ersatz_cats's Feed

09-16-2021 at 02:22 PM
0 Comment
Rate this Entry

The Video Game Fraud of the Century - Dot Five

This post is part of a series, examining various myths and stories around Billy Mitchell's claimed performance of Pac-Man in 1999 and his subsequent trip to the Tokyo Game Show. The first post in this series can be found here:

The supplemental material for "Dot Five" can be found here:


In the summer of 1999, as the news of this supposed "first perfect game of Pac-Man" (as endorsed by Twin Galaxies) wound its way through forums and listservs, attempts to elevate Billy Mitchell's status in the pantheon of gaming were well underway. At times, this got quite desperate, such as when Walter Day made this outlandish comparison printed in the Knight-Ridder profile:

You'll notice the rhetorical sleight-of-hand at play here. Literally nobody "has to be" the "Wayne Gretzky" of anything. Sure, somebody ultimately has to be the best at something (although that can be subjective and up for debate), but what made Gretzky, well, Gretzky, was that he was so astonishingly beyond his competition. He's still nearly 100 career goals ahead of the great Gordie Howe at second place, and Howe enjoyed a hefty lead of his own. Of course, in Walter's role as promoter, I'm sure it would be nice to have a "Wayne Gretzky of video-game playing" to latch on to. But what we have here is Day attempting to convince you (and, from the sound of it, perhaps himself) to apply the lower standard of "Someone has to be the best", while conferring the higher level of recognition due a Wayne Gretzky or a Jerry Rice.

And of course, this sort of talk from Walter Day has fed right into Billy and his own ego, which we see come out later in that profile:

If you had just achieved the video gaming feat of a lifetime, what would you want to do? You'd want to show it off, right? No, no, not the actual tapes, silly. Those are top secret. Nobody's ever gonna see those. But you'd at least want to show off your skills, right? You know, prove to the world what hot stuff you are. And, unlike your actual score, you'd want people to know in advance so they could come and see it, wouldn't you?

The venue chosen for this repeat attempt would be the first annual Classic Gaming Expo, to be held in Las Vegas the weekend of August 14 and 15. CGE Vegas was the brainchild of John Hardie, Keita Iida, and Sean Kelly, who spun the event off from the existing "World of Atari" convention.

In light of Billy's invitation to Rick Fothergill to attend CGE discussed in "Dot Three", it would be reasonable to believe Billy's appearance at CGE was arranged prior to his July return to Funspot. Indeed, the first public indication of Billy's upcoming appearance at CGE was the July 8 article for Wired, merely five days after his alleged perfect score, which indicated that Billy said he "would probably compete" at the event:

On July 15, Atari community message boards were given a peek at the upcoming CGE, announcing Billy's anticipated appearance:

Billy Mitchell, the first perfect score holder on Pac-man, will be at the show with his machine showing the attendees how the pros do it.

The July 19 Der Spiegel article concluded with a declaration that Billy had already accepted a challenge to repeat the score at CGE Las Vegas [GT]:

Lest you think that's a translation snafu, Twin Galaxies themselves announced Billy's intention leading up to CGE, in big, bold letters [S1]:

The page included nods to various planned competitions, including a head-to-head Tetris championship. And of course, further down the page, was the ill-fated announcement that Rick Fothergill would be in attendance, attempting a new world record on Ms. Pac-Man. [S2] (The author even asserted that Billy would be "bringing his own Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man machines" for the event, if you wish to try to make sense of that.)

In the end, no such scores on Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man were logged among the weekend's results:

So a repeat perfecto did not happen. But what did happen at CGE was that some rather ostentatious awards were announced, including one to a game, and another to a person.


First up, we have the "Game of the Century" award. I'll give you one guess which game that went to.

Last installment, we went over Walter's and Billy's campaign, in 1999 and beyond, to emphasize Pac-Man's noteworthiness as a game. Recall Billy's words, from the 2005 UK panel, where he talks about why Pac-Man was his "choice" to be gaming's "Holy Grail":

When I'm standing there and I say to somebody.... somebody'll say "Why did that person say 'Hi' to you?" And I'll say "Did you ever play a video game?" "I don't play video..." "Did you ever play a video game?" "Yeah." "What'd you play?" [shrugs] "Pac-Man." I mean, it's the first answer. So it was an easy choice. It was an easy choice to choose that as the Holy Grail, and it was an easy choice... well, it wasn't an easy feat, it was an easy choice to decide to go after it.

So what really was their rationale for why Pac-Man was specifically deserving of the title "Game of the Century" over other enduring classics such as Super Mario Bros., or Legend of Zelda, or Final Fantasy, or a Japanese mega-phenomenon like Dragon Quest?

Well, we have the "ten billion" number discussed last installment. There's also this, from the November 1999 TG press release:

Okay, more "recognizable" than Mickey Mouse or Coca-Cola.

I guess that's it?

It must've been really important for Walter Day to get this proclamation finalized when he did. Of course, one could hardly be blamed if they suspected this had something to do with the perpetually milked publicity around Billy's claimed perfect score, now could they? As one of my research colleagues put it:

If Mitchell was proficient on Street Fighter and not Pac-Man, without a doubt that would've been game of the century instead.

There's another aspect to this award, which is the actual physical certificate. While Billy's awards have been shown around at various conventions and in films like King of Kong, there's very little retrospective attention paid to this "Game of the Century Award" for Pac-Man. Thankfully, someone was recently granted the honor of going through a cache of old TG documentation. Among that trove were alternate copies of some awards, including a crisp unsigned copy of the "Game of the Century Award" (with a blank space where the ribbon would be):

The full text will be posted to today's supplemental material. [S3] But the relevant section reads as follows:

In the course of Pac-Man's 20-year career, more people around the world spent more hours playing Namco's Pac-Man and its family of games than any other board or puzzle game during the 20th Century. Pac-Man's global influence and popularity transcended cultural and geographical boundaries everywhere, winning the undisputed title of "Game of the Century."

We went over the absurdity of the comparison to chess in "Dot Four". But otherwise, for the most part, this jives with the other answers given: People played Pac-Man a lot, and it transcended into being a cultural icon. Note, however, a subtle sleight-of-hand involved in the reference to "Namco's Pac-Man and its family of games". [S4] This seems to be an attempt to invoke the ongoing legacy of the Pac-Man franchise and attribute it to the original game, which is singularly being ordained "Game of the Century". Far from being "undisputed", if franchise legacy were a consideration, there should be no question whatsoever that the honor would go to Mario, whose franchise even at that time spanned from the original Donkey Kong and arcade Mario Bros. through the NES, SNES, and Game Boy side scrollers all the way to the three-dimensional Super Mario 64, as well as quirky outings like Super Mario Kart and Dr. Mario and Super Mario RPG and Super Smash Bros. and Mario Party and Mario Paint and Mario is Missing!, to say nothing of cameos in games like Tennis and Pinball and Punch-Out!!, or spin-off games featuring Mario series characters like Yoshi and Wario. (You could include the Donkey Kong Country series as well, although one could argue the Mario character himself was spun off from the gorilla's titular outing.) Oh, and you can throw in Mario's four, yes, four cartoons, and that terrible movie with Dennis Hopper as Bowser. [S5]

This is not at all to say that original Pac-Man would not have been among a list of candidates for the most influential video game of the 20th century, if someone was for whatever their reason interested in narrowing the field down to a single winner. But in 1999, such a distinction would hardly have been, to use their word, "undisputed". However, while Pac-Man's position as the preeminent franchise in all of video gaming may have been in jeopardy even before the release of the blockbuster Super Mario Bros. 3, what is not under dispute is that Mario wasn't the franchise Walter Day was looking to promote at that particular moment in 1999.

If you just took a quick glance at one of these early Twin Galaxies certificates inside a frame, it might look somewhat professional. However, upon closer inspection, the "Game of the Century" award looks quite different:

As an anonymous source with access to the physical certificate described to me:

What immediately stands out about these pre-1999 certificates is that they're *very* humble compared to those issued even 2 years later. In photos, one can see that it's a basic wooden frame with the printed certificate set against what appears to be yellow card stock. In taking a closer look at the certificate, the output appears to be inkjet onto glossy photo paper with ink bleeding along the edges. Even the gold leafing that surrounds the text was printed at the same time as the text itself.

As for the authority behind the award, the signatures were reserved for Walter Day (cited as "Electronic Games Historian") and for John Hardie (in his capacity as an organizer for the CGE event at which the award was announced). In fact, we have a good photo of two of the three members of the "Game of the Century" committee right here, as seen at the following year's CGE:

Note that no representative from Namco was present at CGE. The "Game of the Century" award was announced and given to Namco in absentia.


One thing Walter Day loves doing is giving out awards. He'll give out the same award to the same person, event, after event, after event. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. Everyone loves recognition (some more than others). But as you'll see, Walter might've taken it a bit too far.

Walter Day's certificate streak certainly didn't begin with Billy and Pac-Man in 1999. Here we see Walter in 1998, honoring Tom Blankley, founder of Friar Tuck's Gameroom in Illinois, for his arcade's induction into "The International Registry of Historic Video Game Arcades" (also a creation of Walter Day), as commemorated with TG trading card #86:

Another award certificate announced at Classic Gaming Expo in '99 was for "Arcade of the Year" [S6]:

A bit surprising that this wasn't given to Funspot, all things considered. Even setting aside skepticism and cynicism regarding Billy's so-called "perfect game" of Pac-Man, would that not be a major milestone, right off the heels of a successful tournament among a string of major events? Maybe this award was arranged too far in advance? (But of course, if that were the case, that would mean Billy's award could've been arranged far in advance as well, and we can't have that kind of talk.)

Lest you think this award is somehow free of Billy Mitchell fingerprints, take a closer look at the text justifying the award:

As the largest arcade in the world with 1200 coin-operated games, Grand Prix Race-O-Rama, in Dania, Florida, has enjoyed an unmatched legacy as the home of competitive video game playing during the legendary "Golden Age of Video Game Playing." As the site of many world records, Grand Prix was homebase to more great video game superstars than any other arcade in the world and, today, actively promotes classic video game contests in its arcade.

Notice that talk about "Golden Age legacy" and being the home arcade for "video game superstars"? Grand Prix was Billy's home arcade as a teenager in Florida. (And yes, under the later name "Boomers", this was literally the site of the fake DK board swap.) This has me curious if John Hardie ever so much as set foot in the arcade before signing off on Walter's award.

It would appear this certificate, which Hardie signed on Sunday, August 15 (the last day of CGE), was never delivered to the arcade, and remains in TG's possession to this day.

It seems to have been standard procedure for Walter Day to rope in another signatory on his certificates, at least at the time. Here's a certificate for Paul Luu from the 1999 California vs. New England Playstation Championship, with a blank spot for the signature of Andy Chan, owner of California contest location "Game Square" [S7]:

It wasn't just video games that drew Walter's honorifics. Let me present to you, the world champion... of calligraphy:

I'm not sure what one would have to do to become a "world champion" in calligraphy, other than be a personal friend of Walter Day, of course. Granted, it's possible there was a tongue-in-cheek nature to the certificate, with the listed website "" (which left no record of ever functionally existing) perhaps being a reference to the recipient's name. However, a quick search for John Stimson showed that he is indeed a rather dapper calligrapher, as well as a resident of Walter's home town of Fairfield, Iowa, and (surprise, surprise) a graduate of Maharishi International University where Walter Day practices transcendental meditation.

The organizational authority behind the award was the "Sidha Printing History Association", using the same address and phone number as Twin Galaxies, as well as a unique email address. This organization was so unremarkable, that string of words brought up literally zero results across the open Internet:

If this certificate was a joke, it was an involved one. Walter Day was given his customary signature line, this time cited as "Printing & Journalism Historian". The other signature line belonged to Rachael Wendell, of SPHA. Rachael (also an attendee at the Maharishi school) would appear to have worked for Day in a number of capacities. In addition to any SPHA role she had, quotes from her as "Twin Galaxies spokesperson" appear in several late-'90s TG press releases, including announcements for the May 1999 Funspot tournament, Namco's National Family Fun Day, and TG's promotion of Billy's Pac-Man score (as quoted in "Dot Four"):

Walter is, of course, allowed to give his local friends awards and recognize their achievements, but calling such awards "world championships" seems a bit much.


And this brings us to the centerpiece of Walter's awards display at Classic Gaming Expo in 1999: The certificate declaring Billy Mitchell the "Player of the Century". (No word on whether he was crowned a calligraphy world champion as well.)

There's a decent photo of the certificate taken at a later CGE in the UK, in 2005:

But the most close-up view we get is courtesy of a brief scene in the film King of Kong, filmed at the same event [S8]:

Here's a transcript of the text:


An Award Honoring The Century's Most Successful Video Game Player

Presented by The Classic Gaming Expo '99 and the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard

In recognition of historical contributions to the long tradition of video game playing, Billy Mitchell has been recorded in the historical archives published in Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records and will be forever honored for the following accomplishments:

Billy Mitchell


As history's most famous video game player, Billy Mitchell has dominated the high-score race on more major game titles than any other player during the video game era's 25-year span. In addition to achieving history's first "perfect" Pac-Man score, Billy Mitchell is a past or present record holder on Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong, Jr., Burgertime and Centipede.

I guess, just like with the baseball analogies, a simple "Player of the Month" or "Player of the Year" wouldn't have been emphatic enough?

Of minor note, for whatever reason, the gaming-related certificates Walter handed out at CGE are self-identified "awards". Unlike the calligraphy one, the certificate says "The Player of the Century Award" rather than just "Player of the Century". (I guess that would make that certificate the "The Player of the Century Award" award?)

As with "Game of the Century" and "Arcade of the Year", Walter Day is once again credited as "Electronic Games Historian". John Hardie, CGE organizer, is again asked to co-sign, this time on Saturday, August 14. In fact, if you look closely, the italicized text in the middle is identical in all three certificates, except for the names "Billy Mitchell", "Namco's Pac-Man", and "Grand Prix". It looks like that block of text was intentionally made generic enough to apply just as well to a person, a business, or a game. A wise approach if you intend on slinging around a lot of these.

John Hardie was not a passive participant in this. Here's his justification for the "Game of the Century" award, from a Twin Galaxies press release later that year:

Ah, what trailblazers! Yes, it's just a matter of time before we forget the many, many games from the 8- to 64-bit era that are played and streamed much more regularly than original Pac-Man. (Wait, did you hear that? I think that was the sound of Nintendo announcing three more Mario games. Or maybe it was yet another Final Fantasy remaster.)

Hardie was certainly a fan of Billy's as well, as he expressed in this feature covering the following year's CGE:

I was always good at Ms. Pac-Man—at least I thought so until I met Billy Mitchell.

As my research colleague remarked, observing that :

It's sort of interesting that Day couldn't get Hardie to sit down and co-sign those awards on the 13th that CGE apparently enthusiastically endorsed. Re-reading the associated press release, Hardie's comments always struck me as a bit odd - his claim "well, of *course* Pac-Man should be game of the century" never struck me as one based on extensive forethought or deliberations as one might expect when adjudicating such an award in view of many theoretical contenders. Even Day seemed to sense the need to try and back up his claim with the impression of statistical data with this quarters-plays argument. It's also worth noting that there's no quote from Hardie about endorsing Mitchell as POTC given his co-sign on that award as well.


Ah, but this big award for Billy wasn't just about the recent opportunity with Pac-Man, or so Walter Day would have us believe. This was about all of Billy's supposed gaming achievements throughout the years, as Billy is only too happy to tell you himself at the end of this interview with G4TV:

"Video Game Player of the Century". Not Pac-Man, or anything else. "Video Game Player of the Century" It was probably... One of the major factors was the perfect score.

Truthfully, one could do a whole write-up just on Billy's exaggerated gaming exploits in the '80s, so please don't consider this section exhaustive. But for now, we'll go over some notes, starting with Centipede. Billy is historically credited with a 25 million point score on Centipede, using a point leeching method that would later be banned.

Where did Billy learn this trick, you may ask? [S9]

Ah, "god gamer" Billy Mitchell, stealing his friends' tricks and then sniping them for the score. I suppose this was before he learned that people don't appreciate this sort of behavior, and that he's better off lying about how it happened. Today, it would be "Me and my friends had discovered the secret to Centipede", and "Now there was a race to see who could do it first".

It is claimed this Centipede score was done at his father's restaurant over the course of 47 consecutive hours, with his father as the witness. [S10] Notable is that Centipede's score display rolls over at each million, and so the tracking of such a score relies on not just the honesty but also the diligence of involved parties. (Hopefully they didn't use the same method Billy and Walter used with those Pac-Man coin counters.)

In the 1980s, Guinness was very clear that they would not be tracking "highest score records", and that only scores done at certain designated competitions would warrant inclusion in their book (as explained here in the 1986 edition):

Billy gives a similar, though not identical, explanation at 4:50 here:

The first big step in the competitive gaming world was when Guinness, in the summer of 1983, agreed to... print the names of "champions" in their book. And... because everybody has a different game, a different joystick, a different setting, they would only print the names of those people who played, or were recognized, under the auspices of Twin Galaxies.

(Notice how in Billy's version, he adds a bit of leeway for scores done at the Twin Galaxies arcade, which Guinness' printed declaration does not acknowledge.)

At any rate, this private Centipede score did not qualify for Guinness, nor was it listed on the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard the following year. However, Billy still claims this leeched Centipede score as a "world record" today, I guess because there are no rules. Here he is, at the 2017 Southern-Fried Gaming Expo, starting at 15:20:

The world record at the time was 15 million. And I played, and I got forty... I got 25 million, I played for 47 continuous hours on a quarter. And that was my guarantee that nobody would beat that score. And today? The world record? Is 25 million.

The actual current world record, without banned tricks, is 16.3 million:

In fact, Billy's score was not even recognized in the high score standings in Twin Galaxies' 1998 book (although it is obliquely mentioned elsewhere, as we'll see in a moment):

Another interesting bit about this score is that Billy occasionally says it was done for charity. You can hear it in Exhibit D (published in 2018) at about 6:10, but he has said this as far back as August 1999:

We haven't found any photos or actual contemporary documentation of Billy's Centipede score being a charity event (if the score even really happened at all). For instance, the Fort Myers News-Press, in January 1983, did a feature on Billy and this score, but made no mention whatsoever of charity:

And later, in 1984, his local Hollywood Sun-Tattler (as seen on microfilm here) gave an even more elaborate description, again without mentioning anything about charity:

It seems like a 47-hour video game marathon for charity is the kind of thing that would, you know, make the local newspaper, alongside Walter Day's latest celebrity yearbook venture. In 2003, when asked if he remembered how much money was raised at this event, Billy was quick to reply "Actually, I don't, because somebody did it for me." [S11]

While we weren't able to corroborate this story of Billy's, we did come across this, on page 62 of the 1998 TG record book:

Don't tell me Billy would lie about that, too! Does this guy just steal everyone else's stories?

While this Centipede score is occasionally described as a requisite for appearing in the Life Magazine photo, in reality, it was simply about the prestige of having a world record at the time of the photo, as Billy acknowledges in the previously linked panel from SFGE 2017. [S12] This brings us to Steve Sanders, who was also in the photo, with Steve's claim to fame being a Donkey Kong score he had lied about. It seems Billy can't make up his mind whether or not he told Walter Day about Steve's lie at the time. Here he is in Exhibit C, at 8:30:

But it was really funny, because I called this "good guy", and I had a conversation with him. It was very nice. And I just asked him a lot of questions, and he asked me a lot of questions. And I called Walter back and I go "Yeah, this guy's lyin'." He goes "He can't be lying!" So... I never told the guy that I thought he was lyin'. I never told anyone other than Walter.

And here Billy is in the previously linked SFGE 2017 panel, at 14:30 [S13]:

There was a guy who claimed 3.1 million on Donkey Kong. Somebody you know... He's in the movie, and he's actually a good friend of mine now. But, I mean, I knew he wasn't tellin' the truth. I knew it! I didn't tell Walter because... I don't want to call and say "This guy's a liar." I just knew he wasn't tellin' the truth.

Allegedly, Billy cornered Steve Sanders at the Life Magazine photo shoot in November 1982 and compelled him to play versus on arcade Donkey Kong, just to shut him up. And, allegedly, Billy achieved a score of 874,300. It seems this score was unofficial, at least at first. Twin Galaxies provided scores to USA Today in the spring of 1983, recognizing a lower score as their then-current record on Donkey Kong [S14]:

Even by Billy's and Steve's own descriptions, this was essentially a pick-up game. This wasn't something achieved under formal settings at a real tournament (much less a Guinness-qualifying tournament). Heck, Twin Galaxies did not even begin their partnership with Guinness until summer of 1983. [S15] But when it was time to collect scores and names to print in the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records, Twin Galaxies went ahead and submitted this as their top "competition" score anyway:

So nice of Walter Day to retroactively declare this Life Magazine meet-up a Guinness competition, so Billy's DK score could get in. Lucky for them, Jeff Brandt put up a solid DK Junior score while in Ottumwa which TG could also throw in, so Billy's wouldn't look too ridiculous all by itself. [S16]

As an odd side note, Billy sometimes refers to this score as the first kill screen on Donkey Kong. You've probably heard statements like this, from his Guinness reinstatement video (at about 1:10):

To put it into historical perspective, esports began in 1982. History's first gathering of competitive game players. I was there. My career began. At that event, I had the good fortune of setting a world record on Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong's first kill screen in history.

And yet, if you pay close attention, he also claims to have done a live kill screen at some unnamed event earlier that summer (such as here, at 6:30):

I played and excelled and... got to a level on Donkey Kong, a kill screen in 1982, in July of 1982, at a... event, there, in South Florida.

This is actually a strange rabbit hole, which we discovered late in our research for this presentation. [S17] There don't seem to be any references to this July 1982 DK score prior to 2007, when Twin Galaxies declared that Billy's new DK score, allegedly achieved at a mortgage brokers convention on some July day which they can't consistently agree on, [S18] was done "exactly 25 years after setting the original world record":

Lest you think we're somehow misunderstanding what was meant by "exactly 25 years", Billy made this clear, at Free Play Florida in 2014 (at 45:10):

In 2007, before the movie came out, I wanted to set the record to... upset the apple cart of the movie. Just to show you I do have a cynical side, just like everybody says. So, exactly 25 years to the date when I got my first kill screen is when I did that score.

Once again, this is very odd. If we assumed Billy did achieve both scores (which, with Billy, is a big assumption), it wouldn't really matter whether the first was July or November, would it? I mean, in the grand scheme of things? So why the alternating story? Why not just tell the one story that is the truth?

Getting back to our original sidetrack, two updates for the TG scoreboard from May and June of 1983 list only two scores for Billy: The aforementioned Donkey Kong score, and a score of 957,300 on Donkey Kong Junior:

This DK Junior score was allegedly achieved in Ottumwa, the week of St. Patrick's Day, 1983. Billy and others were in town for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's upcoming proclamation of Ottumwa as the "Video Game Capital of the World" that weekend. (Note, the Ottumwa Courier coverage incorrectly attributes the score to "Donkey Kong".) [S19]!-(1980-s

This score appeared in subsequent TG leaderboards, linked above, with verification initials "WD". However, while it was attributed to the TG arcade in Ottumwa, no date for the score was given on either list:

Even stranger, this score was later printed in the 1998 TG book, now attributed to Billy's hometown, and to July 2, 1985:

Apparently, Billy was very sure he got that score, but can't remember what year or what arcade it happened at. But hey, Walter trusted him, and where would we all be without trust?

At any rate, this score's appearance on the TG scoreboard in spring of 1983 means it definitely could not have been achieved at the Video Game Masters Tournament in August 1983, which would've been a requisite for inclusion in Guinness. But don't worry, while the score indeed was absent from the 1984 edition, TG once again slipped it into their submission to Guinness the following year [S20]:

And if you just looked at the printed scoreboard itself, where the score was given a location and no date, you would never have noticed the score predated the qualifying events. But as usual, it was very important that Billy's score get in the book, and not some other guy's.

By taking old scores and slipping them into Guinness, Walter Day denied tournament attendees their rightful chance to get their names in Guinness, while at the same time adding a prestige to the printed score it did not earn, by giving it the implication that it was achieved at the specified event when it was not. [S21] But hey, it was all probably an accident, right?

This Donkey Kong Junior score also seems to have been the beneficiary of other people's higher scores disappearing. Among the Twin Galaxies-supplied scores in the December 1983 issue of Joystik was 999,200 on DK Jr. by Tim Williams [S22]:

Later on, Twin Galaxies recognized Utah player Calvin Frampton as the leader with a score of 1,259,300 (which would currently be 10th place on Donkey Kong Forum's DK Junior leaderboard). This Frampton score was seen in multiple issues of Italian magazine VideoGiochi, whose international scores were provided by Twin Galaxies, before TG eventually reverted to Billy's lower score. [S23]

These DK and DK Jr. scores of Billy's, achieved outside of actual Guinness-eligible events, boosted the number of games Billy was given Guinness credit for up to five, across multiple editions, with the most in any one edition being four in 1985. Of course, this has been retold in many creative ways over the years. A 2004 TG press release credited Billy with "five world record listings" specifically in the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records, while listing the names of six games:

As mentioned, Billy's Centipede score did not qualify for and was never printed in Guinness. But a year after that press release, on page 19 of the Spring 2005 issue of Video Game Collector magazine, a player profile of Billy, attributed to Walter Day, explicitly credits Billy with six records in the 1984 Guinness book alone:

Mitchell was a founding member of the U.S. National Video Game Team in 1983, and appeared in the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records with six world record listings: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, BurgerTime, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and Donkey Kong Jr.

In The Perfect Fraudman, at 1:16:40, Day talks up Billy's Guinness record, saying he "had the most distinguished career in video game playing, because he was the person with five listings in the Guinness World Record book back in 1983, '84, '85." And yet, I am able to see the Guinness Book of World Records with my own eyes, and what do I see, but a David Palmer, with a whopping seven scores:

And that's in the 1986 edition alone! And unlike certain other players I could mention, Palmer's scores are still recognized by Twin Galaxies, with most of them having been improved upon:

Even more outlandish was the claim, conveyed in Billy's 2008 profile in Harper's Magazine, that he "holds the meta-record for holding the most records simultaneously". This was printed in an era when players like Todd Rogers were credited with top records (bogus as many of them may have been) on dozens if not hundreds of games on a wide variety of platforms:

I'd like to think Mr. Bearman didn't just make that rhetorical flourish up all by himself.

Perhaps most telling is the 1983 "Player of the Year" competition (held in January 1984). According to the Ottumwa Courier, Tim Collum of Texas earned top honors that year, beating out Billy Mitchell and Ben Gold for the honor [S24]:

"Princes"? "Number two"? Sounds like a terrible fate. Even worse, the copy editor at the Globe-Gazette in Mason City changed "king and his princes" to "king and princess":

At any rate, the message was clear that Collum had earned top honors for the year. Even a look at the poster for the event shows the three participants arranged as if standing on an Olympic style podium, with Collum positioned as the winner:

However, it seems Mr. Mitchell didn't want to be anybody's princess. Other reporting emerged around this time, ascribing to Billy the almost-as-dreaded title of "first runner-up" [S25]:

You know what they say: When you're the first runner-up, the view never changes.

A month later, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Walter Day could no longer decide [S26]:

Perhaps some insight into how this all went down can be gleaned from this Billy quote on that same page, speaking of an upcoming competition:

If I don't walk out the winner, nobody will.

In the 1998 Twin Galaxies record book, Walter gives a reason why Billy was elevated to an equal share of the 1983 "Player of the Year" title. Stop me if you've heard this one:

This was for a title declared in January 1984, months before the tournament series that would qualify players for the 1985 edition of Guinness, where Billy would ultimately be given credit for four scores, not five. In fact, this would have been right around the time the 1984 edition of Guinness was released, which credited Billy with exactly two scores, the same number as Steve Sanders and Billy's local friend Jay Kim. Either Walter Day got pulled into a Dwayne Richard time vortex (possibly one leading from a parallel universe), or he really doesn't wish to share why he chose to split Tim Collum's title with the "first runner-up".

At any rate, a young Mr. "Never Surrender" pouted and screamed "It's not fair" and held his breath until the old man relented and let him have a paper share of the 1983 title alongside the original rightful winner, who the aforementioned Ottumwa Courier now described as "co-kings":

(Oh, and an even split of the $500 prize. That too.) [S27]

Of course, you already know what Billy's going to do next (at 26:50):

The truth is, I... If I was not in character, I would tell you the truth, in that... I had a lot of good luck and good fortune. But since I'm in character, I'll tell you that during the 1980s, during the golden age, I simply never, ever missed an event, ever, under any circumstances. I was, I was always there, always there. You can't get lucky, you can't win if you're not there. And I would always go, and I would leave some kind of mark, some kind of high score, some kind of record. In 1984, I was crowned video game player of the year.

And no, lest you think our fact-fudging Floridian was referring to the 1984 "Player of the Year" contest held in January 1985, the winner of that contest was Phil Britt of California. In fact, let's hear what Walter Day had to say at the end of this clip from Entertainment Tonight [S28]:

Phil Britt is the 1984 Player of the Year. And he finally takes the title away from Texas, who won the first two consecutive years.

I'm sure there's a joke about the Blockbuster World Championships in here somewhere.


One might rightly ask, "Why is Billy Mitchell the one Walter Day insists on honoring with such an over-the-top award as 'Player of the Century'?"

That's a darn good question!

Looking at other potential candidates, a name that comes up right away is Dwayne Richard. He was well known to Walter Day and Twin Galaxies, going back to the '80s. He was accomplished on a much wider variety of games than Billy Mitchell was. Here's the announcement of his victory at the 1986 North American Video Game Masters Tournament (as printed in the 1986-87 Guinness Sports Record Book):

Was Dwayne at least nominated for this "Player of the Century" award?

This 1998 press release announcing Rick Fothergill's Ms. Pac-Man record promotes the Canadian angle, introducing us to Lafe Travis, holder of over 100 records in the book:

Was Lafe Travis at least nominated for this "Player of the Century" award?

Billy ran mostly patterns for six hours to (allegedly) achieve a perfect score on Pac-Man, which was claimed to be the first ever under TG's brand new, unannounced rule set. Compare that to January 1984, when Tim McVey ran patterns on a very fast Nibbler game for 44 hours to achieve the first billion point score on any video game, ever.

Was Tim McVey at least nominated for this award?

Aside from Billy's recent Pac-Man score, all of his other gaming credits were from the '80s. And as noted above, in the 1986 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, David Palmer of California was listed for seven scores from that era, compared to Billy's three. [S29]

Was David Palmer nominated for this award?

What about other champions of actual head-to-head arcade competitions? Ben Gold won one of the most notable national competitions in the 1980s -- the North American Video Game Olympics, the finals of which were featured on the TV show That's Incredible! While Ben continues to be a defender and supporter of Billy, and continues to disavow the strictly proven fact that Billy cheated, it also can't be overlooked that Ben showed up to compete against the entire country when it counted.

Was Ben Gold nominated for this award?

What about champions of home game competitions? Despite TG's focus on arcade competitions (owing to the original Twin Galaxies being an arcade), by 1999 the industry had largely moved to home platforms, which Billy has never even attempted to compete on. Thor Aackerlund may have gone quiet for some years after winning the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, but it's possible he would have reemerged for an honor so great as "Player of the Century". [S30]

Was Thor Aackerlund nominated for this award?

Speaking of home consoles, another name comes to mind is that of Todd Rogers. Today, we know his 5.51 time on Dragster to be impossible, and subsequently we (or those of us who didn't already have to deal with TG's "old guard" behind the scenes) have learned that a significant number of his other scores on early games were either exaggerated, self-entered, or otherwise outright lied about. But in 1999, before Todd had even gotten involved with Twin Galaxies, nobody knew his scores were fake. Certainly, if one were to believe his scores were genuine, his broad resume spanning arcade titles like Gorf and unbelievable times on home games like Dragster and Barnstorming should have given him some consideration.

Was Todd Rogers nominated for this award?

In fact, literally no one else was nominated for this award in any way. [S31] Unlike the process used for the "Player of the Year" titles in the '80s, there was no announcement or mention anywhere of a search, or a contest, or a submission process for this award. No media were consulted. No one huddled or debated over the decision. And there was no record of this title existing prior to CGE. All evidence suggests that "Player of the Century" was designed, top to bottom, as an award to be given to Billy Mitchell.

As my research colleague put it:

Reading the "justification" offered by Day (and cited on the TG certificate) for an honor as objectively stupendous as "Player of the Century" is thin gruel indeed. No wonder Day alienated some long-time TG members who made their mark in the 1980s.

This is made all the worse for Billy's financial stake in Twin Galaxies. This 1985 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted specifically that Billy intended to play in a national tournament at that time, but that his financial stake in TG meant he would not be allowed to claim a prize:

So did that rule change in 1999?

In this talk with Dwayne Richard, later TG head referee Robert Mruczek recalled Walter Day consolidating his ownership of TG, after Robert's departure (at 2:00):

After you were fired, and after I left TG, Walter basically got rid of Steve Sanders as TG general counsel, who was doing pro bono work. He told Bill Mitchell "You're no longer a board member and you have to give in your shares." Brien King quit, Walter absorbed his shares. Effectively, Walter was the board of directors of... one person was the board of directors of TG. That was Walter. He owned 100% of the stock.

But Robert Mruczek didn't leave TG until years after Billy's 1999 score.

So Billy was a stakeholder before 1999, and he was a stakeholder after 1999. The next logical question is: Did Billy Mitchell have a financial stake in Twin Galaxies during the events of 1999?

In the video "King of Con(frontation)", at around 7:20, if you turn the volume all the way up, and really strain your ear (and try to ignore whatever Dwayne Richard is doing in the background), you can barely hear Walter Day say:

I don't think he was a shareholder... at the time he got the perfect score.

If I asked you "Did you eat the turds out of my cat's litter box last week?", and your sincere answer was "I don't think I did at that time", I would assume a lot of things based on your answer, only the least of which would be that you either don't know for sure if you did at the time in question, or that you do know and don't want to admit it.

Of course, if you ask Billy, he will attribute his good fortune strictly to his own plucky determination, as heard in Exhibit C at 47:00:

The reason why is, no matter what happened in the day, no matter what the event was, no matter what, I was there. I couldn't get this lucky if I wasn't there. You know, my line is... as far as luck, whenever they spun the wheel around, I was there when the wheel went 'round. If I wasn't there, I couldn't get this lucky.

Billy reiterated that same mantra in a recent interview with two random kids, once again failing to attribute his success to "The scorekeeper and I were business partners, and he played favorites for me" (at 16:40):

I have never, ever not shown up at an event. Every time there was an event, I was there, no matter what. I didn't miss an event. I never said "I'm tired." I never said "Oh, I'm busy." I never gave an excuse.

One should not mistake these for genuine motivational speeches (as I used to), as opposed to attempts to paint his own favoritism out of the picture, in the manner of a rich inheritor's self-serving declaration that anyone can be as wealthy as him if they work as hard as he does. Note that Billy's characterization of himself as always showing up to gaming competitions is belied by his relative lack of appearance at such documented competitions (as opposed to the friendly meet-ups which get retroactively redefined as tournaments). For instance, in 1983, a younger Billy blamed his failure to appear in the That's Incredible! event won by Ben Gold on, of all things, a failure to scrounge up $200 for airfare. [S32]

Luckily, money didn't stop him from showing up to that friendly meet-up in Ottumwa two months later where he claimed to have gotten that Donkey Kong Junior score. For that matter, it also didn't stop him from buying a Pac-Man cabinet to play in secret, which was apparently more important than being there for that wheel. I hope the competition didn't scare him away!

Meanwhile, the contests Billy has shown up to don't justify such a singular distinction. We've already gone over Billy's lackluster outing at the May 1999 Funspot tournament. And while the "Kong Off" series of tournaments would not begin for another decade, his poor performance in those help show that the events of 1999 were no fluke:

It's impossible to not notice that Billy has a long and ever-growing trail of former colleagues, collaborators, and competitors, who over the years have turned into his most ardent and most vocal critics. And it's easy to see where this resentment comes from. "Wait, I'm busting my ass for records on dozens of top games, and putting up big scores in actual tournament play, and this guy with financial stake in the scoreboard, who consistently comes up short in direct competition, he does one score, and suddenly he's the 'Player of the Century'?" And they have to keep hearing, year after year, about how this guy is supposed to be God's gift to gaming. (Oh yeah, and the proven cheating. That hasn't helped either.)

One of my research colleagues put it very well:

Day giving the award to Mitchell in the manner that he did was questionable in its own right, but Day also had a front row seat at the various 1980s TG-sponsored tournaments like the Video Game Masters Tournament, not to mention the traveling US National Video Game Team. Through these events and others, Day witnessed first hand amazing feats and congratulated a range of very talented players, all of whom arguably made a far larger mark on the scene than Mitchell. Day couldn't hide behind the excuse of ignorance of these achievements, which makes his decision arguably more egregious and cynical. For whatever reason, it looks like to me that Day became incapable of separating the ambassador (Mitchell) from the brand (TG) - and the two would rise or fall together.


The other basis we are given for Billy's "Player of the Century" award is his role as an "ambassador" for gaming. But like the classic conundrum of the chicken and the egg, Billy and Walter can't consistently decide whether the ambassador role justified the certificate, or the certificate prompted the ambassador role. Let's start with Billy, on the Mark and Me podcast in February 2019 (at 26:10):

So very little of what I do is actually gaming right now. But to go out, and participate, and to push, and to advocate, and be a part of the hobby, push it forward, and enhance its future, even through the glorification of other players, is what we mostly do, and it's where we get most of our success. And I realized how important that was, when I was on stage in Japan, and afterwards I sat in the executive offices with Masaya Nakamura. What I took away from the conversation is, the responsibility that was put upon me, that was put on my shoulders, simply cuz I was in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time depending how you look at it, was that I had to take a position, an ambassador type position, to push, to advocate, to promote, and to drive forward the hobby of competitive gaming. And so, since the year 2000, that was my main focus, my main goal, and again, so very little of it is actual gaming.

There's so much one could say about that quote, but let's stay on track. Interestingly, if you go back to this other interview from the year 2000, Billy had a different perspective about this potential ambassador role at that time (at about 56:50):

Basically, I'm gonna go back to each one of... the games that I've had world records on, and I believe I'll set a record that'll, again, in my mind, will put it out of the reach of anybody. And... actually, I guess by laying each game to rest, I'm... sorta gonna work my way out of a profession, so... I don't know, I... maybe it'll be, eventually, it'll be enough years, instead of bein' involved, I'll be an elder statesman of it or something like that.

But in either case, Billy describes his supposed "ambassador" or "statesman" role as being after his 1999 trip to Japan. Contrary to Billy's characterization, however, Walter Day often cites the "ambassador" role as being a justification for the certificate. In a 2020 interview with their friends from YouTube channel PARtv in Australia, Walter described his impression of Billy's role in gaming (starting at 29:00):

He already had a tally sheet that was full of... number-driven accomplishments, we'll say. But then he had all this other stuff that he was doing, too, that as a personality who was a benign leader who could make things happen, and also represent the industry with tremendous accomplishments and represent the industry with a great bedside manner, so that he could get up on the stage and also become a spokesperson. Now, that's the best way of putting it. He was virtually an unauthorized, or authorized, spokesman for the whole gaming society out there. So all these things together, more than just his Pac-Man stuff or anything, they all merged together to him becoming actually a phenomenon that had a pedigree that wasn't matched by anybody else in the world, literally anybody else in the world. Plus, he was out there doing it. He was out there doing it, and being very, very involved as a spokesperson. And I like to go further, he was involved, even if he didn't realize it at the time, he was involved as an ambassador for the world of gaming. It's all these things merged together would make him the most and only likely choice for being the video game player of the century.

Setting aside that Walter Day clearly doesn't know what "benign" or "bedside manner" mean, or that he immediately upgraded "unauthorized" to "authorized", or that he seemed to be making some of this up on the fly, there's another level of sophistry involved here, which speaks to how baseless the Player award actually was. Sure, years later Billy would become a prominent convention figure and movie villain, so it's easy to think of Billy in that role. But none of that existed in 1999. As we'll see in a moment, Billy wasn't even a scheduled speaker at the convention where he got this award. Similar to the Guinness reference earlier, Walter Day is describing what would later come to be, and asking you to carry that mental image back in time to 1999, to justify a "Century" award he gave in the previous century, prior to those circumstances he is invoking. Great Scott!!

Setting aside all the context, there would be nothing wrong with a player winning a lifetime achievement award strictly for their gaming achievements (although calling them the singular "Player of the Century" would still be overdoing it), and then that player going on to focus on more of a community role from that point forward. But just say that's what happened! The only reasonable explanation for this retroactive rhetorical flim-flam is that Day feels the actual basis for his choice to award Billy "Player of the Century" in 1999 was not remarkable enough.

But since we're here, let's talk about Billy's role as an "ambassador". What exactly does this role entail? Is he there to make sure people don't forget about video games? Is his job to belittle the accomplishments of Pac-Man players from the '80s who didn't own a Pac-Man machine and didn't discover the hidden dots? Is his job to tell the same exaggerated and self-serving yarns over and over? Is it to disparage home console gaming to anyone who will listen? Is it to tell us that other people's emulation scores don't count? Is it to sue people who say things he doesn't like?

It would be one thing to put stock in Billy's supposed "ambassador" role prior to 2018, prior to the wider discovery of his cheating (something which it seems was an open secret for many years in the Donkey Kong community), but at this point there is no putting that genie back in its bottle. First, rather than acknowledge that a better player had beaten him at one of his pet games, he lied and claimed scores he did not competitively earn, going so far as to manufacture fake evidence to substantiate bogus achievements. Rather than share the metaphorical stage, or simply step aside to gamers more talented than himself, he shamelessly stole glory and accolades from the rightful recipients for years. He did this while routinely calling his competitors' legitimate achievements into question, and while grandstanding and showboating, scoring exactly 1,100 more than Steve Wiebe and Hank Chien on two of his cheated MAME tapes, as if to show them up with how much more talented he was (or wished himself to be). Once accused, rather than simply publish the exonerating evidence he claims to have, he pointed the finger at anyone he could, accusing Dwayne Richard of fabricating evidence against him, Robert Mruczek of stealing his property, Jace Hall of concocting the dispute to generate money, and anyone else critical of him of belonging to the "Lonely Losers Club". He had already wasted countless hours of the community's time before resorting to issuing legal threats and/or filing lawsuits against multiple people and organizations, including Twin Galaxies, Jace Hall, Jeremy Young, J. C. Harrist, David Race, Karl Jobst, Guinness World Records, Apollo Legend, and the Donkey Kong Forum, all to emphasize his denial of facts which, to be frank, he could have gone on denying anyway without litigation. As a result, the recriminations have grown, Kong Off participation has dwindled (even before the pandemic), Donkey Kong Forum went on indefinite lockdown, and now Guinness, who chose to cave to Billy's threats, have apparently decided to discontinue their Gamer's Edition book series altogether. [S33] And through this process, Billy has pitted half the community (those who have known him personally for years and who, for whatever reason, still take him at his word) against the other half (those who acknowledge the overwhelming objective evidence), all to maintain his lies for a while longer. (And that's setting aside the vile harassment conducted by members of his close circle.)

To be frank, the last thing competitive gaming needs is "ambassadors" like Billy Mitchell. These are not the actions of somebody interested in promoting the welfare of the community, nor are these the actions of someone who sees that community as bigger than one person. These are the actions of someone who would sooner burn the classic gaming community to the ground and urinate on the ashes, than simply admit he had lied to that community about something. [S34]

While the events of 2018 and later have no bearing on Walter Day's decision to declare Billy Mitchell "Player of the Century" in 1999, they very much do reflect on Day's decision to continue gaslighting all of us with tales of Billy's advocacy of positive competitive gaming. But even with recent events aside, Billy's conduct in 1999 and prior leaves much to be desired. Regardless of how he felt about his decision to procrastinate on doing a perfect score on Pac-Man all those years, eschewing a fair and agreed-upon competition in a sneak attack is not something to be praised. It was a sign that Billy failed to grasp that competitive gaming wasn't just about him. Even worse, Walter Day was fully aware Billy had entered a handshake agreement to compete with Rick at a later date, which he later violated. (Perhaps this is why Walter added no allusions to any sort of "ambassador" role to the physical "Player of the Century" certificate he printed for Billy that same year.)

Billy often tells stories of taunting Rick Fothergill, subsequent to Rick's decision to honor their agreement while Billy did not. Here Billy is in Exhibit C, at about 43:00:

I sign it with my name, I make a little Pac-Man, and I make nine dots. When I write him a letter or an email, you know, I'll say "Okay, talk to you later," and I put nine dots. I'm always digging it in.

The nine dots are meant to be a reminder of Rick's game in May, where he died once, coming up nine dots short of the perfect score. [S35]

If you simply write out the facts of stories like this, they sound horrifying. But Billy, as the invited guest and the authority, exudes charm while expertly telling the story with himself as the protagonist, and thus audiences laugh, rather than look at each other and say "Wow, this guy's actually a massive jerk!" (Admittedly, I used to be a fan of his, and I used to fall for the same song and dance.)

Here Billy is again, telling a similar story in Exhibit D, at 1:05:30:

The thing that lives on is, I'll call... I'll send somebody an email, like the guy in Canada. I send him an email, and... saying "Hi" about something, or something that's going on. And you might say "Okay, good to talk to you," you know, "until tomorrow". Or you might put like, you know like dot-dot-dot, or something. I don't. Remember, I beat him by nine dots. I put dot-dot-dot, dot-dot-dot, dot-dot-dot. Even to this day, I just dig it in to him. Cuz... it's the humor we have. You gotta have to have thick skin to hang around me.

Imagine the guy suing the Internet for saying mean things about him lecturing literally anyone over having thick skin. This is a transparent attempt to license away his own toxic behavior, which no matter what he says you are advised not to reciprocate.

One might notice how Billy started to say "call", as if he was about to tell a different story. It should come as no surprise that there are more examples of his taunting other players that even he is unwilling to tell.

On July 3, 2008, as a sort of historical nod to the anniversary, Wired reposted their 1999 article on Billy's claimed perfect score (minus the reference to him attending the then-upcoming CGE in Las Vegas). [S36] Reportedly, around this time, Billy chose to pick up the phone and call Rick with yet another taunt. Dwayne recalled what he was told about this in his documentary King of Con, at about 50:20:

This article was written on the tenth year anniversary of the first perfect Pac-Man, quote-unquote, according to Twin Galaxies, Walter and Bill. And... Bill called Rick up at this time and... he calls him up and says "Guess what day it is?" And then he goes... "It's the tenth anniversary of me landing on the moon, or me being... getting the first perfect Pac-Man." I thought "What an *******!" Who the hell calls a guy up like... It's like some juvenile in high school, a bully calling a kid up after ten years, "You still remember? Remember how I screwed you? Remember how I used to tease you? Remember how I used to bully you?"

One can't help but wonder if these sorts of taunts, and the prospect of being on the receiving end, were what made Billy so terrified of coming in second place to Steve Wiebe at Donkey Kong.

To be clear, Dwayne misspoke and tied this story to the Wired reprint (on the ninth anniversary) while citing the "tenth" anniversary. Or perhaps the phone call was a year removed from the Wired piece. [S37] However, Dwayne continued with an additional element:

Bill is so bizarre, he used to put his son on the phone when he was talking to Rick, and he would get his son to make jokes about Rick missing the nine dots.

"Little Billy" was nine years old in July of 2008. Could you imagine a parent putting a nine-year-old on the phone and encouraging them to join in taunting someone? Over a competitive gaming opportunity they know they cheated this person out of?

Oh well, at least "Little Billy" grew up to be pleasant and well-adjusted...

Or maybe not.

Last, but certainly not worst, Billy has this practice of not referring to his competitors by name. Going back to Exhibit C in 2017 (at around 43:00), Billy brags about prodding Rick on the nine dots over and over, then explains why nobody cares who went to the moon second, before adding:

And then I pick on him. It's not my job to toot his whistle. That's his job. It's not my job to make the other guy feel good. That's his job. And I tell him, I say "Why don't you come to the events?"

Billy said it again, in his late night interview with his friend Triforce not long after that (at about 13:40):

Notice I don't tell you these peoples' names. That's their job to toot their whistle. That's not my job, okay. My job is to work, and push, and promote competitive gaming to the best of my ability, and I happen to do a really good job.

Well, as we've seen, the part about promoting competitive gaming certainly isn't true. So if he's not here to promote competitive gaming, and he's not here to promote other players, and he's not here to promote factual history, and he's not here to promote a healthy community, then who exactly is he here for?


There's another aspect to this pair of awards that's very telling. Let's use this as a comparison:

Sports Illustrated waited until December of 1999 to crown Muhammad Ali as the "Sportsman of the Century". They waited until the century (1900-1999) was basically entirely over to finalize that title - and people actually played sports for the entirety of the 20th century. Video-gaming was still relatively new, was always gaining in popularity (following a rough patch in the mid-'80s), and there was still almost half a year to go.

FIFA did SI one better. They announced their winners of "Footballer of the Century" in December 2000:

(Maybe the awards people at FIFA were nerds who insisted the year 2000 was the last year of the 20th century.)

Time Magazine recognized Albert Einstein as "Person of the Century" in a separate issue on December 31, 1999. It's hard to think someone would have come along and topped freaking Einstein in the last few months of the century, but they still waited.

And it's not as if Walter Day and Twin Galaxies couldn't simply host an event at the actual end of the commonly-accepted centenary, around December 1999 or January 2000, specifically to bestow awards recognizing important people and events in video gaming in the 20th century.

Oh wait, they did exactly that!

Yes, Twin Galaxies hosted a "Coronation Day" event, in the spirit of the "Coronation Day" events of the '80s, in this case specifically to honor "video game champions of the century" (as well as various honors of the year, the already issued "Arcade of the Year" apparently notwithstanding).

And of course, Walter was not shy about re-awarding Billy "Player of the Century" at this January event yet again:

Regardless of whatever it may say on that certificate, this award was not bestowed to Billy on the basis of a 1982 kill screen on Donkey Kong, or a non-record performance on Donkey Kong Junior, or a leeched score on Centipede, or even for the combination of those. The justification for this award was a maximum score on Pac-Man, full stop. [S38] With over five months left to go, one must wonder what would've happened had someone achieved the elusive one-million score on Donkey Kong in October? Or a one-million point score on Ms. Pac-Man in November? (Heck, it took them months just to acknowledge Rick Fothergill's achievement of what earlier that month was supposedly the impossible "Holy Grail" of all of gaming.)

The important takeaway here is that, for some reason, Walter and Billy had to get both of these "Game of the Century" and "Player of the Century" awards out the door, right away, with no delay. Walter Day didn't even take a couple months to promote a "search" or any other process for "Player of the Century", and that man makes a promotion out of everything. On the other end, there was no trail of media mentions for this "Player" award at the time it was announced at CGE. There was no Twin Galaxies press release corresponding to the occasion. Ultimately, it was all a quiet affair for Walter Day and Billy Mitchell. They got in, got their awards announced at the event, and got out.

As you know, Billy had a role in Namco's presentation at the Tokyo Game Show that September (a topic we'll begin discussing in our next installment). So was this a case of TG wanting to use the opportunity of the upcoming Japan appearance as a platform to honor this game, which for unspecified arbitrary reasons they are really insisting on promoting to such an exaggerated extent at that immediate moment? Or was this just another vehicle to promote Billy as some kind of legendary gamer who defeated the one-and-only "Game of the Century"? Or, even worse, was this a case of TG offering Namco an official "Game of the Century" award as their foot into the door toward something else?

One of my colleagues was pretty convinced why the "Game" award exists, at least:

The POTC and Game of the century are yin and yang, they come as one. It’s far too much of a coincidence to think they weren’t crafted at the exact same time. Game of the Century was nothing more than a giant schmooze up to Namco that wouldn’t have happened if Mitchell hadn’t made a claim on the first PPM.

To this day, Billy has never stopped talking about his "Player of the Century" award, which in subsequent retellings became "Video Game Player of the Century", an expanded title he invented for himself. (More on that later.) However, the "Game of the Century" angle for Pac-Man soon disappeared. Check out this 2005 introduction from later TG head referee Robert Mruczek, as he announced Abdner Ashman's new Ms. Pac-Man record:

"One of the greatest arcade titles of all time"? "One of the most widely recognized icons of the video gaming world"? Search all you want, you won't find the phrase "Game of the Century" anywhere in that press release. Did they not tell Mruczek about it at all? Did Twin Galaxies have any use at all for this award after 1999?


As mentioned earlier, there was no reporting of a perfect score done at CGE in Las Vegas, and no score on Pac-Man was submitted for that weekend. In fact, it took a little searching to confirm that Billy even attended the event at all.

First, he wasn't one of the scheduled speakers or panelists listed on page 7 of the event program:

You have this photo page with no sign of Billy:

You had coverage of the event, from small gaming blogs all the way up to The New York Times, with no mention of Billy, Walter, Twin Galaxies, or any awards [S39]:,21253,00.html

Digital Press captured a few sightings of "Century" committee member John Hardie, including this one of him relaxing after a long first day of the convention:

But no sign of Billy there, nor is he seen in these hours of video footage from the event, uploaded to YouTube many years later:

Twin Galaxies themselves don't seem to have been a significant presence at the event, although in that last video, at the 18:23 mark, you get the most fleeting glimpse of Walter Day in his referee shirt you've ever seen:

The lack of focus on Twin Galaxies and arcade high scores shouldn't be too surprising. Remember, this was spun off from the "World of Atari" convention the previous year. Yes, on page 26 of 28 of that program, you do see a Twin Galaxies spot inviting players to compete at CGE for inclusion in a future edition of TG's printed record book. But the rest of that program makes clear their continued focus on Atari 2600, Intellivision, and the like. [S40]

As a research colleague put it:

If I recall, TG's presence for the Atari World the previous year was basically sponsoring a tournament, so presumably there was an informal understanding TG would be there for CGE 99, whether or not Mitchell got the perfect. But after reading through CGE programs and coverage over several years, one thing really stands out to me - TG was, in the best case scenario, an afterthought in the minds of attendees, and certainly TG "royalty" were mere paupers when they stepped foot into the convention space. This wasn't the Kingdom of strutting video game "champions," this was the Kingdom of Keith Robinson and Ralph Baer.

But don't worry! Billy was there, and he did get his time in the spotlight. While the actual event was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, August 14-15, it turns out there was a "Celebrity Dinner" the night of Friday, August 13. The website "I.C. When" used to host several pages of photos from the event [S41]:

While the captions remain, the photos were never archived. Additionally, those photo pages themselves disappeared from the website over a decade ago. A search for the photos by filename also came up fruitless, suggesting the photos themselves are long gone from the open Internet. Worse, direct requests for the photos went unanswered. Sadly, those photos from the Celebrity Dinner are gone, gone, gone.

Well, they were, anyway. It turns out, we're good at what we do. After months of searching, through an unaffiliated third party, we were able to track down and secure an offline copy of the entire photo collection, which does include a shot of Billy's big moment! [S42]

Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, your newly christened "[Video Game] Player of the Century":

I can imagine an awkward quiet settling over the dining hall, as Billy's words to the effect of "Uhhh, I'd like to thank the staff of Classic Gaming Expo" echo off the walls, competing with the clink-clank sound of silverware.

As one research colleague remarked:

I expected a big hullabaloo regarding Mitchell and particularly his award. It’s interesting isn’t it given how grande Mitchell and Day deem themselves and particularly the VGPOTC award to be. This was the actual event it was given out. (I won’t say awarded.) Mitchell was there in the flesh baby! Yet CGE didn’t warrant it worthy of a Q and A or similar??

"I.C. When" included a few other photos from the Celebrity Dinner that are of interest to our story. Here they are, paired with their original captions by way of file names:

Ah, well the caption says Billy was "deserving". Case closed, I guess. Also, note again the lack of recognition of Fothergill's perfecto from two weeks prior to this event. But it's nice to see Walter Day caught some Pac-Man Fever!

Briefly, lest I leave you with the impression that this award dinner was an exclusively Twin Galaxies affair, CGE themselves also gave out some awards. In fact, judging by the order of the photos, it seems CGE's presentation came up first (paired with the caption):

Ah, but Billy didn't just stop by for dinner and a quick coronation from his pals Johnny and Wally. Here he is hanging out with his old friend, Ron Corcoran (again, paired with the caption) [S43]:

And of course, an exhausted John Hardie takes another break:

"I.C. When" wasn't the only website to share photos of Billy at the actual weekend event. Here on the site CyberRoach, clicking on "Part III" brings us to this photo of Walter Day, hocking his record book as usual, while flanked by Billy Mitchell and Perry Rodgers (of charity Centipede fame) [S44]:

And of course, CyberRoach gives us another obligatory shot of John Hardie chilling after a long day of anointing players of centuries:

So did Billy at least try for a perfect score that weekend? Sure, he did! Billy's other good friend and pep-talker, Stephen Krogman, posted to MARP about playing games with him at CGE:

I showed off on Galaga, Dig Dug, and Tetris, as Billy did a number on Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Burger Time! Just ask Joust God! He was between us helping Billy group on BurgerTime!

Of course, if Billy had gotten a perfect score at CGE, we definitely would have heard about it many times by now.

Going back to "I.C. When", again matching photos to captions, we indeed get a glimpse of Mr. King of the Expo getting in some time on... something?

Huh, that doesn't look like Pac-Man. I thought they said he was bringing his own machine!

Interestingly, CGE '99 actually got some small bit of coverage in Japan, posted after the Tokyo Game Show in September:

That's not an Internet Archive link. As we'll see in our next installment, a surprising amount of Japanese Internet content from 1999 is still available on the open web. You might have to fish around that site for a while to find Billy, but he's there, in one photo (used twice). [S45] And it's another shot of Billy standing at that big black cabinet. Here, the site uses a conversation between anime characters in place of photo captions [GT]:

Another caption given for the same photo reads as follows [GT]:

With the power of modern high-performance personal computers, it is possible to reproduce (emulate) old arcade games with software alone. There are dozens of such games in it! I was surprised.

Ah, emulation. Billy's favorite!

Oh, we have only begun to dip our toe into what Japanese-language sources had to offer us in our research. Join us again next time, as we find out what really happened in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Thankslexmark, ProveAll, The Evener, Rev John, Tompa and 2 others thanked this post
LikesProveAll, The Evener, Barra, Rev John, Tompa and 2 others liked this post
Join us