ersatz_cats's Feed

ersatz_cats
09-23-2021 at 02:56 PM
0 Comment
Rate this Entry

The Video Game Fraud of the Century - Dot Seven

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:

https://www.twingalaxies.com/ersatzc...entury-dot-one

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

https://perfectpacman.com/dot-seven-supplemental/



DEAR BILLY

Let's pretend for a moment that your name is Billy Mitchell, and that you recently got a maximum score on Pac-Man. Let's also say that you and your friend Walter went around and told everyone that you were the first person to do so, even though that might not really be true. In fact, let's say your friend Walter even reached out to Namco, hoping to publicize your score. As a result, you find yourself checking the mail each day, hoping to hear something cool from the Public Relations department at your favorite game publisher.

Again, we're just talking hypothetically, but let's say a few weeks go by. Then one day, your hypothetical wife says "Hi honey, looks like you have a letter from Namco." You excitedly rip it open, you pull out the letter, and you read the following:

Mr. William J. Mitchell, Jr.
1100 Cheat Street
Hollywood, Florida 33021
U.S.A.

Dear Billy,

As Father of Pac-Man, I wish to extend my heartiest Congratulations on your amazing feat of becoming the first player ever to achieve a perfect score of 3,333,360 points on the Pac-Man game.

The news of your accomplishment which has spread quickly throughout the world comes to us at a very opportune time. We are currently preparing to celebrate Pac-Man's 20th birthday on October 10, 1999 and as part of the celebration, we will be releasing "Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary" for the PlayStation platform in October. Your historical feat will help us remind the world of this special occasion and will also help bring back memories of yesteryears for many fans of Pac-Man when, as young players, they feverishly challenged every aspect of the Game. Most importantly, however, your feat will undoubtedly remind the world once again of the greatness of the Game itself.

The entire Namco Group joins me in congratulating you and thanking you for your invaluable support of Namco's most prominent game, the Pac-Man.

With personal Best Wishes,

Yours very truly,
NAMCO LTD.

Masaya Nakamura
Chairman & CEO

Again, we're just chatting hypotheticals. But that sounds about like what you would expect from some faceless company, right? Especially one from Japan? Written by some secretary, with some awkward phrasing, a few odd capitalizations, and with the CEO's signature rubber-stamped at the end. And of course a game company like Namco is only too eager to talk about their newest game which everyone in the building is contractually obligated to be excited about.

What would you do with such a letter if you received one? Frame it, I suppose? Take some quality pictures of it?

Would you ever engrave it into a plaque?


https://live.staticflickr.com/112/30...c40bd417_c.jpg

This photo, along with another less legible one, were taken by attendees at the 2005 Classic Gaming Expo in the UK. [S1] The address on the plaque is that of Rickey's, the Mitchell family restaurant in Hollywood, Florida (which was replaced with a joke address in our faux letter above).

We noticed very early on in our research that this plaque made no reference whatsoever to Billy's claimed title of "Player of the Century". But even beyond that, we began to wonder if this dude actually did take a P.R. letter, engrave it onto a plaque, and then go around with it telling people "Look at this cool award I got from Namco!'" As one research colleague remarked:

It's even more ludicrous than I imagined! It's just some standard congrats letter, the kind a big company would send a kid who had written in to them.

For a few days there, we got some good laughs joking about this. I mean, with every other wild misrepresentation in Billy's story, could we really count it out? For one thing, who makes a plaque in the form of an addressed letter? Usually commemorative plaques look like... well, they look like this one for the Rickey's restaurant:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:B...r_19,_2007.jpg

Another peculiarity with the plaque is that there's no apparent copyright symbol on that Pac-Man image, which at least in the United States is automatic on anything ever done by corporate. (Yes, there is a trademark note on the "Namco" on the bottom of the engraved letter.) Of course, someone making such a decoration for their own purposes likely wouldn't care about including such a symbol either way.

In the interest of pursuing all leads, we had to ask the question: Did Billy or Walter take an actual letter to the local trophy shop and have this made prior to their trip to the Tokyo Game Show? Was this plaque stuffed among all the awards filling Walter Day's suitcases in Japan?

Further investigation turned up a few reasons to believe this plaque probably was a genuine gift from Namco to commemorate Billy's visit. First of all, the date on the top is September 17, the exact day of Billy's appearance at the Namco booth at Tokyo Game Show. Billy is also never seen with this plaque prior to his TGS appearance, including during his appearance at Wonder Park Kohoku two days earlier.

But the biggest indicator is that yellow ball himself, doing the "Pac-Man salute". Check out this alternate photo of Billy at TGS, taken by Katsumi Kasahara of Associated Press:


https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/238949527/

Notice how Namco's dancers each have a little Pac-Man graphic affixed to their costumes. Those are the exact same Pac-Man that's on the plaque. High resolution images were not very common on the Internet in 1999. Google Image search was also not introduced until 2001. In addition to all the other strikes against Billy or Walter making this plaque from a physical letter themselves, they would have had to hit upon the exact same Pac-Man drawing Namco decided to use themselves, at the desired resolution. [S2]

One of my research colleagues compared this plaque to TG's cheap certificates:

TG's low-tech certificate is a fitting contrast and reflection of the organization's "modest" resources and sense of sophistication compared to the more polished Namco plaque befitting the glitzy TGS. Also, it wouldn't surprise me that, having flown Mitchell out to Tokyo and set him up in a hotel, having him attend events, that at the end, they would provide a gift of their appreciation and memento of his visit and his Pac score.

Of course, even if Billy and Walter didn't produce the plaque themselves, it's impossible to wash it of Walter Day's fingerprints entirely, as he was the one to authenticate Billy's score to Namco and to the mainstream media. As a colleague put it:

Nakamura was blindly putting his name to something he knew absolutely nothing about. You could’ve told him the perfect score was 300,000 and he had no reason to disbelieve it.

It's easy to see where the confusion between the TG certificate and the plaque has come from. Billy and Walter both confidently assert that Billy was named "Player of the Century" by Masaya Nakamura at the Tokyo Game Show in Japan. There's a photo of Billy next to Nakamura at that very event holding what appears to be an award of some kind. Thus, the connection is made without them ever having to explicitly spell it out. And the TG certificate? The one that doesn't even include the names "Nakamura" or "Namco"? On the off chance anyone is even aware of it, that is easily explained away as well. Indeed, my colleague spoke to their past confusion between the two trophies:

I always presumed that the Pac plaque was the actual POTC award. I think everyone did! Many still do!! Maybe people who saw the certificate after they returned from Japan thought like I did -- it was just TG’s way of congratulating BM for the accolade he received at the TGS. It wasn’t uncommon for TG to do this after an event.

At any rate, the text makes clear this plaque had nothing whatsoever to do with Walter Day's certificate, or of the title he and John Hardie bestowed on Billy. The plaque was half commemoration of Billy's score and, once again, half promotion of the Pac-Man brand and of their new Playstation game. It's a neat plaque, for sure. But for Billy to refer to it as if it were a "Video Game Player of the Century" award or whatever perhaps speaks to why it was typically held just out of range of photographic legibility (and perhaps also why the public hasn't gotten a good, close look at it, or the TG certificate, since 2005). After all, as long as people can't read it, it says whatever you want it to say.

Before we move on, you might have noticed that plaque had gotten a bit tarnished by 2005 (most noticeably in the upper left corner). But there's one other notable sign of physical wear. Here we see the plaque standing on the Twin Galaxies table at Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas in 2000:


http://www.arcaderestoration.com/Art.../CGE+2000.aspx

Now, here's an alternate photo taken at CGE UK in 2005:


http://www.jammajup.co.uk/classic-ga...Picture044.jpg

Oh no! Poor Billy! He broke his special "award"! Or else... just disassembled it... for some reason? Maybe that base was the part that declared Billy "Video Game Player of the Century".

THREE'S A CROWD

For Pac-Man's "20th birthday," Namco included a five-page feature in their Nours magazine, wherein the reader is given a ticket to attend Pac-Man's virtual birthday party. Pac-Man's home is full of memorabilia and trivia references, including nods to the song "Pac-Man Fever", some Pac-Man inspired artwork by Andy Warhol, a reference to an injury called "Pac-Wrist" [S3], and an advertising collaboration with Pizza Hut [S4]:


https://www.bandainamcoent.co.jp/cor...f/26_03-07.pdf

On the last page of this feature is a segment commemorating Billy's then-recent trip to Japan, including a few interesting photos [S5]:


Say, what's this? [S6]


Gosh, that's interesting. A nod from Namco themselves to Bally-Midway's promotion of Pac-Man in the United States.

Recall from "Dot Two", Billy's incredulous reaction to the notion that Bally-Midway would have sent Bill Bastable a letter congratulating him on a perfect score (at 23:10 in the interview with Triforce):

Bally-Midway never wrote a letter like that, ever. I had discussions with Namco, because Namco is the one who licensed it to Bally, and I had discussions how they never, ever did anything, they didn't have a promotional department, they didn't do anything to foster or create any goodwill or legacy for Pac-Man. They were simply interested in collecting quarters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9EYBfhJIB8

Back to Nours, we have a couple photos of Billy's appearance at Wonder Park Kohoku (both of which we saw last installment), as well as a shot of Billy holding his Twin Galaxies "Player" certificate in one hand and... his hot sauce in the other?


But the photo that should really catch your eye is the one of Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, and Masaya Nakamura, all standing shoulder-to-shoulder. [S7] Let's take a closer look at that:


Wow, does Masaya Nakamura look excited to be there, or what!? It's like he's having the time of his life!

Well, who knows. Maybe it's a Japanese cultural thing not to smile in photos? [S8]


Okay, maybe not.

But what's really important is what they're each holding. Billy is holding his Twin Galaxies "Player" certificate. (They sure got some mileage out of that thing!) Masaya Nakamura, on behalf of Namco, is holding their newly received "Game of the Century" award for Pac-Man. And between them both is Walter Day, making sure to get the Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records into the shot.

My research colleague found a bit of humor in this scene:

Can you imagine if Nakamura made an extra effort thinking he was meeting this big American video game corporation and was met by a tall sycophantic drink of water in the nylon suit and comedy tie. Accompanied by Day in his slightly whiffy referees jersey and home made certificate in the 50 cent pine frame. I bet he had some words with Namco USA afterwards!

If you think about it though, it would have been awfully rude for Mr. Nakamura to say "Yes, I'll take your award, but no, I won't take a picture with you." Or to make some comment about how the certificate was much cheaper than he expected. After all, Namco USA did arrange for Billy to fly out there, and Walter Day did give both Billy and Mr. Nakamura their awards. What harm could come from taking a quick photo with them to mark the occasion? Surely, it's nothing out of Mr. Nakamura's day to take a photo with a couple fans.

The Nours photo, which is available online, is supplemented by two more photos of the same encounter seen in the November 1999 issue of Vending Times, which we acquired through a library scan:


One photo shows the trio doing some weird... pretzel handshake... thing? Note that while the other image may appear to be a repeat of the Nours photo, it's actually at a slightly different angle. You can tell by Walter's and Mr. Nakamura's positioning relative to the poster behind them. [S9]

We'll see more of this Vending Times feature later. Getting back to Nours again, the caption accompanying their photo of the trio is also noteworthy. Here's a professional translation:

Billy Mitchell, who achieved an unprecedented perfect score of 3,333,360 points, also visited Japan this fall. He met President Nakamura for the first time and celebrated the 20th anniversary of "Pac-Man". The game was also submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for the game version of Twin Galaxies' "Official Video Game and Pinball Book of World Records." To set this record, Billy traveled all over the U.S. and played the game about 10,000 times. Pac-Man is the very symbol of his youth. This year, Billy was honored as the best player of the 20th century and Pac-Man as the best game of the 20th century.

(Wait, Billy met Nakamura "for the first time" in 1999? But Billy said...)

Billy and Walter have stories of him being "crowned" or "proclaimed" or "declared" the video game player of the century on stage at the Tokyo Game Show. (We'll get to specifics of these stories in a moment.) Billy and his defenders may point to this caption and try to suggest this represents Namco's acknowledgment of such a moment. For what it's worth, the photo does appear to be taken backstage somewhere at TGS, rather than during Billy's alleged Thursday visit to the Namco offices. Billy's and Mr. Nakamura's suits match the publicity photos from the Namco booth (although Billy's pinstripes are more visible in brighter light). And as we see at about 36:00 in this video, TGS did have those posters up in the corridors at that event:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LQeyVMHa8c

But placing the photo at Tokyo Game Show doesn't stop such a suggestion of a "coronation" from being a big stretch. First, in their stories, this alleged declaration was supposed to be on stage, not in some break room. How could it be a "proclamation" if it was behind closed doors? Is that like when Billy "announced" that he would do a perfect score at Funspot by quietly telling a few people and asking them to keep it a secret? (Oh wait, we haven't gotten back to that yet. Hold that thought for later.)

This caption does exactly what a photo caption is supposed to do: It describes the photo. Strictly speaking, Billy was indeed "honored as the best player of the 20th century", and Pac-Man was indeed recognized as "the best game of the 20th century", earlier that year. In both cases, it was Walter Day handing out the honors. (Okay, some guy named John was there, too.) You even see those certificates in the photo. The caption is literally just describing what the people in the picture are holding, complete with a nod to Walter's new book. Namco reporting the existence of these certificates does not make these Namco awards, no more than me stating that someone won a Pulitzer makes me a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

To put it another way, if the caption written by Namco was meant to say that Namco was the one to declare Billy the greatest video gamer of the epoch, the caption would just say that.

Harkening back to Billy's stories of bedazzling the Namco executives, my colleague remarked:

Meeting Nakamura and having a quick chat backstage whilst they posed for that photo wasn’t enough. Ultimately that doesn’t paint him in the light he wants the world to see him in. Even the rich powerful and famous have to be seen in awe of the man.

The visage of Walter Day standing between Billy Mitchell and Masaya Nakamura is an interesting one. Despite Billy's stories about Walter Day being a third wheel, he served a couple very important functions in Japan. First, there's a chance Namco (especially in Japan) would have had no interest in playing along with any of this, if not for the fact that Walter Day, in his authority as "Electronic Games Historian" and head of self-proclaimed official global scorekeeper Twin Galaxies, was graciously bestowing such a high honor upon the Pac-Man franchise. Certainly Namco had no qualms about accepting the "Game of the Century" award, which could then be used as the foot in the door necessary to lend credence to Walter's other accolades. (And even if Walter Day had originally presented the "Game" certificate to a Namco subsidiary in the United States, in some fashion that went unremarked in the media, that wouldn't stop him from simply bringing it to Japan and "presenting" it again.) As my research colleague put it:

You do have to wonder why they took the actual CGE certificate to Japan for any other reason than to get Nakamura to give the award a mention immediately elevating it to a Namco JAMMA one. It had to have been pre-planned. With the Game of the Century going the other way being a softener for Namco and also a great shoehorning for Namco to mention Mitchell's award.

In perhaps a moment of excessive honesty, the late 1999 press release even calls it a "strategy":


https://web.archive.org/web/20000818...f_Century.html

Ah yes, Walter Day's grand strategy to inform the world that Pac-Man was a famous game. Because reasons.

But even that was just a means toward Walter's real function in Japan: More promotion! After all, what could be better for a competitive gaming organizer than getting your photo taken with the founder of Namco himself? And if you can get your newly published book in frame as well, all the better.

As another research colleague remarked:

As far as I can tell, Mitchell received an invite to Japan presumably earlier in the summer - makes me wonder if the certificate ceremony in Las Vegas was Day's brainchild to get a trip to Japan himself after Mitchell was booked for Japan? ("I have to go because TG is handing out a very distinguished award to Namco", from an organization that was basically run off the corner of a desk with a placeholder website.)

One need not be overly cynical about Billy and Walter seizing an opportunity to take a photo with an industry titan like Mr. Nakamura, or of Walter's inclination to get his new book into the frame. But we should hope for some simple honesty regarding this interaction. As we will continue seeing through today's installment, such honesty on the part of Billy Mitchell and Walter Day was sorely lacking.

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

You might ask, what was the role of the late Masaya Nakamura in all this?

On one hand, you don't get to be the head honcho of a company like Namco by being anybody's patsy. But on the other hand, direct evidence of his involvement in any of the bloated proclamations is minimal. On the Namco stage at TGS, he introduced Billy to the crowd, and offered him a plaque, which itself makes no reference whatsoever to any titles or "awards". Aside from that, he posed for a couple photos with Billy and Walter, holding a certificate he was given on behalf of Namco. It's not even clear that Mr. Nakamura (who was said to require an English translator) read the certificate himself, rather than simply trusting his assistant to set up the shot as is their job.

Perhaps some clarity can be gained from a famous Ponzi scheme reported just a couple years prior, involving then-President Bill Clinton (as reported by Billy's local South Florida Sun-Sentinel):


https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl...177-story.html

Gosh, does any of this sound familiar?

Of course Team Billy would eagerly tout the fact that Misters Mitchell and Nakamura were ever in the same room together as an endorsement of anything that would happen even years down the line. (After all, this is the guy who patched together the whole "boardroom" story with no apparent relevance other than to impress on people that he had once met Masaya Nakamura.) But if the President of the United States, with all the caution and attention around him, if he can be unwittingly invoked in a brazenly criminal conspiracy simply by posing for a photo with a donor, then surely the fact that Mr. Nakamura was gracious enough to take a photo with a trusted guest invited by his business cannot be construed as any sort of personal endorsement of whatever stories would come out of that guest's mouth years later.

Of course, none of this has stopped Billy from inserting Mr. Nakamura into his various fictions about his time in Japan at every opportunity. We are, after all, talking about the guy who started rewriting Pete Bouvier's history just as soon as he'd passed away.

Masaya Nakamura is certainly an important figure in video gaming history. In 1955, he founded Nakamura Seisakusho (which later became Nakamura Manufacturing Company which later became Namco) as an operator of amusement rides. In 1974, the company acquired the Japanese division of Atari, before producing their own games, including Galaxian and Pac-Man. But it's also worth being clear that Nakamura was not a game designer. His company may have invested resources in pushing Pac-Man machines across the world, but it was Toru Iwatani who made Pac-Man the game that it was. [S10]

Remember how Billy kept leaving Toru Iwatani out of his Japan stories? My research colleague remembers:

I was historically confused by Mitchell's constant evocation of Nakamura as the Father of Pac-Man and I began to half-wonder if Nakamura had some actual hand in designing the game. Mitchell was so unwavering of his praise with nary a mention of Iwatani I was genuinely confused by his misplaced hero worship - while Nakamura gets credit for leading Namco through the ages, I always thought you'd reserve your highest praise for the game's designer. But then again, it was Nakamura on stage at the TGS, not the no-name game designer.

Unlike Professor Iwatani, Billy never got Masaya Nakamura's name wrong. And while Billy did not invent the "Father of Pac-Man" moniker for Mr. Nakamura (which was seen in the text of Billy's plaque and elsewhere) [S11], he sure has not been shy about laying on the superlatives. The nicknaming reaches another level with a special phrase Billy repeats about Mr. Nakamura virtually every single time he tells the Japan story, such as in the Pixels panel (at 34:00):

Masaya Nakamura, without question, is who I have dubbed the godfather of video games.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7L_1tCi53Q

Sometimes Billy uses third party attribution, like "He's considered the godfather of video games" (Exhibit D, 2:40), or "whom they consider" (Exhibit B, 25:00). I suppose if both Billy and Walter call him that, then that counts as multiple people. On the Mark and Me podcast, at 21:00, Billy does a mix of both:

It was Masaya Nakamura, that many, certainly myself, would call the godfather of video games...

https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/m...10_00_00-08_00

And at 0:50 in this quick chat, Billy asserts that Nakamura's "godfather" title is "obvious":

...going to Japan, being in the offices of Namco, in front of Masaya Nakamura, the father of Pac-Man and obviously the godfather of video games...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ide1ZoYcvSg

If you Google search "Masaya Nakamura" and "Godfather of video games" (in quotes), you see a long string of results like this:


But it's literally all circular references back to Billy and his stories. [S12] As my research colleague remarked:

Didn't Mitchell coin the phrase and refer to Nakamura as the GODFATHER of Video Games? Oh yeah, he did. Not Pizza, not the Corleone family, but video games! Interesting. So the plaque isn't just from the guy who runs the company that marketed Pac-Man, but from the dude who reigns over video games EVERYWHERE.

This is all silly enough before you get into their stories about Billy and Mr. Nakamura sharing some kind of personal friendship. In Dwayne Richard's documentary The Perfect Fraudman, at about 1:17:20, Walter Day lists Billy's claimed accolades, adding:

He's the person who is the founding member of history's first official video game... professional video game team, back in 1983. He's held more world records than almost anybody back then, during that early era. He also is like a... a very close friend of Mr. Nakamura, who congratulated him on the stage in Tokyo for his distinguished... distinguished achievement of being the first person in history to do a perfect game of Pac-Man.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSFtDVuGxL8

Ah yes, "close friends" who are never seen together again after 1999.

Similarly, Walter Day talked up Billy's supposed relationship with Namco in their 2020 interview with PARtv in Australia, at 30:40:

Namco was so excited about Billy. That's why they took him around and embraced him, and got him up on the stage and proclaimed him "This is the video game player of the century".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mwoecTjBy0

Oddly, Walter left out the bit about promoting Pac-Man World for Playstation. At any rate, if Namco were so eager to work with Billy, one must wonder why they did not continue to do so, and why he did not return to the Tokyo Game Show ever again. Or why there were no photo-ops with Billy when Mr. Nakamura came to the states to attend E3.

In 2005, Pac-Man was celebrated again, this time for its 25th birthday. Once again, Masaya Nakamura accepted an award on behalf of the company, but without Billy or Walter Day. This time, their guest of honor was none other than Dave Hawksett, representing Guinness World Records [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20051023...ndex.php?id=21

https://www.cnet.com/news/pac-man-ch...-record-books/

"Game of the Century", "Most successful coin-operated game." That yellow pizza muncher sure has racked up some accolades!

Not only did Namco celebrate Pac-Man's 25th birthday, but in 2004, they recognized the Namco company's 50th anniversary, complete with an invitation-only celebration. [S13] Let's check out the guest list [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20051116...index.php?id=1

https://game.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/20040601/nam.htm

Who else does Mr. Nakamura invite to his big party, but famous Japanese movie stars, film directors, a retail mogul, another chief executive, and, oh yes, the former Prime Minister of Japan. This sort of company makes sense for a CEO who was once personally decorated by Emperor Hirohito himself. [S14] I guess his close friend Billy Mitchell's invitation must have gotten lost in the mail or something.

Billy's stories of being friends with Nakamura aren't borne out by anything we could find. But that didn't stop his stories from getting more and more far-fetched over the years. It would be hard for Billy to top the tall tale he tells in Exhibit B from 2020, starting at about 29:20:

And every time... not every time, but often I would be at an event, and if Namco was there, we would put together something that would be... a filming or tape or something, that would make its way back to Namco, back to Masaya Nakamura, that he would get. And I was quite flattered as the years went on, he would still come in the office each day, and then it got to the point where he'd come in the office once a week, and then it got to the point where he didn't come in the office anymore, because... you know, the years catching up to him. This was '91, I think. And... But I was quite flattered at the fact that the guy said, when something comes to him at the office, it gets opened. They said, "But when something comes to the office, and it has your name on it, nobody opens it. It goes to him," and he opens it, you know, obviously with his assistant helping him. Because... although he was like a world citizen, he... he was not a fluent English guy. His English was about as fluent as my Japanese. But our friendship certainly transcended that.

Billy Mitchell is the 55-year old version of that kid who told everyone his uncle worked at Nintendo.

CERTIFICATE SHENANIGANS

Now that we've seen each photo of the "Player of the Century" certificate we're going to be seeing in this series, let's take a look at a number of... oddities. First, we'll compare the photo from Japan in 1999 (left), the one from "Coronation Day" at Funspot in January 2000 (middle), and a photo taken at CGE UK in 2005 (right) [S15]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20010217...rameAward.html

http://www.jammajup.co.uk/classic-ga...Picture043.jpg

Notice anything unusual?

At a glance, they all three appear to have different colored background paper. The wooden frame also appears brighter in the photo on the left. To an extent, this could be the result of odd lighting or other photographic considerations. Indeed, as mentioned previously, the pinstripes on Billy's suit are effectively erased by the lighting in the Nours photo.

But what's unmistakable is the ribbon. Compare the middle example to the awards Walter Day was slinging around at CGE in Las Vegas:


Each certificate seen at that event had a plain three-stripe ribbon, resembling a slice of Neapolitan ice cream. The one Walter hands Billy in January 2000 has that plain ribbon, along with matching background paper. And yet the certificate seen in Japan, and the one seen in the UK in '05, had a fancier multi-stripe ribbon. On appearance, it would seem the plain-ribbon certificate with the bright orange paper was produced at the same time as the larger CGE batch, while the other version was produced at a different time.

But we have another point of reference to go on. It turns out that, in addition to multiple copies of "Player of the Century", there were multiple copies of TG's "Game of the Century" certificate as well. Compare the certificate held by Masaya Nakamura in 1999 to the copy on the wall with Toru Iwatani years later [S16]:


https://www.bandainamcoent.co.jp/cor...f/26_03-07.pdf

https://web.archive.org/web/20120829...ent-of-pacman/

Again, the ribbons are a dead giveaway. Man, Walter Day was printing these things like they were money!

The theory that these three-stripe certificates were produced as part of the larger CGE batch is bolstered yet again by the signature line. Let's take another look at a complete, undelivered certificate we saw back in "Dot Five", that of of "Arcade of the Year":


Walter Day's and John Hardie's signatures aren't even the same color. Walter's is a solid blue, while John's is more of a turquoise. The mismatched colors aren't too surprising. One could imagine Walter going through and signing all the certificates in Iowa before traveling to Las Vegas, where Mr. Hardie would then sign them on-site at the event with a completely different pen.

While it's impossible to make out anything on the signature line of the low-resolution "Coronation Day" photo of Billy's certificate, in the photo with Professor Iwatani, you can actually zoom in very closely and see a blob of turquoise right where John Hardie's signature should be:


You might say "Okay, so what? So they probably produced the first two for CGE, and then later on decided to make new copies with snazzier ribbons for their trip to Japan. There's nothing wrong with that, right? They can print as many of these as they want."

But here's where things get interesting! Let's compare that "Arcade of the Year" signature line to the signatures from two certificates from the following year's CGE, courtesy of the TG archives [S17]:


Looks like Hardie's turquoise pen ran out in the intervening year, but otherwise, that's pretty standard signature stuff, right?

Now let's take a closer look at the signature line on Billy's certificate seen in the UK in 2005:


What the heck is that thing!? Did some small animal crawl up and die right on John Hardie's signature line?

Lest you think this is just the result of poor photography, here's another look at that same certificate, from that same UK event, straight from the film King of Kong:


Sure, Walter Day's signature isn't an exact match for the examples, but it's in the ballpark. The letter "W" is the same. He just barfed up the end of one of those a bit. No big deal. But that "John Hardie" signature is so different, it might as well read "John Hancock".

So if John Hardie didn't sign Billy's certificate, who did? [S18]

The world... may never know.

NOBODY GOT THE MEMO

We're about halfway through seven frames here. Time to get up, stretch, buy yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack. But don't go too far. The heart of the order for the home team is comin' up!

Let's go over Billy's boilerplate Tokyo Game Show story one more time, from Exhibit D, at 3:30:

And there on stage at the Tokyo Game Show, with a list of accolades that went back to as far as 1982, and as recently as the perfect Pac-Man in July of '99, he crowned me the Video Game Player of the Century.

That's a pretty grandiose description, is it not? Billy tells us over and over that it was Masaya Nakamura himself who "crowned" Billy "Video Game Player of the Century", that Mr. Nakamura did it live on stage, and that he did it in front of thousands and thousands of onlookers. If any of this actually happened, that would be a pretty big deal, would it not? Perhaps worthy of a media mention or two?

As my research colleague remarked, in our search for anything to corroborate this story:

Public events or stories will leave a media footprint for the very reason that these events drew contemporaneous media or public attention and thus were reported and/or discussed in print, whether hardcopy or on websites. In turn, these reports were preserved by various means as part of the historical record. And there's a simple and scalable metric at play here - the larger the event in question, the larger the media footprint it leaves behind.

In other words, big events will have permanent evidence; the bigger that event, the bigger the evidence will be.

We discussed the photo of Billy, Walter, and Mr. Nakamura, as well as the caption accompanying it. As explained, that caption is just recounting the "perfect score" news other media at the time were reporting, along with a nod to the two TG certificates ("Player of the Century" and "Game of the Century") shown in the photo. But let's say some hypothetical person wanted to frame that caption as some sort of oblique and/or inarticulate acknowledgment of the events Billy describes. Even then, if these stories are true, we should still be finding many more such references in the media of the day. After all, we've been told countless times in biographies, interviews, and movies that this was some kind of giant, once-in-a-century proclamation, Billy's personal ascension to video game immortality. Surely, there has to be some record of it, right?

Let's start with CESA, the organizers of TGS. You won't find any mention of Billy or Pac-Man on their day summary for "Business Day" Friday (or for the other two days):


http://tgs.cesa.or.jp/99autumn/english/info/info07.html

http://tgs.cesa.or.jp/99autumn/english/info/info08.html

http://tgs.cesa.or.jp/99autumn/english/info/info09.html

That's not a Google-translated page. That's their English language coverage of their own event. Surely they would have given a nod to the official coronation of America's newest Neil Armstrong [snicker], either before or after the cosplay contest.

CESA also had a news page, which included an actual industry award ceremony for indie game developers, but still no mention of any "of the Century" awards [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991109...nfo/index.html

Let's keep looking. Last installment, we saw plenty of media outlets that took no interest at all in whatever Billy Mitchell was up to on the Namco stage. But some outlets did cover his appearance. We'll start with British gaming magazine Edge, which had a presence at TGS. In their November issue, on their seventh page of print coverage, they relayed how they just happened to catch our aspiring big shot on the Namco stage on their way out the door Friday evening (as seen on page 59 here) [S19]:


https://segaretro.org/File:Edge_UK_078.pdf

Hmmm, they seemed to think Billy was simply being congratulated on getting "maximum points" on Pac-Man. (They didn't even call it a "perfect game"!) Nothing about any this-or-that of the century, though. That's odd.

In "Dot Six", we discussed that Billy's cameo was on "Business Day" Friday (no matter how much he talks about 70,000 screaming fans or whatever). But it turns out, not only was his appearance on Friday, he was indeed in the late slot. Check out Namco's own index page of news from Autumn '99 TGS [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20001029...-au/index.html

This is the TGS news straight from Namco. As you can see, they had a few things going on that weekend. It's odd though, if Namco proclaimed Billy the "Video Game Player of the Century" as he always claims, that it didn't get tagged as "Special News". In fact, this supposed proclamation isn't even in the title. But hey, at least he got an exclamation point! [S20]

That red hyperlink, as you probably guessed, takes one to a separate page discussing Billy's appearance. Unfortunately, it seems the photos associated with it were not captured by Internet Archive [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20030221...rt0917-06.html

I hope that "no break" doesn't mean Billy was going around telling everyone he didn't take any breaks during his game!

Some coverage seemed to interpret the plaque given to Billy as a "Pac-Man 20th Anniversary Award" (whatever that even means). You see that reflected in the December 1999 issue of Gamer's Republic magazine. The magazine dedicated ten pages to coverage of the Autumn '99 Tokyo Game Show, featuring highlights from each developer. Again, Sony's unveiling of the Playstation 2 was front and center, with new fare for the Sega Dreamcast also getting multiple pages. Then at the end, after Enix and Capcom, you could find the following blurb for Namco:


https://archive.org/details/Gamers_R...e/n93/mode/2up

Let's read that again:

A highlight at the Namco booth was the bestowing of the Pacman 20th Anniversary Award to Billy Mitchell, Jr, from Hollywood, Florida.

Wow. Interesting.

GameSpot Japan, operating under the domain of ZDNet, also had a main landing page for Autumn '99 TGS coverage, seen here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000815.../gamespot/tgs/

The page features 71 distinct news updates on TGS, starting with the convention's initial announcement in May, through Wednesday, September 22. This includes 49 news items specifically posted during the three days of the convention (September 17-19). If you search the page for Billy's name, you won't come up with any headlines, but if you scan through them, you will find this [GT]:


Note the date 9/19. Pac-Man's 20th anniversary was apparently so low-priority for them, they didn't even bother to report on Billy's Friday appearance for two days. But after reporting on such high profile news as R-Type for Game Boy and the exciting events at "Kids Corner", they did finally put something together (with the site now falling under the domain of Japanese site ITmedia). Here is a professional translation:

The 20th Anniversary of Pac-Man in '99

Namco at the Tokyo Game Show

A perfect playthrough of Namco’s Pac-Man was achieved in July for the first time ever in the world. To commemorate this, Billy Mitchell’s award ceremony was held in tandem with the 20th Anniversary of Pac-Man in ’99 celebrations at the Namco booth during the Tokyo Game Show.

The award ceremony opened with a spectacular birthday song and dance celebrating Pac-Man's anniversary. Mitchell, coming all the way to Japan for the award, stepped up on stage shortly after.

Mr. Nakamura, Namco Chairman and President, was also at the ceremony. He presented a commemorative shield to Mitchell, saying, "I am grateful to Billy for making such an historic achievement on Pac-Man’s 20th anniversary!"

Mitchell also had a heartfelt message, telling everyone, "Thank you very much for this award. I feel as though it represents the 20 years of love from millions of fans. Thank you for bringing this wonderful game to the world."

https://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/games/new...19/news04.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20000824...19/news04.html

Awww, that's sweet. Billy says the "award" really goes to Pac-Man players everywhere. Perhaps the real "Video Game Players of the Century" were the friends we made along the way.

In the interest of transparency, our attempts to get a proper translation for this page were frustrated by a couple snafus. Our first professional translation (which can be seen in supplemental) [S21] seemed to be under the impression that it was Billy who presented an award. (This is complicated by the fact that Billy could be considered part of the TG contingent with Walter which did indeed present "Game of the Century" to Namco, although we doubted that's what this piece was referring to.) Also, both our first translation and Google characterized the "20th anniversary" presentation as being specifically about Billy's score. However, as we saw from media coverage, particularly in "Dot Six", there was an extended "Happy birthday Pac-Man" sequence in the show, with many media outlets covering the presentation making no note of Billy's score or his appearance whatsoever. The above translation, which was more expensive and was verified, is more in-line with what was reflected in other media reports, with Billy's appearance being said to be "in tandem with" the "20th anniversary" commemoration (which itself was a tie-in to the Playstation game).

However, here's where we get into a bit of semantics, complicated by the language barrier. What would you call that thing Namco gave Billy, with the engraving. A "plaque"? A "trophy"? An "award"? Any of those are technically accurate. In Japanese, the word used often auto-translates to "shield". However, to call it an "award" adds a certain connotation, a winning of something rather than being honored for something. This is made more complicated by the fact that one can be "honored" for previously "winning" something. Your home town can "honor" you for "winning" a gold medal, but that does not mean your home town gave you that award. Now, if they gave you the key to the city or something along those lines, then yes, that's something the city gave you. You could even call that an "award". But that still doesn't make your city council the International Olympic Committee.

This comes up again in a Japanese magazine called Game Machine, whose news summary from November 1 included a bit about Billy's appearance at TGS. Here's a professional translation of this segment as well:

Namco invited Billy Mitchell (American), who took six hours to complete the entire game of Pac-Man (1980) on the company's TV game console, to the company's booth at the Tokyo Game Show 99 Autumn (September 17-19) and presented him with a commemorative plaque. Mitchell achieved the highest score ever in Pac-Man on July 4, and it will be included in the official record. The event with Mitchell was also held at the company's Wonder Park store. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Pac-Man, Namco will release the game "Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary" for PlayStation on November 2.

The photo caption also refers to it as a "commemorative plaque":


https://www.ampress.co.jp/backnumber/bn1999.11.01.htm

My research colleague made a similar note of the choice of words, albeit through the translation:

So the language used by the magazine is noteworthy -- the presentation of the "commemorative plaque." That's a very clear description of what Mitchell was handed, rather than an "award" which isn't completely wrong but does suggest the "winning" of a contest as opposed to recognition or remembrance of an event, which in this case would be Mitchell's Pac-Man high score at Funspot on July 3.

This is important because (as we will see) Billy likes to paint himself as having received a varying number of "awards" at Tokyo Game Show. But we should be clear what meaning of "award" we are talking about. They gave him a commemorative plaque. It's neat! It looks nice and shiny. But again, the only attribution or context given is along the lines of it being either a recognition of his perfect score, or a Pac-Man "anniversary award". No combination of words totaling "player" or "gamer" or "of the century" are anywhere in this coverage. You would think that would have garnered a mention either before or after the direct quote from Billy about his award going out to Pac-Man fans everywhere.

Let's circle back to that bit from GameSpot Japan -- this time, the basic Google Translate version of the same page (including the word "shield"):


Any way you slice it, GameSpot made no recognition of Billy being any kind of newly christened "Player of the Century", whatsoever.

But you know what? That's okay, because Twin Galaxies went ahead and told everyone they did anyway [S22]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20010816...eaking_news.pl

Back on the English side, we have Atari Headquarters, which printed a news blurb about Billy's trip to Japan, mistakenly lauding him as still the only player to complete a perfect score of Pac-Man:


http://www.atarihq.com/news/1999/index.html

But once again, our mulleted missionary of electronic entertainment stands unfrocked.

Could Billy at least get some home field advantage in his local paper? Apparently not! Here's how the South Florida Sun-Sentinel described the occasion, using the Associated Press photo:


https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/238949527/

(It's a neat pun, but I'm not sure I'd want to be known as "Plaque Man".)

But don't worry! Once again, Twin Galaxies just went ahead and stuffed a bunch of words into the newspaper that weren't there, including that Billy received "numerous awards" from Namco:


If you search that entire TG "Breaking News" page (covering 1998 through 2001), you'll find only two instances of "Player of the Century", both attributed to coverage from news outlets which did not mention anything of the sort. And while the selective wording does not outright say the title was bestowed by Namco, that is the message being delivered by the framing of the title around the Namco presentation at the Tokyo Game Show. And of course, this manufactured news had nowhere near the footprint as the perfect score news in July.

My research colleague adeptly summarized the situation as follows:

I'm beginning to think that Mitchell's visit was basically unnewsworthy... This isn't a complete shock given the overarching interest of the media and show goers - checking out the latest in video game goodness, particularly the PS2. But the complete absence of Mitchell video coverage would be more curious to me if he was actually given this "Player of the Century Award." You would think giving this distinction to a dude from Florida for playing a 20 year old video game would have been a tad more controversial in the Japanese gaming circles and the media. As much as Mitchell likes to flaunt his American pride, there is also Japanese national pride, and you can be sure that Namco presenting such a singular distinction to an American with zero profile in Japan would have created a documentary footprint reacting one way or the other to it (both printed and video coverage). The absence of any controversy, let alone coverage of this unprecedented award, would be in keeping with something much more low profile like having Mitchell onstage for a brief segment to receive a Pac-Man plaque to commemorate his high score back in July.

We can even fast-forward a month after TGS, when Billy's name comes up in a round of various "20 years of Pac-Man" pieces in late October, such as in the Daily Press from Newport News, Virginia [S23]:


https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/237757451/

Among a host of references to the cultural impact of Pac-Man as well as the new Playstation game, the piece mentions Billy Mitchell, his claimed perfect score of 3,333,360, but makes no mention of any subsequent Namco awards for this feat. Once again, this quick stage appearance wasn't even worth an acknowledgment.

PRESS "F"

So where is this massive media footprint we ought to be finding? Did literally any outlet in 1999, anywhere, report Billy as being crowned "Player of the Century" at the Tokyo Game Show? C'mon, Billy's story is on life support at this point. We've gotta find something!

Well, we did find two items. One outlet -- the "news" page on the Game Informer website -- ran a story in November 1999 titled "Game of the Century crowned". (That's "game", not "gamer".) The article was overtly facetious, describing a "controversy" that arose when Pac-Man, the character, "allegedly punched an unidentified reporter". The article then continues by suggesting that Pac-Man won the honor of "Game of the Century" by beating out "Spin the Bottle", "Pog" (lol), and "Heads Up, Seven Up". The article concludes:


http://web.archive.org/web/200010140...fm?NEWS_ID=164

A Wilt Chamberlain joke, a pun on "Player", and of course the biggest laugh, a deadpan line referring to Billy's "domination of the '80s gaming scene, chronicled in Guinness Book of World Records". [S24] Who writes this stuff?

So right away, it would be pretty thin ice for Billy and his friends to even try claiming this as serious contemporaneous reporting of Billy being awarded "Video Game Player of the Century" in Japan. But even if they tried, this still falls apart. For starters, it appears the part about Billy was added in later. The joke article was listed among daily updates on November 9, 1999, but a notice two days later speaks of an "amendment" adding the Billy Mitchell angle [S25]:


http://web.archive.org/web/200008152.../zzznov99.html

What spurred this amendment, to a joke article of all things? Was Walter Day working the phones again? "Hey, you left out the most important part!"

Due to timetables, November was around the time print media would be reporting on the events of the Tokyo Game Show from September, but it's about a month late for contemporary online reporting. Notably, on the exact same day as Game Informer's initial joke post, IGN (under the banner "FGN", or "Fastest Game News Online") posted their own news item about Pac-Man being named "Game of the Century", albeit with no mention of Billy:


http://web.archive.org/web/200008172...ews/10471.html

Gosh, that's so weird. I wonder why both outlets reported the same thing, both on November 9th...


http://web.archive.org/web/200008180...f_Century.html

Oh, right.

We'll take a closer look at this press release in a moment, but suffice to say, Walter Day's demonstrated ability to squeeze out media mentions paid dividends again, netting him a reference (albeit a joke one) to Billy's "Player" award, on the back of a story ostensibly about Pac-Man and the title of "Game of the Century".

But that joke article from Game Informer wasn't the only favorable coverage Walter was able to cajole with this November 9 press release. [S26] In this 2017 interview, also hosted by Game Informer, Walter Day described a coverage spread in Vending Times, along with a rare post-1999 reference to the "Game of the Century" award for Pac-Man (at 31:50):

When I was with Vending Times magazine, which is one of the ancient, ancient... it goes back seventy, eighty years, Vending Times magazine out of New York City, they did a huge, colorful, [...] multiple page spread on me and Billy with Masaya Nakamura, who recently passed away, shaking his hands, and giving him [an] award, where we issued an official proclamation declaring Pac-Man the "Game of the Century". And Namco was blown over, and... there was some beautiful, beautiful articles and pictures in Vending Times, and I said to them "Wow, you really gave us a lot of attention here." And the editor looked at us surprised and says "Well, this was a big story! This was a big deal what you guys did!" So that is one of my fondest moments, and of course in that same... same weekend, Billy was up on the stage, being recognized as the gamer of the century by Nasaya... Masaya Nakamura.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu7ujI_jqrk

Acquiring a copy of this Vending Times spread proved to be no small feat. At least ten good men lost their lives bringing it across the line. But we did acquire it in time for our publication schedule, and I can confidently say without hyperbole that it represents the single worst piece of so-called "journalism" in all of human history. (Okay, maybe just video gaming journalism history.)

The full spread can be seen in today's supplemental material, [S27] but as we will demonstrate, it's effectively just the Twin Galaxies press release from November 9th, dressed up and reframed as original third-party reporting. There isn't even a byline in the VT write-up, though I can understand why no one would have wanted their name attached to that travesty of print. [S28]

Before we delve in, we should be clear that this was printed in the "November" issue of Vending Times. One might skeptically ask "Well wait, since publications are typically future-dated, wouldn't that mean this actually predates the November 9th TG press release?" (Even though as we will see, the TG release is quite obviously the source.) However, being an industry publication, Vending Times used more exact dating. Issues were circulated on the 25th day of a given month, and were dated with a timespan of thirty or so days. Thus, the "November" issue was actually the "November 25 -- December 24" issue. See for instance this September 2001 article about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, attributed to the issue dated September 25th through October 24th:

https://web.archive.org/web/20011214..._terrorist.htm

While full print versions of Vending Times are hard to come by online, a clear example can be seen in this October 1989 issue, simply identified as "October 1989" on the front cover, which featured a story about the October 17th San Francisco "World Series" earthquake on page 30:

https://archive.org/details/VendingT...e/n29/mode/2up

Online material from Vending Times published in the year 2000 shows this same practice was in place ten years later, helping confirm that the Vending Times spread we are about to review was indeed published after the Twin Galaxies press release was circulated. [S29]

With that established, let's get back to the fun stuff. The spread starts by carrying over the "Tokyo" location from the TG press release, while adding that Walter Day "flew here last month" to present the "Game of the Century" award:


So right away, the author's sincerity is cast in doubt (unless of course VT's anonymous staff writer was indeed conveniently based in Tokyo, for some reason).

This passage, rewritten in the VT author's voice, is a beat-for-beat reproduction of the opening of the TG press release:


Even worse, the author mangles and reconstructs multiple direct quotes from Walter Day and John Hardie compared to the original TG press release (shown first):


Speaking as a journalist myself, that's difficult to even look at.

Notice also the missing quote mark around VT's insertion of "he contends" into Walter Day's quote. Sure, everyone does a tpyo now and then, but it's worth noting where these errors are coming from. While VT did correct a few typographical errors present in TG's work, they introduced some of their own, while also retaining some of TG's mistakes (such as correcting only one "its" in this disfigured John Hardie quote):


I can't imagine Vending Times called up John Hardie for an original quote for what was otherwise a note-for-note repeat of TG's press release, much less that Hardie gave nearly identical quotes while adding "Oh by the way, of those two times I said 'its', as a contraction of 'it is', make sure only one of those includes an apostrophe."

These butchered quotes are presented without qualification, as if they represent Walter's and John's original spoken words. Also, while some quotes or portions of quotes from the TG press release are paraphrased, no non-derivative quotes are added by Vending Times, further establishing the TG piece as the original work. See, for example, this reframing of Walter Day's silly chess argument seen back in "Dot Four":


Similarly, the TG release contained only one quote from Billy, which VT turned into a paraphrase:


The only original contribution by the VT author is this short segment on Pac-Man's identity, trailing off from Billy's comments about Mickey Mouse, which has no direct corollary in the TG release:


While it's admittedly fun to dunk on some garbage piece of deadline copy buried in some industry magazine from twenty years ago, authored by someone who I envision wearing a paper sack over their head, the important matter here is how this Vending Times piece represents an early payoff of Walter Day's misrepresentation of events. The TG press release does make clear, at first, that the "Player" award was given at Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas:


The passage trails on with Hardie's justification of Pac-Man as "Game of the Century", as seen earlier. While the press release says it was Hardie who "signed the awards on behalf of the CGE", it fails to mention TG's own role in bestowing that title.

At any rate, later in that same piece, the TG author starts spinning complete fiction:


Notice the conflicting accounts here. It was Hardie and CGE in August who "crowned" Billy the "Player of the Century", but he was also "crowned" as such in September? And it was also Nakamura who "presented" the award to Billy?

The Vending Times author made no apparent attempt to reconcile this doublethink, and instead simply repeated what the press release told them. First, a nominal acknowledgment of CGE's role in bestowing these titles on both Pac-Man and Mr. Mitchell:


(As an aside, the claim introduced by TG and repeated by VT that CGE was "the industry's only annual event that celebrates the history of electronic entertainment" was not true, with the Coleco enthusiast convention AdamCon going back to 1989. [S30])

The two headlines accompanying the Vending Times spread focus on Pac-Man, the game. As with the TG press release, the Billy news rides on the coattails of Pac-Man being named "Game of the Century". But later on, VT provides a description of Billy's "award" which is every bit as pretzelled as the accompanying handshake photo:


Lest you think Vending Times was privy to some super-secret information which they used to inform their otherwise-ripoff of TG's press release, the caption with this photo demonstrates their mistaken impression that the Pac-Man plaque was the "Player of the Century" award:


It's no wonder Walter wishes to talk up the Vending Times coverage of Billy's appearance at the Tokyo Game Show. For all intents and purposes, he wrote it!

And there you have it. That's your media footprint: two pieces, both running with Walter Day's press release at face value, and one of them isn't even trying to be serious. Wouldn't such a singular and monumental honorific, allegedly witnessed by media and industry attendees at a publicized convention, be worthy of a similar media footprint as a maxout score done at some arcade somewhere?

It's odd as well how the Twin Galaxies press release didn't appear until over a month after the Tokyo Game Show, as compared to the "perfect score" news in July which Walter Day was only too happy to drop within hours of it allegedly happening. Why the delay? Wouldn't this exciting news of Namco "crowning" Billy Mitchell the "Player of the Century" be something they would immediately be excited to share with everyone?

What cannot be overlooked is that, while timely coverage may be good for accurate reporting, the passage of time brings with it the fogginess of memory. Attendees who may have witnessed Billy's appearance on "Business Day" have long since gone home, forgetting the particulars of what they saw in the business of their day-to-day lives (assuming they had any particular interest in the presentation they witnessed in the first place). Much like a plaque being held just out of range of legibility, events invoked just out of range of clear recollection become an open canvas, upon which any assertive voice can ascribe whatever story they wish to tell.

THE TRANSFERENCE

Folks, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to think Billy Mitchell wasn't actually "crowned" the "Video Game Player of the Century" in Japan after all.

But don't worry. Walter Day always has a plan.

And with that, we come to a process I call "The Transference". Strap in, and watch as a certificate from Billy's close friend gets transmogrified via Billy's and Walter's ever-escalating storytelling into a coronation on the authority of the Japanese video gaming industry itself.

Let's start with the Twin Galaxies press release. As we've seen, it begins by attributing the authority behind the "Player of the Century" title to John Hardie and CGE (while leaving out TG's own involvement), before spinning off an alternate origin story for that same accolade:


Contrast that with the following two versions of the story, straight from Billy. We believe these to be the first two iterations of his full Pac-Man / Tokyo Game Show story, and they both read noticeably differently than the versions he tells today. First up, over a month after their TGS coverage, GameSpot did finally get around to chatting with Billy on November 10. [S31] Here, he takes a mid-sentence break from his self-flagellation to describe the origins of his "Player of the Century" award, with a little English on it of course:


https://web.archive.org/web/20000306...an/p11_01.html

The choice of language is weird. It does make clear that the award was from CGE and TG, but suggests the award was then re-presented to Billy on stage at TGS (which we have no evidence of). [S32] As my research colleague observed from this interview:

Mitchell acknowledges that the POTC award was from CGE 99 but he also claims that "This award was also presented to me by Mr. Masaya Nakamura onstage at the Tokyo Game Show in front of a crowd of thousands." I'm not sure if we'll ever find footage - I have to say it sounds super weird that Nakamura would hand over a certificate to Mitchell that has nothing to do with NAMCO or its commemorative plaque.

Around this time, Billy participated in another interview, which resulted in a one-page feature in the December 1999 issue of the UK edition of the Official Dreamcast Magazine. (Why this was in a British magazine dedicated to a Sega home console, I couldn't tell you.) This "feature", with the headline "You know you've hit the big time when... you're named as the player of the century", was merely an extended quote from Billy, recalling the events of the previous few months. [S33] Here he's referring to the aftermath of his trip to Funspot in July:


https://archive.org/details/ODMUK02/page/n103/mode/2up

This is a bit different than the later versions of the story we're all used to, and from that GameSpot interview. It's still not quite the actual truth, but it's much closer than the press release from early November. You could say that Billy wasn't given an "award" for "being the world's greatest Pac-Man player" exactly, but he was given a plaque commemorating his top score, which is close enough. If that was the extent of Billy's storytelling flourishes, we wouldn't be here discussing it. And this time, Billy does fairly make a point to distinguish that "award" from the "Player" award given at Classic Gaming Expo, noting them as being two different things.

Given lead times for traditional print media, these two Billy interviews were likely conducted around the same time the TG press release was written. In one version, the two awards are altogether different. In another, the "Player" award is the creation of CGE and TG, with the award "also presented" to him at TGS. That leaves the TG press release as the first piece of published media to fully, and without reservation, introduce the claim that Billy was "crowned the Player of the Century" at the Namco booth by Masaya Nakamura.

So who wrote that press release? It seems unlikely that Billy did, as he doesn't seem to do a lot of writing. Even his print interviews are almost always (if not exclusively) dictations of spoken conversations. It could've been Rachael, or another one of Walter's interns at Twin Galaxies or "Sidha Printing History Association" or some other venture of his. The email address given does indicate a "Jim" at Twin Galaxies may have been involved (although the page also includes contact info for Walter Day directly). [S34] But it seems very weird for one of these interns to just add a bunch of stuff that didn't happen, and then publish it under Walter's nose without his knowledge.

The most obvious answer is that it was Walter Day, either feeding the info to the author, or writing the press release himself, as he has done in many of his ventures. And if that's true, that makes Walter Day the public originator of the "Billy Mitchell was crowned Player of the Century in Japan" lie. Billy was telling two different interviewers versions approximating the truth, while at the same time Walter Day was deciding "It would be better if we started telling everyone it was Namco's thing."

It's one thing for Namco to honor Billy's Pac-Man score, but it would be silly to think they bestowed on Billy a "Century" award (implying recognition of an entire career) based on scores for two games by Nintendo, one by Atari, and one by Data East. And it's not as if Namco themselves were confused about Billy's presence at Tokyo Game Show. Here again is Namco's splash page for Billy's visit [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20030108...c20/index.html

Of course, it wasn't long before both Billy and Walter got on the same page about this, and from then on, you barely heard a peep about the Classic Gaming Expo. On November 24, just two short weeks after the previous press release about Billy, a new TG press release announced Billy's split screen bounty, at least in part in an apparent effort to squeeze that year's Pac-Man news for every drop they could get. (And it worked, with this bounty receiving further newspaper coverage into December.) [S35] In this press release, TG's description of the award was shortened to this:


http://web.archive.org/web/200008160...Man_Prize.html

Walter Day was soon verbalizing this narrative himself, such as at the second annual Funspot tournament the following June (as heard on Back in Time, at 10:50):

Whenever you talk about the most famous players, of course the one who's always at the top of the list is Billy Mitchell, you know, who people consider the world's most famous video game player. And he's... was the first person to get a perfect score on Pac-Man. And he was also proclaimed the Video Game Player of the Century. He got his award while he was at the Tokyo Game Show, in Tokyo, last September, 1999. Sorta like polishing off the century by proclaiming him the player of the century.

https://archive.org/details/bit06152000h

There is at times some interesting choice of language used by Walter Day and old Twin Galaxies. Sometimes Billy is "proclaimed", sometimes he's "declared", often he is "crowned". [S36] As we've seen, none of these characterizations are reflected in the permanent media covering the event. Other times, the language used is softer, suggesting Billy was "introduced", or "received recognition", as "Player of the Century" at the Tokyo Game Show. Such phrasing is still a stretch, and seems intended to mislead, but may be technically accurate, in that someone at some point probably brought up Billy's recent trip to Classic Gaming Expo. Technically, all it would take for such a statement to be true is for Day to tell their translator "Hey, did you know my friend Billy here was declared 'Player of the Century' by the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard?" Boom, he has now "received recognition", from Walter, of whatever title Walter chose to give him. If they could get someone else to mention or even ask about this accolade, all the better.

One of my research colleagues made the following observation around the language used:

Some of the TG spin around the POTC claims that Mitchell was "introduced/proclaimed as the Video Game Player of the Century at the Tokyo Game Show by Namco." Now a normal person would hear that and say, "Oh, Namco bestowed this award upon Mitchell. Impressive." But no, it's very possible/likely that Nakamura, when sharing the stage with his guest, took a few moments to introduce this generally unknown American to the Japanese audience, and briefly recapped his "achievements," including his recent CGE 99 POTC award, which is also cited on Namco's bio page for Mitchell. See? He was "introduced" as POTC.

In fact, courtesy of the aforementioned Edge Magazine coverage, we may even have a photo of the moment Nakamura read a prepared biography of Billy, no doubt provided by Walter Day (before translation to Japanese), which would of course include a reference to Day's and Hardie's selection of Billy as their choice for "Player of the Century" [S37]:


This choice of terminology worked well, as mainstream media (who were wholly reliant on Mr. Day for official competitive video gaming facts and statistics), and even many in dedicated gaming media, received and repeated the message that was intended. [S38] At "Coronation Day" in January 2000, the host of Back in Time was already describing the award the way Twin Galaxies was reporting it (at 57:20):

Before I turn you loose, you mentioned your trip to Japan a little bit earlier, where a very impressive award was bestowed upon you, specifically "Player of the Century" award.

You can hear Billy interject with one word: "Correct".

https://archive.org/details/bit01112000

We see another early example in August 2000, when the Chicago Tribune printed original coverage of Classic Gaming Expo 2000, once again in Las Vegas. Front and center is a photo of Billy and Walter, speaking in what appears to be the same dining hall as the previous year, along with the provided caption:


https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/170533304/

It was around the year 2001 that Twin Galaxies underwent a website overhaul, along with an apparent effort to fill in the gaps in their list of past media mentions, which brings more of these descriptions into play. [S39] If one was just searching around, one might find the following Twin Galaxies posting, apparently dated September 17, 1999 (the same day as Billy's appearance on the Namco stage), along with the claim that Billy "received recognition as 'The Player of the Century'":


https://www.twingalaxies.com/content...NAMCO-in-Tokyo

https://web.archive.org/web/20160506...NAMCO-in-Tokyo

However, a closer look shows this is the same text we saw earlier from TG's "Breaking News" archive page, where Twin Galaxies ascribed claims to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel which were not found in the printed paper.

https://web.archive.org/web/20010816...eaking_news.pl

You can also tell this item was backdated by the way it refers to alleged news coverage printed the following day in the United States, fourteen hours behind Japan.

This retroactive language is never identified as such, being seamlessly stitched into what on the surface appears to be the fully documented TG archive. In this way, we are given a glimpse of Walter Day's own attempts to effectively rewrite history, with language introduced in 2001 being attributed to 1999, sitting on the same page as last week's current events with what at a later date appears to be an uninterrupted chronology in between. Filling in such a news list after the fact wouldn't be so much of an issue if the attributions being made were accurate; however in these cases, they were not.

One early casualty along the Road to Transference was Pac-Man's "Game of the Century" award. While it does appear as a separate item on the above linked "Breaking News" page from 2001, later references to it are few and far between. As noted in "Dot Five", even later TG head referee Robert Mruczek seemed unaware of this award in 2005:

https://web.archive.org/web/20051112...x?c=19&id=1165

The fact that Twin Galaxies produced two such "Game of the Century" certificates only makes it more peculiar that we would seldom hear of this interaction again. As my colleague remarked:

It's strange that Mitchell or Day - as far as I know - have never chosen to consistently share a story around the presentation of the Game of the Century award to Nakamura. Here's an interaction that we have proof transpired - a photo "off the stage" with Mitchell, Day, and Nakamura together. But yet, this proud moment in TG history, the first time an award has been presented to a Japanese CEO to a large company like Namco, doesn't get any air time in the tales as part of that trip. I mean, Mitchell was right there BESIDE Nakamura holding his own TG certificate. Pretty cool moment if we're to believe that meeting Nakamura was a big deal. A little story to share around how the photo came about would seem tailor made for an audience or interview.

Getting back to Walter Day's one true love, as we've seen, the early days of "Player of the Century" promotion were fraught with selective wordplay and rhetorical legerdemain. But by now, two decades later, Billy and his crew have long since dropped any attempts to dance around the story they want to tell. Here's Billy once again, from his 2020 Guinness reinstatement video, making it clear what you are to believe happened (at about 1:50):

That spirit, that passion to want to be the best, took me throughout North America, took me to Europe, took me to Asia where, in 1999, after having performed history's first perfect Pac-Man, on stage, at the Tokyo Game Show, in front of 70,000 people, Masaya Nakamura presented me the video game player of the century award.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2x6ZrWUkWo

In Exhibit D (from 2018), at 2:40, Billy is asked directly "Where did the moniker 'video game player of the century' actually come from?" No getting around that, right? He'll have to mention Classic Gaming Expo now, right? Well, here was his response:

I was in Japan, at The Tokyo Game Show. I was flown there by Masaya Nakamura. It was... September of 1999. He is considered.... He passed away a couple of years ago... He is considered the godfather of video games. He was the founder and CEO of Namco. His influence in the industry stretched far beyond that, of course. He was... probably the person who was instrumental in creating JAMMA, Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturing Association, which is basically the association of video game designers, manufacturers, anything and everything that's in Japan that is video games. And there, on stage, at The Tokyo Game Show, with a list of accolades that went back to as far as 1982, and as recently as the perfect Pac Man in July of '99, he crowned me the Video Game Player of the Century.

One of my research colleagues had this to say:

Mitchell is asked probably the most direct question I've ever heard/seen posed about the origins of the Video Game Player of the Century. "Where did the moniker come from?" But does Mitchell give a direct response? Not on your life. Instead, we get this meandering detour-laden response, waxing on about godfathers and JAMMA. You almost sense he's trying to run out the clock before finally delivering his response -- getting enough words between the direct question and his reply so the interviewer really isn't aware that the "answer" really isn't the answer that was sought.

And that brings us to the next evolution in the story. By this point, the credentials behind Billy's award had already been stretched to the point of snapping. But apparently, that still didn't satisfy him, so he added another layer. Billy would have you believe that the "Player" award wasn't just courtesy of Walter Day, or Classic Gaming Expo, or Namco, or even Masaya Nakamura himself. He would have you believe that it was a collaboration of the powers-that-be at the Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, or JAMMA. [S40] Here Billy is, in his signed lawsuit declaration, dated June 22, 2020:


And in this January 2019 interview posted to Nerd Jock Blog:


https://nerdjockblog.com/2019/01/21/...illy-mitchell/

Walter Day is fully on board with this revision as well, although like Billy he didn't get the JAMMA acronym quite right. In September 2019, in his personal letter to Guinness accompanied by Billy's lackluster evidence packet and legal threat, Walter Day included the following testimony on page 3:


(We'll get to that bit about this supposed repeat performance of a perfect score in our next installment.)

The idea that Billy's "Player" award was a JAMMA directive is laughable, and of course not supported by any evidence. For one thing, as my colleague had remarked, it seems strange that the gaming industry of Japan, the global epicenter of video gaming, would name some American the "Video Game Player of the Century" without any nomination process, and in doing so snub all their home-grown talent. [S41] Also, it would've been odd for JAMMA to use the Tokyo Game Show for such an award, considering they hosted an annual event of their own called the "Amusement Machine Show" (now called the "Japan Amusement Expo"), which in 1999 was held... oh, look at that, one week earlier [S42]:


https://segaretro.org/Amusement_Machine_Show_1999

https://segaretro.org/index.php?titl...29.pdf&page=35

The only thing that appears to justify this element of the story is 1) Masaya Nakamura was, at one point, chairman of JAMMA, and 2) Billy's willingness to simply tell any story he thinks he can get away with telling. [S43] As a research colleague delved into this notion:

To entertain the scenario, imagine that Nakamura - for whatever reason - held the TG Player of the Century award for a moment. Okay, cool story, you could tell people "the Father of Pac-Man touched this award" as a kind of "brush with great people" moment. That would be nice. But that's it. You can't perform alchemy on a certificate that was handed out at a small Friday night dinner in Las Vegas and change it into a shiny Namco/JAMMA award to match the glitz and excitement of Japan's largest gaming expo on-stage with Nakamura. To believe in such a scenario would require us to also accept that Nakamura transformed the TG Game of the Century certificate into a Namco/JAMMA one the moment he grabbed hold of it. For Mitchell's award, it's literally a case of "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Of course, now that we've seen his appearances at both Las Vegas and Tokyo, is it any wonder Billy of all people threw the former down the memory hole?


In a possible attempt to plug these holes, Billy has also referred to the "Player" award and the little Pac-Man plaque as two different awards, both bestowed on him in Japan. Here he is in a 2015 interview with Scene World Magazine, starting at about 8:00:

Shortly after the perfect score, Namco did a little bit of their own research, and then, they asked me for some evidence. They asked me for a video, they asked me basically for a little bit of a biography about myself, and of course I did exactly that. They then invited me to Japan. Absolutely, without kidding you, that is absolutely the highlight of my gaming career. To say I was treated like royalty is an understatement. I was there on stage at The Tokyo Game Show where I was presented an award, a Pac-Man award. I was also presented an award for "Video Game Player of The Century". Masaya Nakamura the father of Pac-Man, I cannot tell you the amount of respect, the goodness that he showed me. He is absolutely at the top of my list of men of just absolute distinction and class. I occasionally send him messages, and I hope the very best for him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yogBgrqY4FY

So let's see if we understand this new chain of events: Billy got a "Pac-Man award" on stage at Tokyo Game Show, but also, while they were backstage, Walter handed Billy his TG "Player" certificate for their photo op, and through the magic of storytelling, they go on to tell everyone he was "presented an award for 'Video Game Player of the Century'" in Japan? As one research colleague remarked:

If a Golden Globe winner for Best Actor - with trophy in hand - paused for a few photos on his way through the lobby of the Dolby Theatre before taking his seat for the Academy Awards ceremony, the captions for those photos wouldn't ever read "Academy Award Winner - Best Actor" -- as much as the actor may privately wish he could trade his trophy for the more desirable Oscar.

Lest you think this is simply a case of tricky language involving the TG certificate, Billy iterated another version in a February 2018 interview with Autofire Power Hour, with the "other award" being framed as a JAMMA initiative. At about 50:00, he says "I was flown to Japan for two reasons", before sidetracking for a while. At 54:40, he returns to his "two reasons" for going to Japan:

So I went to Japan, and yes, I did get that Pac-Man plaque. That was incredible. That gesture from the heart that he gave is... I'll make a fool of myself putting it into words. But the other award I received, that was the... Japanese... Amusement... Manufacturer's Association, and I was crowned the Video Game Player of The Century.

https://autofirepowerhour.com/2018/0...illy-mitchell/

Billy says he was flown to Japan for "two reasons", and neither was "to help Namco promote their new Playstation game". Instead, what was one commemorative plaque has become two awards. There's the one you see, the one in the photos, which only mentions his maxout score, and now there's a secret second award, which no one observed, which wasn't reported on at the time, which has never been photographed, and which he doesn't ever show anyone. And all Billy offers by way of proof is a photo of him standing on a stage with Masaya Nakamura, and his (Billy's) word.

In a 2003 interview with Retro Gaming Radio (published in '04), you can hear Billy boast about belittling some poor Namco stage guy, with some more racial innuendo thrown in for good measure (starting at 12:50) [S44]:

When I was in Japan, I'm standing on stage, and the emcee was standing there, and I walk out on stage, and he was what we'll call your standard Japanese man, which you'll understand in a minute. And I walk out on stage, and at 6'4" I'm towering above him looking down at him. And he says "Ah, Mr. Mitchell." He says, "You are very tall, good-looking man." And I look down and I says "I'm sorry, I can't say the same for you."

https://archive.org/details/rgry6/07...08+Part+02.mp3

But the important part is what comes after. When asked by the host if Billy has that exchange on tape, his quick answer is "Yeah, actually, I do."

Of course, no tapes of his appearance at Tokyo Game Show have ever been provided or shown to the public. If they were, it would be interesting what they might reveal about this Namco stage appearance to which so much of Billy's claimed legacy is attributed.

We have one last stop on the Transference Express. Check out this headline for the TG press release from November:


Does anything stand out to you?

Look again at the quote marks around just "Player of the Century". That was the title bestowed by Walter Day and John Hardie at CGE. That was what was printed on Billy's certificate. Walter Day added "Video Game", outside of the quotes, just to clarify that this was a video gaming title, and not for chess or baseball or lecherousness. Twice in the press release, Walter uses the term "Player of the Century", without that additive. And yet, for the first time, those words were put together in that sequence. (At a bird's eye view, those quote marks kinda give away the whole game, don't they?)

Note that a couple weeks later, in TG's press release for Billy's split screen bounty, Day reverted back to the shorter title. He had moved up to attributing this title wholly to Billy's appearance in Tokyo, but as far as expanding the phrasing, it seems he wasn't quite ready to take the leap yet:


http://web.archive.org/web/200008160...Man_Prize.html

Soon afteward, Billy had these bumper stickers printed. Notice what's slightly obscured by his signature:


http://www.arcaderestoration.com/med...stickerbig.jpg

Those were first distributed the following year after Billy's visit to Japan, in 2000. Of course, Billy didn't bother with those silly quote marks, or accuracy in general. After all, who was going to make a stink and correct him?

You have to admit, it's kind of hard to believe that Namco "crowned" Billy Mitchell "Video Game Player of the Century" when those words did not appear in that order anywhere until over a month after Billy returned from Japan.

From that point on, that expanded phrase became his pseudo-official, self-appointed title (soon adopted by Walter Day as well). [S45] In fact, Billy gets upset if you don't use the exact title he decided on for himself, as the host of Obsolete Gamer Show found out when he tried to specify which century this alleged honorific was for (at 54:10) [S46]:

Hey hey, why do you always... Why do you always want to rain on my parade? Who's the one that told you to throw in that "20th century" thing? It's... "video game player of the century". Forget that "20th".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfb_SBUh08o

Billy had a similar reaction to the host of Variant Newssource, after they said to Billy "You've been described as the video gamer of the century" (at 3:10):

Woah woah woah woah... What's this "described as" the video game player of the century? Okay... So I was flown to Japan, and I was given that honor... No, I was blessed enough that in July 1999, I scored a perfect score on Pac-Man, and at the close of the century, and as they looked at all the accolades from different people... Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association, JAMMA, headed by Namco, who created Pac-Man, flew me there. Without a doubt it was the honor of all time in the gaming world, and yes, they presented me with "video game player of the century".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mntdg7qY75Q

And poor John Hardie gets forgotten altogether. Legend has it he's still out there somewhere, still taking a break.

MONEY

Before we move on from this "Player of the Century" stuff, it's only fair to ask what role each party played in all of this misrepresentation.

Funspot clearly got a lot of promotion out of Billy's July score. [S47] For starters, they added a link to the TG press release right on their home page:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000302...spotnh.com:80/

And check out this gaudy display, as seen at the third annual Funspot tournament in 2001:


https://arcarc.xmission.com/Pictures.../funspot-6.jpg

Funspot had that large Billy poster (seen to the right of the larger banner) made up soon after his big score. [S48] It appears in multiple photos from "Coronation Day" 2000, including here, ironically in between Walter Day and Rick Fothergill:


https://web.archive.org/web/20040630.../FrameCD3.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20040619.../FrameCD2.html

Eventually that poster would be replaced with a small framed item, in what Funspot would call their "Classic Game Wall of Fame":


https://web.archive.org/web/20150206...t-classics.jpg

https://web.archive.org/web/20150206...lymitchell.jpg

Bob Lawton was certainly excited about the promotional opportunities, as seen in TG's "Star players break world records" press release from late August:


https://web.archive.org/web/20000126...k_Records.html

Ordinarily, such promotion of a big score at an arcade is not a problem, provided the score was authentic, and that it was achieved, as one would say, "the right way". We'll tackle the question of whether Billy's claimed perfect score was authentic later in "Dot Nine". As for doing things "the right way", Funspot's actions leave a lot to be desired. It's hard to believe neither Funspot manager Gary Vincent nor a single person among the arcade's staff were aware of the gentleman's agreement between Billy and Rick. [S49] What exactly do we make of their choice to collaborate in Billy's violation of that agreement? What do we make of their decision to keep Billy's visit a secret from Fothergill and the rest of the competitive gaming community, and how they went on to gain from that decision? Or how about their silence as Billy's stories about that day continued to get more and more fictitious ("Boston reporters" and such)? Or even worse, their more recent participation by way of signed statements in Billy's attempts to harass and sue innocent parties over his cheated Donkey Kong scores?

Namco's role is less direct than Funspot's. For starters, Namco doesn't track or authenticate high scores themselves. They're the ones who, as the saying goes, "just collect the quarters" (or rather, sell the machines to the people who collect the quarters). You don't need to take my word for it. Recall Billy's words from Exhibit A, as he describes the package he sent to Namco (at 22:50):

They wanted a video of the game, which we had. They don't know what they're lookin' at, anyway. They truly don't.

In 1999, Namco had every reason to think the score was legitimate, with the player, the arcade, and the "official scorekeeper" all confidently telling them the same thing. And that's assuming that was even a major concern for Namco at all, as in all likelihood they simply saw this publicity as an opportunity to promote their new Playstation game (as evidenced by their statements at the time, up to and including the text on Billy's plaque). As for Billy's outlandish stories about his time in Japan, one could point to the language barrier as a reason why Namco might never have caught on that they had worked with a serial liar. Perhaps David Bishop, the Namco executive Walter Day described as being "like family", was in a position to know the truth, but if he did, he didn't say anything. (Remember, he was inducted into Walter's International Video Game Hall of Fame in 2015.) It's also possible that each individual in the company, had they heard Billy's tall tales, probably assumed someone else knew the whole story they didn't. And even if some paper-pusher at Namco had noticed that Billy's fables weren't exactly honest, it's not as if the company would ever soil their reputation over a proactive war-of-words with a runaway raconteur whose promotional value had passed.

There is an important point to make with regards to Namco of today. Over time, Billy's story had ossified, becoming a backbone of accepted competitive gaming history, to the extent that even parties who would have had reason to question it did not. And while Billy never made another appearance at the Tokyo Game Show, after his career was revived with the release of King of Kong, the occasional Pac-Man promotional opportunity with Namco USA returned as well, most notably with the movie Pixels in 2015. It was around that time that Billy's score was included in a displayed timeline of Pac-Man history at the Chicago restaurant "Level 257" -- a fact that Billy was only too eager to include in his September 2019 legal threat:


The author of Billy's legal threat cites this as an endorsement of Billy's claimed perfect score, straight from "the creators of the game". As we've seen, Billy and Walter love to outsource their own authentication. Namco relied on TG's "adjudication", such as it was, and then are later cited by Billy and Walter as added corroboration. Walter declares Billy "Player of the Century", brings the certificate to Japan, and then somehow magically the title becomes Namco's creation all along. And just like that, a company like Namco is looped into the lie. [S50] They are given a choice of confronting and refuting it (which is unlikely, for reasons listed earlier), or else allowing it to pass, in which case the company becomes invested in the lie. Even worse, a failure to notice the lie gives these secondary parties no choice at all, especially if they unknowingly continue participation with those persons they failed to correct. Eventually, any acknowledgment of the lie becomes an acknowledgment of one's own complicity in it. (Such is the price of making deals with the wrong people, I suppose.)

Over time, the people at Namco who witnessed these goings-on in 1999 have moved on (with even Bishop leaving the company in 2017), replaced by younger people who know these stories only as long-accepted legend. The risk of writing an analysis like this is that some star-struck millennial working for Namco today, someone who was not even out of grade school in 1999, could jump in a Zoom chat with Mr. Pac-Man Movie Star himself, and say "Well, of course Billy Mitchell was crowned Video Game Player of the Century by Mr. Nakamura in front of 70,000 people. Everyone knows that!" And poof, just like that, such a claim would be "endorsed by Namco". While I cannot change the actions of Namco today (including their unfortunate choice to, at least as recently as late last year, continue collaborating with a proven cheater and malicious litigant), I can simply show that the historical record does not bear out these claims.

It's easy to be cynical where lies and money intersect. Sometimes that cynicism is justified, but sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. I'll leave it to the reader to decide Funspot's and Namco's role in perpetuating this blight on gaming history. However, the role of both Walter Day and Billy Mitchell seem crystal clear. As the calendar turned to 1999, Walter was effectively running Twin Galaxies off the corner of his desk, among all his other business card / vintage newspaper / celebrity yearbook / printing history projects he hoped could be the one to strike it big. Meanwhile, on any given day, Walter could connect his dial-up Internet and see headlines like "Pro gamers vie for big money" and "New gaming kings crowned", in reference to Quake II and Starcraft tournaments:


https://web.archive.org/web/20000816...,19831,00.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20000818...,19824,00.html

We don't have to guess that these news stories played a role in inspiring Walter Day to get in on the action. We have Walter's biggest cheerleader, in a May 2000 TG press release, making the connection in his own words:


http://forums.marpirc.net/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=4429

One can't help but notice the unending string of financial connections between Walter Day and Billy Mitchell. The Twin Galaxies arcade closed in 1984, with Walter in so much debt even the newspapers were laughing at him. Walter, Billy, and Billy's father announced intentions of opening up a massive arcade complex in Orlando, before returning to Ottumwa and reopening the TG arcade under Billy's stated ownership. Steve Harris' 1986 letter to Guinness cited Billy as "a 10% shareholder of Twin Galaxies to who Walter is indebted", while noting his impression that Billy was to take half of the $3,000 asked of him. Despite those financial losses, Walter Day tried to re-open his arcade yet again in 1995, this time backed by an unnamed "group of private investors", and once again, it closed up shop.

We know Billy was an investor in Twin Galaxies before 1999, and we know he was an investor in Twin Galaxies after 1999. And as we discussed in "Dot Five", when asked if Billy was a shareholder in 1999, Walter's answer was:

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

Absolute best case scenario, Walter Day decided on and issued a title so grandiose as "Player of the Century" to a close associate without even asking himself "Is this a conflict of interest?" (Because if he had asked himself that, he would immediately recall whether Billy was a stakeholder.) But the worst case scenario is so much more shocking. Between the frequent debts, the financial deferment to Billy, and the flimsy, half made-up justifications for why Billy and only Billy had to be "Player of the Century", you're left with the sobering possibility that this wasn't even about Walter doing something exceedingly generous for his longtime friend and colleague, but rather was an oblique acknowledgment of those financial obligations, with Billy becoming the beneficiary of something he could not simply buy for himself.

After "The Perfect Game", the subsequent promotion, and Walter's very own homegrown "Player of the Century", fortunes changed for little Twin Galaxies. No longer was Rachael being asked to sign off on each of Walter's pet projects. [S51] The media attention around "The Perfect Pac-Man" had garnered Twin Galaxies some serious financial investment. While attending the second annual Funspot tournament in June 2000, Walter discussed this growth of Twin Galaxies with the hosts of the Back in Time webcast (starting at 16:10):

You know, through all these years, I was the only person working at Twin Galaxies. It was essentially a one man show, but with the support of all the players. Now, there are about fifty people working on the Twin Galaxies project.

The host then comments on TG's presence at the event, to which Walter adds:

Yeah, there are really only a total of four of us here, but that's still an entourage compared to earlier years. But at the E3 show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which was held just a mere few weeks ago, we had eleven people from Twin Galaxies at that. We had TV crews, we had writing crews, we had people going around and talking to marketing people, we had about four different teams of people going around the whole place, getting stuff, and making tremendous connections. So there's a lot of amazing stuff going on with Twin Galaxies, because we got the backing of some serious financial backers, backing that allows us to have a staff, have programs, and implement all the different creative ideas we've ever had, but couldn't do before, including the... the whole program of offering thousand dollar prizes to champions who are going to break world record scores on specifically selected games.

https://archive.org/details/bit06152000h

Indeed, in December 2000, the Des Moines Register reported that a "KJ Investments" out of Philadelphia invested over a million dollars in Twin Galaxies and their burgeoning web presence:


https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/128335680/

Oddly, not an entire year later, Walter Day was suing these investors for a laundry list of claimed financial infractions. [S52] But hey, I assume they had a good run:


Billy proceeded to show off the plaque at subsequent gaming events, at least for a while. Such events included Coronation Day 2000 (top), the 2000 Classic Gaming Expo (bottom left), and the 2001 Video Game Festival at Mall of America (bottom right) [S53]:


Billy's self-proclaimed title also became the basis for extensive merchandising and name recognition over the years:


Which brings us back to the aforementioned bumper stickers from 2000, featuring the yellow ball, the expanded "Player" moniker, his claimed Pac-Man score, his signature, and his new-at-the-time website, perfectpacman.com. Billy registered that web domain in late 1999, though it doesn't seem like it ever got beyond the placeholder stage [S54]:

https://web.archive.org/web/20020802...ectpacman.com/

Billy still had these bumper stickers in 2007, at the Pac-Man World Championships [S55]:


More photos with celebrities. I suppose that's the moment when these bumper stickers became a Toru Iwatani / Namco / Tokyo Polytechnic University co-venture.

Lest you think these bumper stickers were giveaways, in the previously linked Back in Time webcast from June 2000, Billy described them as a fundraiser for overseas players to travel to Funspot (at 55:40) [S56]:

It's something that I spoke to Chris about, something he liked the idea of, so we're starting to do it. And that bumper sticker is the first step. It's something that people are buying here. They're buying it for $5. And again, that money's gonna go into the fund.

If you're wondering how selling Pac-Man merchandise worked out for Billy, he gives a possible indication in this December 2020 interview hosted by two young people from "Pac-Man Entertainment" (at about 39:10) [S57]:

Not every company has the heart... or the emotional attachment like Namco does with Pac-Man. A lot of companies, they produce a game, they make money off it, they move to the next one. If you want to... If you want to understand how much Namco loves Pac-Man, just try violating their intellectual property. You'll learn quick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0feW53grOI

The bumper stickers may not have worked out financially for Billy, but his newfound "ambassador" role sure did. Convention appearances, trips for his family. Being allegedly crowned "Video Game Player of the Century" sure didn't hurt! Here, courtesy of Billy's court filings, is a partial list of appearance fees he claims to have lost in 2018 due to the fallout from his Donkey Kong cheating scandal:


Nearly $80,000 in appearance fees, just in a single year, a whole nineteen years after his trip to Japan. [S58]

Think about that the next time you see that photo of him standing next to Masaya Nakamura.

QUITE A JOURNEY

So let's walk back through the steps this transference went through:

Namco develops and starts publicizing Pac-Man World for Playstation;

Meanwhile, Billy Mitchell gets a "perfect score" on original Pac-Man (or so it is claimed);

Walter and Billy and Namco USA start talking behind the scenes;

Namco uses the Billy score to talk about Pac-Man even more, tying it into their new game;

Walter Day and John Hardie award Billy "Player of the Century" in Las Vegas;

Namco brings Billy to Japan to participate in their TGS promotion for Pac-Man World;

Walter brings a new "Player" certificate to Japan, where he and Billy take some photos with it;

Namco gives Billy a plaque, which commemorates his visit to Japan, his Pac-Man score, and its role in promoting their new game;

In retellings, this plaque becomes the true "Player of the Century" award, given to him by Masaya Nakamura and Namco;

In further retellings, Billy's visit to Japan becomes a "coronation" dedicated to his greatness;

In yet further retellings, this award becomes two awards, the plaque everybody saw, and a super-secret award that no one reported on, and which has never been seen;

The source of the "Player of the Century" award goes from Walter Day and John Hardie to Masaya Nakamura to Namco to now the entire Japanese entertainment industry;

And of course, the reason for the award has become solely about recognizing Billy's supposed generosity and gaming prowess.

All we need is Mario himself to give Billy the keys to the Mushroom Kingdom. Or maybe his uncle who works at Nintendo can give him those.

Or as my colleague put it:

It certainly beats "I was invited to the Tokyo Game Show and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

Can you believe we still have two more innings to go? If you love stories that change over time, then "Dot Eight" is for you. Did Billy Mitchell really send out a press release predicting a perfect score on Pac-Man? Did he once fashion himself a Pac-Man speedrunner? Did he really do a super-secret perfect score during his visit to Japan? Find out next time!
ThanksProveAll, lexmark, The Evener, Rev John, Tompa and 1 others thanked this post
LikesBarra, ProveAll, lexmark, The Evener, Rev John and 2 others liked this post
Comments
Join us