporter and the referee, what they are watching is a forgery. That record tape, submitted under the pretense of being a live score on a real machine at some arcade somewhere, was quietly stitched together on someone's computer using MAME, either constructed over the course of several late nights by the legend himself, or provided to the fraudulent hero by an acquaintance. As with all cheating of this variety, all of this is done hush-hush, with no apparent indication of foul play. None of the legend's peers or contemporaries have any reason to suspect any wrongdoing. The interview goes smoothly. No drama. No probing questions. No hassle. The video is simply accepted for what it claims to be. MTV gets its nice segment on video game world records, the niche legend has another notch in his belt, and Mruczek continues on with watching 54 hours of Asteroids.

That was the world of video game high score stories in 2006. Now flash forward a decade or so. Jeremy Young's investigation produces compelling evidence that score was done on MAME and passed off as genuine arcade. After a few days, the legendary Billy Mitchell responds, with the help of friends. At some point, it simply must be conceded that the tapes being investigated are MAME tapes. Rather than challenge this, Billy presents the idea that those aren't actually his real tapes. (Never mind of course that Billy's team put in a lot of effort to attempt to show the legitimacy of these tapes he was simultaneously claiming weren't his.) Rather, according to Billy, those tapes being examined are malicious forgeries, planted by bad faith actors hoping to slander him. And of course, a conspiracy theory needs a villain. In this case, that proposed villain was Dwayne Richard.

Here's Richie Knucklez on the East Side Dave show, starting at 51:47 ():

> I've kept this really quiet, but I'm sure other people are going to come out after I do, and tell us what the story is. Way back when, in like, I don't know, 19.. no no, 2009 I'm going to say, Dwayne Richard contacted me and asked me to help him doctor a tape of MAME Donkey Kong to make it look like we got the high score to put egg on Twin Galaxies' face. He asked me to do that for him, and I am sure I'm not his only guy to go to.

Of course, Richie Knucklez misspoke for a moment, as one does when one thinks of the 2000s as being so long ago. Obviously it was well after 1999, but 2009 is entirely plausible, given that Richie had not even met either Billy Mitchell or Walter Day until around the time of the wide release of King of Kong in summer of 2007. (You can hear Richie tell his own TG origin story here, starting at 34:14.) () This allegation that Dwayne was soliciting help in framing Billy Mitchell in 2009 is interesting, given that we've now established Billy's tapes were fraudulent as far back as 2006.

Later last summer, we found Billy at SFGE waving around his stack of secret exculpatory papers containing whatever it is he says they contain at any given moment. In discussing emails from among these papers, he made specific claims about what they would prove, about the sinister plot against him that would one day come to pass. Starting at 23:17 ():

> There's emails here dating back to 2009. The emails state what they're gonna do. The emails say what they have planned for Billy Mitchell. The emails say that he's coming down.

And again at 47:06 ():

> The paper trail, the email that he will show you, that says "Please have your"... in 2009... "Please have your Asian technician call me." A particular guy sent me the email that some... that a naysayer sent to him. "Please have your particular"... "Please have your Asian technician call me. I need his help to create a Donkey Kong score. I think he's a genius. And he can help me." A second email at a later time said "I'm working for a company now, and I'm learning how to modify boards." Those are real emails that run through Yahoo, and when you have it and it has that date, and Yahoo says that it came from them, you cannot manipulate that. You cannot. That same name is the same name that took the tapes out of the library. That same name, is the same name that edited the two Pac-Man scores, okay, that show up in a YouTube movie.

Once again, Billy refers to evidence which we are not granted access to that he claims illustrates a conspiracy against him dating as far back as 2009. When Billy and Richie say 2009, it's meant to sound like a long time ago, like this heinous plan against him has been in the works for several years. 2009 may have been a while ago, but a conspiracy in 2009, whether real or imagined, cannot affect anything in 2006. (Unless they'd like us to believe the all-powerful Dwayne Richard has mastered the forces of time itself.) Of course, who knows what Billy will pull out of his endless stack of secret evidence next. "Did I say 2009? I meant 2003!"

Before I continue, it should be noted that in the DK dispute Dwayne Richard himself has owned up to approaching both Rick Fothergill and Richie Knucklez with the idea of producing a cheated MAME run passed off as a direct feed of a genuine arcade game, hoping to do so as a test to see if the referees could spot the fabrication. (Apollo Legend attempted a similar experiment in late 2017.) ( at 14:35) We've addressed the situation with Richie above. As for Rick Fothergill, if Dwayne is to be believed, this was around the time that DK newcomer Hank Chien had convinced Dwayne that Billy's game play was fraudulent. Hank Chien's involvement would of course place the event after the release of King of Kong, which is also around the time Dwayne was interviewing Fothergill for his videos "King of Con" and "Perfect Fraudman". Billy would have you believe that Dwayne's discussions of submitting fake game play are the cause, and that the fraudulent game play we were examining in the dispute was the effect. Rather, it would seem to be the other way around. The fraud came first, inspiring Dwayne's speculation of whether TG refs were actually capable of sussing out forgeries. Also relevant in this is that Dwayne and Billy used to be on good terms, although I don't have specifics on when their falling out occurred. While 2019 Dwayne may arguably have motive to commit such an act (were it actually within his power to do so), it's possible 2006 Dwayne would have had neither the means nor even the motive, to say nothing of the opportunity.

At any rate, we can now say with confidence that Dwayne Richard has been unequivocally exonerated in this whole affair. Setting aside how many years this incriminating MAME evidence sat around without being noticed or pointed out, it would be preposterous to believe Dwayne would be actively soliciting help in framing Billy Mitchell in 2009 if he had already done the deed in 2006. When Yahoo says 2009, you can't make that up. While we're at it, we can toss out all of Billy's spooky emails he has heretofore cited from 2009. Again, Yahoo says.

There's one more major implication to be noted in all this. Billy's people would have us believe that Dwayne Richard snuck into peoples' homes in the middle of the night and swapped out all known copies of Billy's totally valid DK scores with fraudulent tapes done on MAME. Set aside for a moment the ridiculousness of this fantasy, and also set aside the fact that this still wouldn't explain the MAME signatures present on the videos shown at the 2010 "Big Bang" event which Dwayne was never a part of. In terms of suspended disbelief, this is already a pretty tall ask, but let's set all that aside for now. And of course since Dwayne is exonerated, let's just say it was someone, literally any one person on this Earth, who was behind this impressive feat. Let's also take the "Big Bang" event completely out of the equation.

We've now established MAME signatures on contemporary copies of Billy's game play dating from 2006. This is in addition to the MAME signatures present in his "Mortgage Brokers" score, which Billy claims to have achieved live in July 2007. Not only would this sinister scoundrel, this nefarious ne'er-do-well with seemingly no motivation other than to make Billy Mitchell look like a cheater, not only would they have had to produce fake MAME footage matching Billy's genuine game play in 2005 or 2006 and swap out every real copy, they would have had to pull the exact same caper again over a year later when Billy submitted yet another sketchy "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (or in the other room)" score. Having now been told of Billy's new score, they would have had to once again bring up MAME, once again stitch together another run capable of being passed off as Billy's authentic game play to those innocent third parties who had already witnessed it, and once again go to the effort of tracking down all the tapes and replacing them. We're now being asked to believe not only one cartoonishly implausible crime of defamation, but now multiple identical yet distinct ones in succession.

CONTINUE?

At this point, aside from the certainty of Billy Mitchell's guilt, if we can be sure of anything, it's that this isn't even the last "new" evidence we will find of Billy's cheating. How many more years are we going to find new Billy girder fingers strewn about the Internet? I wonder if his 1999 Pac-Man tape will ever finally be published in full.

Billy Mitchell knows what he did, but he will never own up to it. He will never apologize to the people he lied to, nor will he apologize to the people whose glory he stole. Not ever. I will eat a literal shoe if that happens. What he will do instead is throw anyone and everyone he can under the bus, as he has for years. He frequently throws various technicians and distributors in the way of allegations, as if they necessarily had any part in him falsifying evidence, or as if by accusing him we must necessarily accuse all of them as well. The Jeremy Young dispute heralded a whole new round of recriminations. As we discussed, Dwayne Richard has been Team Billy's favorite manufactured villain for this MAME fiasco. (I don't suppose Dwayne will get an apology now that he's been exonerated.) Billy threw his own friend Rob Childs under the bus for the fake board swap video he participated in. And after the dispute verdict, at SFGE, Billy told the gaming world that Jace Hall "[sold] his soul" for website clicks, attempting to portray Jace as completely unreasonable and immorally selfish simply for enforcing the rules against submitting fraudulent evidence. ( at 1:03:06) (No, seriously. Watch that segment to the end. It is disgusting.)

So is Robert Mruczek next on Billy's "I'm a good guy who believes in building community" chopping block? Billy spoke well of Mruczek as recently as a few years ago. Don't tell me Stephen Totilo was in on it as well! I always knew that guy was up to something! And what about the person Mruczek got that videotape from? Gosh... You don't suppose Billy could ever throw Walter Day himself under the bus, could he? Could you imagine what that would sound like? "Look, I don't know what happened to the tape after I sent it. I'm like a race car driver, I let the other people handle that stuff. I just show up and play the game. When we had the tape, it was good. It was legitimate. Whatever happened to the tape after I sent it, I don't know. I would love to answer that, but I can't answer that, because I don't know."

I'd like to end this on a personal note. I'm not going to misrepresent myself as something I'm not. I've never been part of the "classic gaming community" or the competitive Donkey Kong scene. I've never held any world records. (Well okay, except for Barnstorming. Not gonna lie, that was pretty cool.) I'm just a gamer, in my own corner of the world, playing my old NES and SNES games. But I do find this stuff interesting, and I do know facts and evidence.

I used to be a fan of Billy Mitchell. For many years, I thought Billy was legit. I defended him to anyone who had a negative impression just because of the movie. When I woke up on February 2nd of last year, and I saw the MAME evidence, I took no joy in what I saw. You don't have to take my word for it. You can read my immediate reaction to it right here:

> This is really disappointing to hear. Never met Billy Mitchell, but I actually like him. (Downvote away!) I saw King of Kong, like everyone else, and from the movie I thought he was a major ******* who took himself too seriously. But after watching it I looked up more about the actual events, and I watched interviews of him. I was really disappointed that so much got misrepresented in that movie. He actually seems like a genuine good guy, who doesn't treat anyone like he's better than them.

That hurt to re-read, knowing what I know now, about Billy's scores, about Billy the person, and about all the people who have been excluded and mistreated over the years for asking valid questions. (And yes, Billy's family has gotten harassment as well. Please, please, please, do not do that ****.) Yes, Billy Mitchell can be very charming, and funny, and generous, at least to some. Many users and abusers can be nice people when they want to, especially when it gets them something. But you learn the truth about people when they don't get their way. With the benefit of knowing what we know now, we learned Billy Mitchell's true, ugly character, when he encountered someone who was better at one of his pet games and wasn't afraid to demonstrate it. Billy cheated. He stole from people. And in order to maintain the farce he created, he lied to the faces of his closest friends, as he continues to do today. People like that are immature, insecure, and toxic, on a level that goes well beyond mere video game scores. On a human level, Billy Mitchell has turned out to be one massive disappointment.

I know at this point I'm mostly preaching to the choir. As for Billy's fans, I have no illusions that I'm capable of breaking the cult of personality around a charismatic, manipulative liar with mere words. All I can do is speak the truth - something that Billy Mitchell will never give you - and support those others who want the truth as well. And make no mistake: As time continues marching on, more and more truth will keep coming out.

Thank you for your time.


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LikesEVN, Jace Hall, The Evener, xelnia, starcrytas and 2 others liked this post
Comments
  1. Snowflake's Avatar

    i tried to read most of that couldnt read it all but skimmed alot. I will say this is very relevant so your concern your being boring with old news is nothing to worry about. Considering the billy believers main defense is "dwayne did it", as ridiculous as that is, anything that further shows how ridiculous it is to accuse dwayne of doctoring the tapes adds up.

    on the other hand, the people who arent satisfied the current proof probably wont be satisfied with anything. you could have a time machine, bring them back in time, show billy playing on mame and they'd question if billy had an evil identical twin.

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  2. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    Some of the links are eating some of the text. I'm trying to fix it.

  3. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    For some reason, the YouTube links were wreaking havoc and actually eating other text, so I had to kill those into plain text. Sorry for the inconvenience there. But otherwise it should all be good now.

  4. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    I have gotten requests for a tl;dr, which slipped my mind when I wrote this. (Oopsie-daisy!)

    - Long lost video interview with Robert Mruczek was found,

    - Video has sat outside the control of anyone from TG since 2006,

    - Mruczek shows off Billy's 1.047M tape, again, in 2006,

    - Tape is covered in MAME signatures like John Hancock,

    - This thoroughly discredits Team Billy's silly accusations against Dwayne Richard, which only trace back to 2009,

    - This also debunks any notion that the MAME signatures were not part of Billy's original submission,

    - Billy Mitchell is very disappointing.

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  5. timmell's Avatar
    Great write up, I shot the Big Bang footage. Thanks for the mtv links!
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  6. The Evener's Avatar

    Thank you for posting this thoughtful, extensive, and thoroughly researched review of the Mitchell dispute. And hat's off for your discovery and presentation of the MTV video evidence - an amazing and damning coda as the dispute decision approaches its first anniversary. In a word, "wow."

    On the topic of "external" video, there was a reference to footage of Mitchell's DK 1.05m score at the Mortgage Broker's Convention, but unfortunately the actual video file itself is no longer present. For a period of time, a clip of Mortgage score was featured in a promotional capacity with the film "Chasing Ghosts." The Wayback Machine didn't end up archiving the file as well.

    http://www.chasingghoststhemovie.com/media/bill_record.mov

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  7. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by The Evener

    Thank you for posting this thoughtful, extensive, and thoroughly researched review of the Mitchell dispute. And hat's off for your discovery and presentation of the MTV video evidence - an amazing and damning coda as the dispute decision approaches its first anniversary. In a word, "wow."

    On the topic of "external" video, there was a reference to footage of Mitchell's DK 1.05m score at the Mortgage Broker's Convention, but unfortunately the actual video file itself is no longer present. For a period of time, a clip of Mortgage score was featured in a promotional capacity with the film "Chasing Ghosts." The Wayback Machine didn't end up archiving the file as well.

    http://www.chasingghoststhemovie.com/media/bill_record.mov

    Thank you, Evener! I did come across that link as well, but not until fairly recently, and yeah, I was sad the video was gone. I tried very hard to scour for a copy of it, but with no luck. I would be interested if someone did save that somewheres.

  8. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by timmell
    Great write up, I shot the Big Bang footage. Thanks for the mtv links!

    Thank you for the correction! I went back and corrected all the bad YouTube links as best I could, and I added your credit in as I did it.

  9. lexmark's Avatar

    That was a seriously GREAT post. I read every word. Well written. I couldn't have said it any better or honestly myself!

    On another note.....

    I can't wait for Joel Wests legal reply!



    john


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  10. RTM's Avatar

    Thanks for compiling all that detailed footage...great work !!

    Back when the 1.047M tape was presented at the 2005 ACAM event it wasn't initially supposed to be for TG submission but as the story goes it ended up being entered into the TG database during the event, then the score was removed 2 days later, and finally it was submitted for authentication which occurred several months afterwards.

    The "finger" on the girder was an element that never once came up in any discussion even as far as 2006, a full year later. Quite honestly no one to my best recollection even knew this caveat existed as far as people communication with TG and its staff at the time, or even on the TG forums.

    The sideways TV issue was actually the second DK submission by Bill that was direct feed, the other being the 1.014M which he revealed in NYC's Lincon Center during an August 2004 event.

    As for the infamous "gummy substance" remark, the footage of which was purchased by the KoK team from a second videographer who was filming their own documentary at the same time, this stemmed from when Brian Kuh and Perry Rodgers were visiting Steve Wiebe at his home and Brian made a comment about Steve's boards. Billy and Chris Ayra both informed me (I was chief referee back then but not technically savvy by any means) that the presence of this substance "could" affect the clock speed and cause other issues, and I took them at their word for it seeing how I would not have known otherwise. Whether Walter was on that call I cannot remember, but odds are that Kuh might have been, and Walter possibly. In any event, whether their suggestion was technically possible or not, I had no way of knowing but when I was interviewed by I THINK Ross Tuttle or Josh Tuttle...his name appears in the KoK credits BTW...that very same suggestion by Billy and Chris was relayed to that videographer thus a year later making its appearance into koK.

    Looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow.

    Robert

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  11. Snowflake's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by lexmark

    That was a seriously GREAT post. I read every word. Well written. I couldn't have said it any better or honestly myself!

    On another note.....

    I can't wait for Joel Wests legal reply!



    john


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    I apologize to anyone if i'm not wording this as delicately as possible as I'm not that good with being delicate, but lexmark, Joel is dead.

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  12. RTM's Avatar

    Thanks again for granting the interview tonight !! Looking forward to you next piece of investigative work :)

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  13. The Evener's Avatar

    RTM, I had a question about the 1.047M tape. I came across a few interviews where Billy indicated that the 1.047M score actually began "for entertainment purposes only," suggesting the goal wasn't to submit the score for official adjudication. I noticed that during the KoK, there's a scene where Walter also echoes this point, saying to Billy over the phone "you kept impressing upon us that you weren't submitting it" (the 1.047M score).

    When the tape was viewed at the cabin (before the playback at Funspot itself), was it common knowledge that Billy sent the tape for "entertainment purposes only," and that the decision to submit it officially was a surprise? In the film, there's no real acknowledgement about the "entertainment" angle, and even Walter's comment doesn't really stand out given how the film cuts to the website change fairly quickly after that moments. Since it's not really a "plot point" in the film, I was struck by Billy's emphasis on the "entertainment" angle in at least a few post-film interviews.

    Updated 02-24-2019 at 09:52 PM by The Evener
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