ersatz_cats's Feed

09-27-2021 at 12:25 PM
Rate this Entry

The Video Game Fraud of the Century - Dot Eight

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

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


Last time, we covered Billy Mitchell's and Walter' Day's changing stories from their visit to Japan, as well as how they changed a cheap certificate from Walter's business printer into a once-in-a-century coronation ordained straight from the Japanese video gaming Illuminati. But today, we're going to delve into a whole 'nother round of shifting spiels and variable fantasies from the mind of Mr. Mitchell.

Recall the extended quote from Billy in the December 1999 issue of UK Dreamcast Magazine:

You see a number of the usual tropes, such as "the Holy Grail" and "I headed out to Funspot on July 1 this year because it's Canada's birthday". (Wait, I thought he said that was a coincidence?) We've already gone over how the media response trickled in weeks later, just like we've gone over Billy's mystification over why the split screen occurs. Here he says, when his game finished, there was "clapping, autograph-taking and cheering", which seems to be a pet line of his.

But there are also some elements from that iteration that would change later. For one, he told the actual truth about where his "Century" award came from (well, aside from leaving out the fact that it was his friend Walter Day who printed it). He tells the story about the kid unplugging the machines, adding that he "told them to get the camcorder ready" the next day. (Wait... So he wasn't recording the previous day?)

Of course, a good deal of it is still lies, just different twists on the lies before they were ironed out. And that's what we're looking at today: How various fables got crowd-tested and refined, and how a few more tall tales were later thrown in for good measure.


The changing stories reach back to before Billy's July trip to Funspot. Billy claims that, even before he left for Funspot, he announced that he would achieve his goal of a "perfect game" of Pac-Man on that trip. You see an early indication of this story later that same month, courtesy of his local South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Mixing it up with an American football analogy this time. Billy sure didn't borrow a lot from Joe Namath, not unless he invited the 1968 Baltimore Colts to come drive his face into the dirt any time he looked at the Pac-Man cabinet. [S1]

In his September 2019 legal threat, this supposed declaration was described as a "public announcement":

There's a lot of fun to be had with this item. What exactly was this "public announcement" of Billy's? Did he stand on a random street corner and whisper "Hey, kid, I'm gonna go play Pac-Man at Funspot"? Did he write it on some church white board? Did he say it at a loud rock concert where no one could hear him? Did he tell the story to some overworked cashier at Macy's as he signed his credit card slip, adding "Save that signature, it'll be worth something some day"? Technically, each of those would be a (dramatic air quotes) "public announcement".

In Billy's many retellings, this announcement is usually characterized as a proper "press release". Here he is switching back to a baseball analogy in Exhibit C, at about 41:10:

I sent a press release out sayin' I'm gonna do a perfect score. I mean, I'd be ruined if I didn't do it. When Babe Ruth pointed at the wall, what made him different was he pointed at the wall, and he hit it... he hit the ball beyond the wall. So I put so much pressure on myself, I had to get it right.

Nice of Billy to explain what a home run is. There's apparently no sports achievement in existence that Billy won't try to compare this to. Here he is, in the After 2 Beers podcast, at 53:30:

It was such a weight off my shoulders, cuz it had to be a perfect score, had to be first, it's considered the Holy Grail of video games. But I was so... cocky and arrogant, announcing that I was gonna do it. One in ten billion games, the play says two, but it's one in ten billion games, okay? And for someone to announce that? It's like absurd. It's like announcing you're gonna get four home runs an inning, in a World Series.

He mumbles a tiny bit there, but it sure sounded like he totally tried saying that getting this perfect score on Pac-Man is like hitting 36 home runs in a nine-inning World Series game. (The all-time record for home runs by a single player in a World Series game is three.)

In Exhibit D, at 55:40, Billy recalls a series of totally-not-made-up interactions he had with unnamed "media people" over this supposed announcement [S2]:

And the thing is, everyone's laughing. Media people are telling me "Well, that's never been done before." I said, "I know it's never... been done before. Because I've told you I'm never gonna do it." And you talk about cocky, guy says "Well..." he goes... you know... "You could lose." And I go "I could lose, but not..." I go "but not this time." He goes "Some people are betting against you." I says "Bet anything you want, don't bet your life."

You might be asking, what exactly was the fail condition for this supposed proclamation? What would've happened if Billy failed to achieve the perfecto? Well, he tells you what he would've done in Exhibit D, starting at about 56:20:

What most people don't know is, I announced I was going there, I announced I was doing it of course, and I was doing it at the busiest arcade, the largest arcade in the world, on the busiest weekend. But what I didn't tell people was, I bought the plane ticket there, I never bought a return ticket, because I didn't know how long it would take, because I wasn't coming home until I did it.

So there's not even any risk! His people can clearly run his business while he's away playing video games or traveling out of the country. Billy could just stay there, day after day after day, ignoring his family, playing through holidays if he has to, and just never leaving until he finally gets the score. (Hmmm, does that sound familiar at all?)

After the previous segment, Billy actually gets some rare push-back from the hosts, who are laughing at the premise being described to them. First, they ask if Billy would've stayed there for weeks, to which Billy's answer was "Yeah, if I had to." Billy then pivots into once again comparing himself to Babe Ruth, to which the host points out "He didn't get to stay at the plate for three weeks though, and keep trying." [S3] After some laughter, Billy responds "Yeah, well that's why I say I kept that part a secret." (Soooo..... this "public announcement" was a secret? What does that even mean!?!?)

And even this nonsense conflicts yet again with multiple statements that his announcement was specific to that weekend, concluding on Sunday, July 4. [S4] Here's Billy in Exhibit E, at 5:40:

After about six weeks, on July 1, which is Canada Day, I flew there, and I proclaimed that I was gonna do it, you know, before the Fourth of July.

So... he didn't buy his return ticket, and he was going to stay for weeks if he had to, but... also not?

Of course, this whole advance announcement story is undone by various statements from Billy over the years. In the UK Dreamcast Magazine story above, Billy describes calling "the various official bodies" the day of his score. (Does that mean his previous attempt was just practice?)

This supposed announcement is also quite out of character for the Billy Mitchell we know. In a 2003 episode of MTV's True Life, Billy described his plans to achieve a classic gaming feat like none other (at 5:10):

I had to begin to come up with something in my mind, in the video game world, that would be bigger and greater, that would draw more attention, more fame... I haven't shared the fact that I'm preparing for something with very many people. What it is I actually plan on doing, I haven't shared with anybody. I haven't even talked in my sleep about it. But what it is that I'm gonna do will be the final, final chapter in the world of competitive video game playing for me. And if it happens, the world'll know, more than they knew the perfect Pac-Man game. We'll see.

Billy was similarly tight-lipped with Retro Gaming Radio around the same time (at 8:10):

And the truth of the matter is, somebody goes "Oh well, come on, who knows about it?" Honest. Nobody knows about it. Not a single person.

That approach also lines up with Pat Laffaye's recollection from speaking with Gary Vincent the day after Billy's score, with Gary conveying that he was "sworn to secrecy":

As for this supposed advance announcement being an actual "press release", there's no record of any such press release being found, or having been published, or being referenced in any subsequent coverage by the same news outlets Billy would have presumably sent it to. Of course, we can't outright prove a negative on such a broadly interpretable claim, but we can show that this supposed "press release" was not from Twin Galaxies, who kept a running record of their press releases, including multiple ones they did send out on Billy's behalf after his July trip:

It is also not reflected in TG's diligent archive of any and all appearances in the media [S5]:

In fact, in Exhibit E, at 6:00, Billy goes so far as to say this press release was the reason crowds of spectators and media showed up for his game:

Now, in doing it, I sent out a press release sayin' I was gonna do it, so there were crowds and crowds of people there. There was even media there.

It's one thing for Billy to claim he sent out a press release, and that every news outlet everywhere looked at it, said "WTF is this crap?", and chucked it in the waste bin. (And ironically, that is basically what he's claiming.) But in order for these supposed spectators to show up, this announcement would had to have actually been published somewhere. So where exactly did these "crowds and crowds of people" hear about this announcement, for which there is no surviving record? (Of course, Billy has never cited any specific platform, which we could then check and verify.) And how did this supposed advance announcement not generate any lasting documentary presence, either from these alleged spectators or the media that supposedly arrived with them?

What can also be shown, thanks to Billy's own penchant for overly dramatic storytelling, is that several key figures, including Walter Day, Rick Fothergill, and Chris Ayra, had no idea Billy was in New Hampshire even on his third day there (as we covered back in "Dot Three"). Recall Billy's story of putting a kid on the phone with his close friend Ayra to convince him he really was at Funspot playing Pac-Man. [S6] David Race did a solid summary video putting together key clips to this end:

Indeed, as David Race began looking into Billy's Pac-Man stories in late 2019, and both he and Rick Fothergill were surprised to hear of this claimed "public announcement":

In David's post to his personal Facebook, he describes reaching out to Billy (whom he was still friends with at the time), asking him for help in tracking down proof of this claimed press release. David shared with us their entire conversation, including Billy's initial deflection:

Interesting of Billy to throw Rick in the way of David's question, even though it was clearly being asked on David's own behalf. But at least Billy recognizes Rick is not happy with the situation.

Of course now, with their participation in Billy's lawsuits, the stories take another turn. In Walter Day's letter to Guinness, he evades the question of whether he knew of Billy's visit in advance altogether. [S7] Chris Ayra similarly danced around any direct claims, describing hearsay of a press release and a phone call he may or may not have anticipated:

(Courts of law love hearsay. They also love it when you're vague and evasive.)

So what was the point of Billy adding this supposed press release that never existed? (Other than his general desire to make his stories as grandiose and self-serving as he can get away with, of course.) Well, for one, it would certainly seem to be an attempt to patch up other parts of his story that don't paint him in a favorable light. As one of my research colleagues put it:

Every time I hear Mitchell bring up this "press release" (that apparently can't be found anywhere) and his claim (paraphrasing) "I had to get the perfect score, the pressure was on because I said I would do it in advance," it sounds like someone who's afraid of having their feat diminished following their decision to quietly travel to Funspot in July rather than observe the gentleman's agreement and resume the head-to-head battle for the Perfect Pac at the next tournament in 2000. To pull in a Mitchell pseudo-example, it would be like sneaking off to Augusta and playing there among the country club set rather than during the Masters Tournament with fellow pro golf competitors.

But there was another possible reason for this addition. The existence of a press release announcing his attempts ahead of time would suggest there was planning and awareness involved on the part of Twin Galaxies, which was supposed to be a requisite for such a score at that time. (We'll get more into the specifics of these rules in "Dot Nine".) My colleague explained as follows [S8]:

I'm reminded that TG had special heightened rules around "Mature Games" like Pac-Man. One thing caught my eye after reading these rules over and over during the last several months. "If you think you can break a world record on a mature game, Twin Galaxies will have the press at your door and Walter Day may come to watch you in person." That context may have spurred Mitchell to claim the whole "press release before I went" angle (besides the shame of a secret visit), and makes it funny that Walter Day had zero clue this was going down.

There are a couple other odd things about this "I sent out a press release in advance" story, though. Recall for a moment the discussion around the claim seen back in "Dot Four" that Pac-Man had been played a total of ten billion times. While Walter Day did toss out a number as high as twenty billion in 1998, the decreased estimate of ten billion did not appear anywhere until the press release issued by Twin Galaxies the day of Billy's July 1999 Pac-Man score. [S9] (In fact, the November 9th press release quotes Walter Day saying that "conclusive proof" was still being gathered that Pac-Man was played more than chess in the 20th century. Again, lol.)

Now pair that with Billy's 2003 interview with Retro Gaming Radio, starting at about 1:16:30 [S10]:

When I did the perfect game of Pac-Man, I play well under pressure, I sent a press release out saying that I was gonna go do it. So they said "In ten billion games that have been played, you think that you're gonna call the shot that you're gonna do it?"

I think we might finally be understanding Billy's problem. The poor guy is constantly tormented by time-traveling hecklers.

But here's yet another juicy bit, courtesy of the Boston Globe coverage of the actual Funspot tournament in May. To be crystal clear, this is almost two months before Billy's secret return trip. See if this passage from Rick Fothergill sounds familiar at all:

It's interesting to watch more and more pieces like this fall into place, especially for someone like Billy whose go-to answer for why he has so many critics is always "They're just jealous". At the conclusion of the Funspot tournament, after losing the head-to-head competition to Rick Fothergill (and getting whooped at Donkey Kong as well for good measure), Billy had to then watch as Boston Reporters interviewed and photographed Fothergill, celebrated him, and reported on his new world record. It's as if Billy spent the next few weeks frothing with envy, eventually deciding to steal every element of Rick's actual, genuine story he could get away with ripping off, Babe Ruth reference and all.


Of course, if you're Billy Mitchell, and you're concerned that thumbing your nose at competition and sneaking off to do your score when no one's looking might in some way diminish the prestige of your accomplishment, the obvious answer is to just tell everyone you valiantly conquered your opponent in direct and fair head-to-head competition. As Billy is fond of telling anyone foolish enough to trust his sincerity (at 14:10):

It doesn't matter how fast somebody runs the hundred meter dash. Go in the Olympics, and beat Mr. Bolt. And it doesn't matter what time you get. You'll be the champion. And I do, I believe that, completely.

To that end, Billy often tells the story of his perfect score as if it were the result of a head-to-head competition. In his 2017 Minnesota appearance, Billy described in detail the events of the May tournament, including both his and Rick's failed attempts, before tacking his claimed perfect score on to the end of his story, as though it were part of that event (at 5:50) [S11]:

He died, he continued to the end of the game. But at the end of the game, when you get there on your second man, even though you've got the points, it cheats you out of nine points. It cheats you out of nine dots. So he was ninety points short... short of 3.3 million. Then it was my turn again, and I did a perfect score.

Interestingly, in Billy's November 1999 interview with GameSpot, he makes no mention of the Funspot tournament in May, of Rick Fothergill, of Canadians in general, or even of competing on Pac-Man against anyone except his friend Chris Ayra. He just says he got the score:

Of course, at that time, TG still hadn't formally recognized Fothergill's perfect score he had achieved months prior. So you might initially think that Billy felt there was no need to address the rivalry, as he was the only one on the official scoreboard. However, the Dreamcast Magazine feature, printed the following month, has the genesis of this misrepresentation of head-to-head competition, straight from Billy in long quote form:

The language does at least make clear that his return trip was after the actual Funspot tournament (which he does not give a timeframe for, relative to his July trip), but he makes it sound as though they were trading shots at the perfecto.

Recall also Billy's words from Exhibit A, at about 8:10:

He traveled to Funspot three times that summer. I traveled there once.

This gives the impression that they were both returning to Funspot to take turns at the perfect score (as if the score could only be done at that location). However, Rick has clarified (via David Race) that while he traveled to Funspot on three occasions that calendar year -- one of which was for the May tournament, where he did clobber Billy head-to-head -- only one of those trips was in the summer, after Billy had violated their handshake agreement to not compete for the score until the following year. [S12]

Billy wasn't the only one pushing the narrative of his score being part of a head-to-head competition. Recall from "Dot Four" that Twin Galaxies press release from August that pulled this illustration of Billy's "rivalry" out of thin air:

Later in that same release, we get this description of "the final weeks of the race":

"Leapfrogging"? "Ever-increasing scores"? Who writes this stuff? Sadly, Fothergill continued to be used as a prop in Billy's Big Story, as the press release continued listing all the media attention afforded to Billy.

Walter Day also stuck with the narrative that Billy's July visit was some sort of "tournament" or competition, including at the beginning of this segment with G4TV in the early 2000s:

Probably the greatest moment in tournament history would be the perfect score on Pac-Man.

Of course, this incorrect portrayal trickled from the source down to the various media coverage. The Tampa Bay Times were under the impression that this July event was an "official Pac-Man competition":

The author of the Wired article, five days after Billy's score, seemed to think Billy, Rick, Chris, and Neil had all agreed to reconvene on the July 4th weekend:

This 2003 profile of Billy in his local Broward Palm Beach New Times had whittled that number down to just Billy and Rick:

Sure sounds like the reporter thinks Fothergill was there in early July, facing off against Billy directly, doesn't it? But hey, maybe we just misread that...

"Mano a mano competition"? Also, the author says that Fothergill didn't "score a perfect game" on July 2, which isn't surprising, since he was hundreds of miles away, at home, probably not playing Pac-Man, and not realizing that Billy had snuck into Funspot to grind away attempts in violation of what Rick thought was a good-faith agreement.

So, I ask you rhetorically, where exactly does this fluff piece author get this bad info from? Almost every quote in that piece is either of Billy directly, or a paraphrase of someone else courtesy of Billy.

At least that author seemed to understand that the May competition and the July visit were two different events, while mistakenly placing Fothergill at both. This 2016 CNN segment in their series on "The Eighties" is even more off-base, compressing the details down into a single event [S13]:

And in this case, every single included quote is from Billy. If not for underlined external links (half of which point to either a TG press release or a TG score page), you wouldn't even know they used another source for their info at all.

One might look to attribute these faux pas to the authors, and certainly none of them did any real investigative work on these unserious entertainment stories. But we already have examples of Billy framing language in a way to mislead people into thinking his score was the result of head-to-head competition with Fothergill, when it was not. One must wonder how many times someone expressed such a misunderstanding directly to Billy without being corrected. And of course, these reporters have Walter Day ("Electronic Games Historian") telling them the same things. All of this plays into the broader narrative promoted by old Twin Galaxies that Billy Mitchell was some kind of dominant force in head-to-head tournament play, achieved by relying on private scores allegedly done among friends at venues which are, to Billy's benefit, retroactively referred to as official "tournaments".

As my colleague put it:

In the same way we need to point out Bastable's use of the pausing dip switch for his perfect score, so too is the context of Mitchell's score relevant. So if the 360 happened, sure, Mitchell can claim it, but he's not entitled to re-write how it came about.

In researching this project, we sought to identify and answer any and all unresolved questions around this story that we could. One such lingering question we identified was why Billy, a Florida resident, chose Funspot in New Hampshire as the location of his July perfect score attempts. He could have just as easily chosen Grand Prix Race-O-Rama in nearby Dania Beach (the very location Walter Day and John Hardie would go on to proclaim "Arcade of the Year" at CGE). In fact, in January 1999, Billy's local friend Stephen Krogman recalled randomly running into him at Grand Prix on a Saturday evening, where Krogman watched Billy play Centipede and turbo Ms. Pac-Man:

Ironically, Grand Prix may have been too busy for Billy's purposes. (Not that Funspot isn't busy per se, but most of the attention would be on newer games and attractions. Funspot's classic games are up and away in their own big room, away from their redemption games and primary tourist attractions.) It's also possible that at the May event, Billy established a rapport with Funspot staff, incentivizing him to choose them for participation in his anti-competitive sneak attack.

However, in light of Billy's and Walter's stories conflating the May event with Billy's July visit, as well as media reporting framing the July trip as being the agreed-upon rematch, we cannot rule out that Funspot was chosen by Billy with the intention that having his claimed perfect score at the same site of the May tournament would facilitate this sort of creative storytelling. And perhaps, as a bonus, attributing the score to Funspot might gloss over Billy's violation of the gentleman's agreement as well.

Regarding that agreement (the terms of which we discussed back in "Dot Three"), naturally the topic has come up again and again over the years. What cannot be denied is that A) Billy and Rick did play head-to-head in May 1999, where Rick clobbered him; and B) whatever score Billy got in July, whether it was the full maxout or not, he got it in secret while Fothergill was not playing.

In Dwayne Richard's documentary King of Con, at about 1:14:20, Rick speaks of Billy's belief that he did nothing wrong in entering into such an agreement and then violating it [S14]:

That's what he says. "I didn't sign a contract. I didn't do anything wrong." And... that's what he doesn't understand. It's... Okay, it's not a question of that, Bill. It's... not a question of, "Oh, can you get away with it?" It's... Was it, like, honorable? Was it moral?

And Rick's answer to his own question?

In my opinion, no.

To the point of it not being a legally binding contract, it should be noted that there would have been a respectful and appropriate way to break away from the agreement, if that's what Billy wanted to do. As my colleague illustrated:

Even if Mitchell decided later that he didn't want to be bound by an agreement that he initially agreed to during the tournament, the reasonable expectation would be for Mitchell to call up Rick and declare his intentions. As Rick noted, the agreement wasn't a binding contract, so nothing would be stopping Mitchell from placing such a phone call. It's also a pretty sad excuse when someone's "out" from respecting a verbal agreement to which they consented is that they didn't sign on the dotted line. Let's just say that day-to-day family stuff might be a whole lot more complicated in the Mitchell household as a result. "Dad, where were you? You told me you were going to pick me up from school today, and after waiting 2 hours I finally had to walk home!" "Show me the agreement where I signed on the line that I would do that."

On the other hand, one might wonder what would have happened in a parallel reality where Billy had actually honored the agreement. In a winner-takes-all competition, anything could happen. While Fothergill was the better player, that's no guarantee he would win on a given day. And while Walter Day may have had to push Billy's story in the weeks after his private score, the actual May 1999 tournament saw immediate and significant press coverage all on its own merits. My colleague provided a great illustration of what such a scene could have looked like:

Imagine Mitchell showing up to Funspot in June 2000, the gamers are primed for their head-to-head feat. Rick and Mitchell sitting at their own cabs, and then with a "start!" they're off. But hours into his game, Rick makes a sloppy turn, and now it's all on Mitchell. It's tense, there's excitement among the assembled gamers, and Mitchell arrives at the split with a perfect eat. Rick jokingly pretends to unplug Mitchell's cab when he's sitting in the park spot, and then with the "huge crowd" of 30 gamers (Pat Laffaye's description) when the 360 moment arrives, there's a good-natured handshake from Rick, the folks from Tips & Tricks are there to capture the moment, Mike Stulir records an "on the spot" interview moments after the big game for his Back in Time podcast. And presumably in the same way that Rick got some exposure for his almost perfect game in 1999, there's a good chance this story would have been picked up (with Day working the phones for good measure).

Instead, we got no competition, no dramatic moments, no on-site coverage, no first-hand accounts from other classic gamers, and a bunch of fake stories about Boston reporters and press release announcements, specifically to illustrate Billy's trip as being something it was not.

This whole situation is even more disappointing when you consider that Fothergill's expressed motivation for the handshake agreement was to promote such a gaming spectacle for the benefit of the community (in the style of Walter Day's announced Ms. Pac-Man tournament discussed in "Dot Three"). It seems Walter Day decided that Twin Galaxies would get more promotion (or rather, more of the type of promotion Walter was looking for) by breaking Rick's trust than by honoring it.

It is rare to find Billy discussing his agreement with Rick at all, in any capacity, probably due to the fact that it's impossible to reconcile with his narrative of besting Fothergill in head-to-head competition. Recall, for instance, the moment linked in "Dot Three" where his son begins to mention it, but the father quickly shushes him. However, no matter how many people Billy Mitchell bans from his Twitch chat, a topic like this is sure to come up. In a 2019 stream, Billy tried to dismiss the question by suggesting, but not outright saying, that this agreement was some later invention (as heard at 0:50 in this commentary upload):

Let's see, that was in 1999, and the subject never came up until after the year 2010. Does that tell you somethin'? It does. Or, it should.

Once again, the evidence does not agree with Billy. First up is his longtime friend Stephen Krogman, who posted an oblique reference to the publicly announced agreement a month after the May tournament:

Perhaps the suggestion to "Leave a window" of ninety points is a reference to the notion that players could practice, but were not to fully complete the perfect score until the following year? At any rate, while Krogman doesn't explicitly describe any prohibition on perfect score attempts, it seems he did understand that they were all to reconvene to compete the following year.

If that's a bit oblique for you, here's Pat Laffaye, posting as "Guest" in March 2003, describing exactly the handshake agreement as we know it today:!/page5

But no, I'm sure Dwayne did it. [S15]

Remember Billy's response to David Race's question about the press release? Where Billy proactively acknowledges Rick Fothergill has a gripe, and tries to throw Rick in the way of David's question? Contrast that with the following passage from Billy. In the aforementioned 2019 Twitch stream, moments prior to the previous provided quote, Billy delivered what I would say is the single most shameful, most gutless quote I've had to transcribe for this entire series [S16]:

"People often describe a gentleman's agreement that you had with Rick." Did you hear Rick describe that, Mark? No, you didn't. Regarding the perfect Pac-Man, and went back and did the score before he arrived. He was there three times that summer. And... so, again, you heard it from a side, from somebody who has a narrative that they want to push. That's the first answer. That's the honest answer. And let me give you the Billy Mitchell answer. Somebody's mad because I beat 'em to the punch? They can cry me a river. Go cry on somebody else's shoulder. But the truth is, Rick is not crying. Not even close, okay. You haven't heard that from Rick. And don't say you heard it on film, because on film you simply pick and choose what it is you'd like to be said, okay. It's a much bigger story, and the fact of the matter is, if anybody wants to play crybaby, they can go cry somewhere else, okay. He's not the first person whose ass I whipped, okay. And when I got my ass whipped, I simply didn't tell you about it. I just went back and worked harder.


(Yes, that is a direct quote. We'll get to that.)

Another way Billy has tried to distinguish his claimed perfect score was simply to tout that he did his "first". However, while we can for the sake of argument set aside the existence of Randy Tufts and Bill Bastable, as well as the claims by Billy's close friend Chris Ayra that both of them had complete perfect scores in the early '80s, we would be hard-pressed to ignore the impact of Billy's decision to sneak out and break his agreement with Fothergill on such a distinction.

The inherent value in being "first" is that you either made some big discovery (and did it first), or you prevailed in a competitive race. It's hard to say that Billy's "first" was important for the discovery, given that the hidden dots had been discovered years earlier, by various Americans and Canadians independently. Even within Billy's own circle, his research partner Ayra was the clear Pac-Man master between the two. Billy also can't really say he crossed the 3,333,360 barrier first, given that (pause switch or no) Bill Bastable was the first to collect 3,333,360 points in a single game on a Pac-Man cabinet back in 1988. Billy, if he actually reached that score at all, simply did it under a different set of rules. And of course, as we've discussed, there was no value in Billy's claimed achievement from a competitive standpoint. As a research colleague remarked:

Is a Pac-Man score just shy of 90 points achieved in the pressure of a classic gaming tournament surrounded by your peers more significant than a perfect score achieved weeks later during a quiet weekend at the same arcade with your fellow competitor or peers nowhere in sight?

Billy's choice to emphasize this quality of "first" is an attempt to attribute one of these values when they do not apply. As with many aspects of the story Billy tells, it sounds more impressive than it actually was. Even if we limit our scope to Billy Mitchell and Rick Fothergill, if it were actually a "race" between them, Fothergill would have simply done the score during the almost two months that Billy was practicing to get up to speed. In fact, Rick's visit to the Toronto arcade would have been such a perfect (pun always intended) opportunity, and yet Rick chose to set a new record on Junior Pac-Man instead. Billy showed up to a half-empty arcade one day, took his time getting the score, then taunted Rick, "No no, that was totally a race, and I just burned you!" (And to this day, he never let Fothergill hear the end of it.)

Dwayne Richard, who used to be a close friend of Billy's, shared his own thoughts on this argument of "I won the race, therefore I was the better player" (at 6:00) [S17]:

So he got the world record, but then he made it some kind of nationalistic type thing where... American patriotism versus Canadian nationality or whatever like that, when he wasn't even playing against anybody. And that was the thing that offended me the most because... It's ridiculous. If you get the score, that's great. But don't say you're better than Canada or you're better than all of Canada or whatever when all the players know, Rick is a better Pac-Man player than you, and Chris Ayra is a better Pac-Man player than you.

And as my research colleague illustrated:

Technically Mitchell’s stopwatch started the moment he slipped the first token into Pac-Man at Funspot on July 2nd. The same with Rick’s stopwatch on July 31st. Irrespective of the plug kicker, Mitchell’s time from start to finish would be around 12 - 13 hours, whereas Fothergill hit the perfect on his first go. So who really won the race? Let’s just say, it would be quite comical to re-enact the supposed "race" in a scenario similar to the TV finals of That’s incredible. Rick would be back in Canada with his kiss from Cathy Crosby whilst Mitchell was still plodding along in a darkened and deserted studio! You have to question if it can even be considered a fair "race" for the holy grail of video games, when one of the competitors facilitates a 28 day headstart.

Even more ridiculous than simply saying "I was first", Billy has gone to great lengths to compare what he claims to have done to major historical firsts, including the most impressive of them all: humans walking on the moon. As seen here in the TG press release:

And sensationalist media are only too happy to give his narcissism a platform, such as in the previously linked 2016 CNN piece:

The comparison is, of course, embarrassing both for the person who made it and for the people who uncritically entertained it. Yes, technically it is possible to be the "first" person to max out Pac-Man, and yes, Neil Armstrong was famously first to do something. But that doesn't mean anyone who did something "first" is the "Neil Armstrong" of that thing. If it did, we'd have an awful lot of "Neil Armstrongs" walking around. Tim McVey would be the "Neil Armstrong" of scoring one billion points on a video game. Steve Wiebe would be the "Neil Armstrong" of scoring one million points on Donkey Kong. Andrew Gardikis would be the "Neil Armstrong" of playing at Games Done Quick. Some tech at Namco quality control was the "Neil Armstrong" of playing Pac-Man. I'm the "Neil Armstrong" of writing these words in this order. I'm also the "Neil Armstrong" of eating this sandwich. Billy Mitchell is the "Neil Armstrong" of getting three different million-point scores of Donkey Kong disqualified for cheating. Point being -- and it seems preposterous to have to write this out -- that while some things are indeed more impressive than others, and while getting a maximum score on Pac-Man will rank somewhere on such a list for video games, not everything that can be done "first" can be compared to man walking on the Moon, ell oh ell. Anyone who has given this man a platform, and has listened as he compared himself to Neil Armstrong, and did not laugh in his face so hard that bits of food sprayed across his suit, should honestly feel pretty dumb for the experience. [S18]

Or, as my research colleague more succinctly put it:

Contrary to Mitchell's song and dance, some things are objectively incomparable. Full stop. If anyone wants to compare the incredible technological feat of sending humans to the moon to standing in a New Hampshire arcade in early July, they need to stop playing Pac-Man now.

One might wonder if Billy's laughable self-comparison was a preemptive maneuver to paint skeptics as being akin to moon landing conspiracy theorists, [S19] as if the overwhelming publicly available evidence that the United States' six, count 'em, six manned moon landings were genuine is in any way comparable to the meager scraps and demonstrably bogus stories we are provided to authenticate Billy's high score claims. Of course, Billy invoked Mr. Armstrong's name in the July 3 TG press release, before such skepticism had time to constructively emerge. However -- and this is just some food for thought -- if Billy really did pass off a failed run as a successful perfect score, he would have known immediately that such questions were one day likely to arise. [S20]

We've talked about Billy's claimed score being done in an anti-competitive fashion, but another point to raise is that, for all his talk about living a life of competition, Billy's endless fixation on having allegedly been "first" is actually inherently anti-competitive in the given context. Is it not strange for a guy who claims to love competition to keep emphasizing "first" (something which can't be competed against) over, say, "fastest" (which could always be faster)? It's akin to winning a given race once, and then resting on one's laurels into perpetuity. As my colleague duly illustrated:

For me, I think the main perils with "being first" is that, if it applies at all, the value of the claim has a very limited shelf life in a competitive video gaming context. I think it's fair to say that being first with a perfect score motivated Rick, but it's clear to us that he wouldn't have stopped there, because he's a competitor. Inevitably, when the perfect feat was finally achieved, the competition pivoted to who could get it done the fastest. Being "first" in a competitive context is only relevant as long as you're on top of the leaderboard. Try as Mitchell has to milk it, at some point being "first" just means you're out of the hunt. That's why Mitchell always chafes when asked "Do you have any current world records?" Saying "I was first" doesn't put you in the hunt -- you get to wax on, sure, share some tales about the moment, but ultimately it's looking backwards when competition is about looking forward. And that's what makes Mitchell's feat ultimately feel unnatural -- being first can be a competitive milestone (eg. the first to break the 5 minute barrier on a Super Mario Bros. speedrun) but what Mitchell has tried to do is elevate a competitive milestone into the ultimate competitive achievement, except the cheat is that no one can actively compete for it. But if your claimed achievement is a high score or fastest completion, the competition can be fierce.

Before moving on, we should also be clear about where this emphasis on being allegedly "first" is actually coming from. At its core, this is not about competition, or even really about conveying the sense of competition. This was a marketing job, front to back. Recall Billy's words to his friend Steve Sanders: "What will make me world famous is becoming [...] perfect on Pac-Man." Not only that, as previously quoted from the After 2 Beers podcast, Billy emphasized that "it had to be a perfect score" and it "had to be first". [S21] The "perfect game" story and the "Player of the Century" award from Walter Day both pulled significant weight in carrying this myth across the landscape into accepted legend, such that neither would likely have done its job without the other, but the "perfect game" angle could only pull that weight if it could be marketed as being "first".

So why do we have this in an installment about changing stories? While Billy was indeed comparing himself to Neil Armstrong as early as the TG press release published the same day as his score, he has also waffled on his insistence that being first is all that mattered.

First up is the 1999 GameSpot interview. When asked about his plans to improve upon his Pac-Man performance, Billy gives an answer that reads rather stunningly in retrospect:

Interesting! "History will honor the fastest time as the best performance." This ties into what we discussed way back in "Dot One", that even a so-called "perfect game" of Pac-Man does not mean perfect play, and thus can be improved upon (and hence a lower time achieved). Even Guinness World Records, with their lack of gaming credibility, seemed to understand this fact, as reflected by this Pac-Man leaderboard in their 2007 book:

This competition continued for several years after 1999, although few have made serious attempts to dethrone the current champion. Rick Fothergill set the initial serious speed record on July 31, 1999, with a time of 3:58:42, which was surpassed by Chris Ayra on February 16, 2000, with a time of 3:42:04. [S22] While Fothergill reportedly had an eye on beating Chris's time in 2009, it was current speed champion David Race who entered the fray, taking the speed record on August 11, 2009, with a time of 3:41:22. Fothergill would take the record back two months later, on October 14, 2009, with a time of 3:35:43. However, David once again reclaimed the top spot on February 11, 2010, with a time of 3:34:08. While David has held the title belt since, he has lowered his top time twice, first on January 4, 2012, with a time of 3:33:01, and then on May 22, 2013 (Pac-Man's 33rd birthday) with a time of 3:28:49. David remains the only player to do a perfect score of Pac-Man (by modern definition) in under three and a half hours.

As mentioned before, Billy was given an official time of exactly five and a half hours on the nose, based on... his word, I guess? A ballpark estimate? It's actually fairly astonishing that this obviously incorrect time was given official standing by Twin Galaxies on a separate "fastest time" leaderboard, as seen here in the third edition of Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball World Records in 2009:

This was made only slightly less contentious for the fact that nobody had been recorded with a slower time, putting Billy at the bottom of the speed list either way. It would have been a bit awkward if ol' Donnie Hayes had taken about seven more minutes for his score in 2005.

Billy's declared intention to capture the Pac-Man speed record continued with the Back in Time webcast, at "Coronation Day" at Funspot in January 2000. Here's Billy, with yet another baseball reference, starting at about 47:50:

I feel compelled for some reason to set a speed record, a record that nobody would ever beat. A record that would, like Joe DiMaggio's record, it'll stand forever. And I'm very confident of that. I may do that here, depending on the situation, or I may travel back here to do it at a later time. That's first and foremost in my mind. Because I forever want to lay it to rest, to find other games to conquer to such a high degree that I'll forever lay it to rest.

Just in case we weren't clear on 2000 Billy's view of top level gaming competition, he makes it clear at about 51:40:

I think when you get to the highest level of the game, you feel as you've beaten the game, you don't want anyone to be able to beat it better than you.

Billy's attempts at a speed record weren't exactly a secret. At about 17:00 in the same episode, Walter Day told the hosts about Billy's intention to do the fastest perfect score:

Billy Mitchell, the world's most famous video game player, is here from Hollywood, Florida, and he's going for a perfect Pac-Man score, and he wants to do it in like, a record time, which no one else has ever done it as fast.

(Also, good thing he told us Billy is "the world's most famous video game player", or we might not have known.)

In fact, at that very event, Walter Day was photographed together with Billy, with the caption "Walter Day checks his stopwatch while Billy Mitchell attempts a speed record in Pac-Man":

Later, in a 2001 interview with CubeSource, Billy claimed to have patterns to complete a perfect score in under three, yes, three hours:

(Is it not a bit odd for this guy to go around bragging about how he can do a perfect score in under three or fours hours without ever actually doing it?)

But over time, Billy's focus on the speed record faded, likely because he realized he would never compete with Fothergill, Chapman, or even his own buddy Ayra. [S23] (I suppose it was after this failed pursuit of the speed record that Billy decided his visit to Tokyo inspired him to take more of an "ambassador" role.) In a 2015 interview with Hit Start Now, the host asked Billy if he was competing for the Pac-Man speed record, to which he answered (at 28:40) [S24]:

Oh, as far as how fast it's done? No, not at all. To be honest, it's... it's so unentertaining for me... All of it became less than entertaining after I did it the first time.

Wow! What a competitor!! "It's the eyyyye of the tiiiiiiger, it's the thrill of the fight..."

Even worse, in his endless quest to have everything both ways, Billy has also described the slow method by which he claims to have done his first perfect score to have been the true challenge (at 1:05:50):

Back then, when I did it the first time, I actually, on purpose, I didn't use any patterns. I did it the hard way, the slow way. I wanted to do it in a manner that I knew I would never repeat, and that nobody would ever be able to duplicate.

I suppose one way to succeed at your goals is to simply declare that whatever you ended up doing was your goal all along.

It's not clear that Billy has ever come to grips with the fact that it's okay to aspire to things and then come up short. It's happened to all of us. And ultimately, he's allowed to live in his own little fantasy if he wants, provided that the rest of us are not obligated to participate. The problem is, Billy later chose to openly denigrate that very feat he had previously aspired to. In a 2017 group interview with Game Informer, Billy and Walter Day were asked about the rise of speedrunning. Walter gave a positive answer, acknowledging some of the skills that go into playing games faster and faster. Once Walter was done, Billy (who knows that anything he says about other games will be applied to his own) intervened to give his opinion on why being first is more important, starting at 18:00:

The difference that he's leaving out, because he's trying to be a gentleman, is... the first person that did it, had to do it, had to do it without any help, he couldn't watch, he couldn't see any recordings, he couldn't see anything streaming. It's what we call "He had to learn it in the raw." Had nothing to work with... Then, what happens later on is, others see what it was the person did, what they achieved, what they created, and now they say "Oh," and they learn it, and so they twitch it a little to get it faster. It's like saying "Gee, Neil Armstrong got there first, but I got there in one less day." Big deal.

I hope Billy wasn't trying to say that being the second person on the moon isn't as important as being first in Pac-Man!

The host pushed back on this, asking Billy if, by his logic, the world record for any game will always be the first person to buy it and beat it after it's shipped. Billy's glib and evasive response was:

If that's the case, the game wasn't difficult enough.

As always, Billy's argument is entirely self-serving, and not just because he was given credit for getting a perfect score first. By his own story, he was privileged enough to have a Pac-Man machine in his own bedroom. [S25] Of course he could "learn it in the raw", develop patterns with trial and error, and explore the split screen, when he had unlimited access to a free play cabinet with rack advance and his competitors did not (an advantage Billy conveniently forgets about when describing the hardships faced by early Pac-Man players, of which he claims to be). [S26] As is a common theme in Billy's braggadocio, he asks the listener to equate fortunate circumstances with gaming talent.

Another thing Billy likes to say is that fewer people have played perfect scores on Pac-Man than have walked on the moon, which for the record is no longer true. But even when that was the case, it wasn't that Pac-Man is more difficult or otherwise unattainable -- it's that most people don't care. I mean this sincerely, as someone who obviously does care and who has written over 100,000 words on this subject, speaking to an audience who cares enough to read this: The vast majority of people out there simply do not care whether there is a "perfect score" on Pac-Man, or what that "perfect score" is, or who has achieved it, or who among them has done it first. And that's okay, we all have our interests. I love video games, but they aren't the final frontier. Even some accomplished gamers who are known to have the tools to achieve a Pac-Man perfect score have chosen not to endure the grind of actually doing it, as if the feat does not interest them. [S27] Many, many more people would be lining up to walk on the moon if the launching pad was as close as their nearest barcade.


This next bit is not terribly important, but it's too funny not to share. First of all, Billy has a story he loves to tell about how he came to wear the U.S. flag ties he is commonly known for. You see an iteration of this story in this profile from The Sun in 2020:

In his retellings of the events from 1999, Billy frequently characterizes his choice of patriotic neckwear as a response to Fothergill's costume as "Captain Canada". The problem is, as discussed in Dwayne Richard's documentary The Perfect Fraudman, starting at 1:09:30, this story is not true. While Rick Fothergill did dress up as "Captain Canada", he did so beginning with the second annual Funspot tournament in June 2000, the following year [S28]. You can see the costume in this photo (from before Billy broke his plaque) printed in the August 2000 issue of Tips & Tricks magazine:

No coverage from Funspot 1999 makes any mention of any such Canada costume at that event, which if you'll recall was the first time Rick and Billy ever met in person. In fact, the Boston Phoenix coverage of that event specifically noted that Billy was already wearing his nationalist necktie at their first meeting:

The previously linked Tampa Bay Times article from that August also refers to Billy's "Star-Spangled Banner tie", with no mention of any costumes from Fothergill. But of course, after the year 2000, every reporter loved that "Captain Canada" angle. [S29]

Billy frequently derides his Canadian rivals by way of taking shots at Canada (calling it a "third world country" and such). To some degree, this is part of rivalry. However, this brings us to something you may have to hear for yourself.

Another thing Billy often does is refer to Fothergill and Chapman as "Johnny-come-latelies". The inference is, Billy and his friend Chris Ayra have been around since the beginning (or so they like to think), while these nobodies only showed up recently from out of nowhere. [S30] Of course, Rick was a longtime expert on Pac-Man, having topped the great Randy Tufts head-to-head years before he reached out to Twin Galaxies. Perhaps Billy thinks people don't exist if he's not around to see them? Also, as we discussed back in "Dot Two", people were getting perfect scores minus the hidden dots before Billy even began playing competitively. Heck, the sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, which released in February 1982, was almost a year old by the time Billy took up the original. It's not really a big deal that Billy straggled along late, it's just a bit ironic for him to take up a game that was already mastered and then to turn around and call anyone else "Johnny-come-lately".

In Exhibit D (October 2018), Billy told a story of a conversation with Ayra, starting at 50:20:

And so, me and my friend Chris, I said to him "We sat on our hands all this time -- We've got a secret, we've got a secret -- and we never went in any manner, in any public place and executed it. And now, Johnny-come-latelies are gonna come along and beat us to the punch." And he's funny, he says "Johnny-come-latelies?" I says "Yeah." He says "You mean Canadians-come-lately." That what he said.

Billy netted a modest chuckle from the hosts. He must have really liked the reaction, because a few months later (as heard in the After 2 Beers podcast in February 2019, starting at 58:40), it became his joke:

But in 1999, the call came from... the Canadians... and I says "Alright, put the guy on the phone, I'll get rid of this guy." And I asked him a half a dozen questions that nobody in the world knows the answers to. And he knew the answers. And that's when, "Oh man, after all these years, somebody's gonna..." My joke was it was Canadian-come-lately, like Johnny-come-lately.


Another story Billy often likes to tell is that Masaya Nakamura told him his Pac-Man score will ignite a "resurgence" in classic arcade gaming:


Billy tells a similar story to the folks at After 2 Beers (linked above), at 55:50:

There on stage, that picture of me with the cheerleaders, Masaya Nakamura, who's... Yeah, who's considered the godfather of video games, he announced at that point, and this goes to your point, he said that this event, and what I achieved, would cause a resurgence, or an interest in classic gaming. And I thought "Well, that sounds nice," and I appreciated the guy's kind words. But then I come back here, and then there's film crews. And at one time there was about seven different crews following us. Everywhere we went. And so that led to the movies.

As with other elements of his alleged encounter with Nakamura and his "inner circle", Billy can't make up his mind when this happened. [S31] Here he is in an interview with Scene World, describing it as happening on the Namco stage at TGS (at 30:40):

Masaya Nakamura, in Japan, when I was on stage, he gave me credit with the rebirth of classic video games because of the attention that was put on that, which is very flattering that he would give me that credit.

However, with Autofire Power Hour, after describing his closed door meeting with Mr. Nakamura and his "inner circle", Billy then went on to say the following, at (57:00):

Masaya Nakamura told me, in... in the meeting in 1999, he says "I believe what you did, and the attention it's gotten around the world," he says, "will... will create a renewed interest," he said, "in classic gaming."

There actually is some small bit of truth to the bit about filmmakers getting involved as a result of the 1999 Pac-Man story, though of course Billy misrepresents it by suggesting that seven film crews immediately started following him around. Lincoln Ruchti and Michael Verrechia, director and producer of the 2007 film Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade, cited Billy's Pac-Man story as the basis for their first collaboration:

The obvious problem there is that this collaboration didn't begin until circa 2004 (as reported in that CNET article from 2007). Walter Day backs this up, at the beginning of this panel video:

In the year 2004, I started getting telephone calls from filmmaking students, numerous groups of filmmaking students. In fact, before all was said and done, it was seven different crews of filmmakers. And I think six of the crews were generally fresh out of college, and they wanted to really get into making films by making a documentary first. And all of them become intrigued by the history of the video game industry and the history of competitive gaming.

After listing the various film crews, Walter adds:

Now, the reason I'm bringing this up is because the reason that they were surfacing at that time is that the video game industry was going through a tremendous expansion again, and esports was beginning to become a big phenomenon.

Speaking of movies, check out this added bit from Mr. Mitchell in 2019 (at 2:10) [S32]:

When I went to Japan, then Masaya Nakamura, the godfather of video games, he said that single event would lead to the rebirth of classic gaming, the interest, and it would be passed on to another generation. He said he would like to see movies made about it... as a man who owned movie studios.

Ah, interesting! So Mr. Nakamura wanted movies to be made about Billy's Pac-Man score! Such a shame that Mr. Nakamura didn't get around to making one, considering the numerous movies he executive-produced with film studio Nikkatsu, which was acquired by Namco in 1996:

As for Billy's claim (which he attributes to Nakamura) that his score would be the genesis of a revival in classic arcade titles, this is debunked simply by showing how that revival was already well underway. Volume 1 of Namco Museum, including titles such as Galaga, Rally-X, Pole Position, and yes, Pac-Man. was released in Japan in 1995 (1996 in North America and Europe) [S33]:

Namco would go on to publish five more "Museum" installments on Playstation in 1996 and 1997, and a Nintendo 64 edition in October 1999. Additionally, 1996-98 saw the release of the Arcade's Greatest Hits series on Super Nintendo and Playstation, featuring arcade titles from Midway, Williams, and two volumes dedicated to arcade titles from Atari, as well as the beginning of the Capcom Generations series (exclusive to Japan and Europe):

You also had the Microsoft Arcade series for PC, which started in 1993 and had subsequent releases in 1996 and 1998:

Japan also saw plenty of arcade compilations, including the Namco History series for Windows 95, which had released three volumes by 1998 [S34]:

Did Mr. Nakamura forget all about that series of Namco Museum ads on Japanese television?

Not only that, in 1996, around the time the first Namco Museum was released for Playstation, Namco in Japan published a book titled "Masterpiece Game Collection", compiling two "All About Namco" volumes from the 1980s:

In addition to compilation re-releases, the Knight-Ridder piece covering Billy's claimed perfect score in 1999 included a reference to such a classic gaming revival being underway (as seen in the Indianapolis Star that August):

Of course, all of this matches what we know now, that video games of every era operate on nostalgia cycles, where 30-somethings (as Billy was in 1999) take a renewed interest in the games of their youth. Or, as Billy put it (at 10:50) [S35]:

Well, the 20th anniversary of gaming is like the 20th anniversary of a car. The Mustang, you know, was a great car. But it sort of wanes, and... people lose track of it. The 20th anniversary, there's some big new resurgence. Well, that's what happened with video games. And now there was a resurgence for competitive gaming, and there was the quest for what was always called the Holy Grail of video games, which was a perfect score on Pac-Man.

Even if we assumed Mr. Nakamura really did say this to Billy, at some time and place of which Billy can't make up his mind, it wouldn't mean what Billy ascribes to it now. As my research colleague remarked, reflecting on a 2017 stage appearance with Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, and Ready Player One author Ernest Cline (seen in Exhibit C at 18:20):

It reminds me of that clip with Ernest Cline when he appears on-stage with Mitchell and Day, and Cline pours on superlatives to describe the two, possibly crediting their work as being critical to Ready Player One or something like that. Most people who heard that rightly interpreted the comments in the context of the event -- a celebration, people are feeling good -- but the reaction of Day and Mitchell was to take Cline's compliments at face value. For the sake of argument, if Nakamura did make some passing reference to Mitchell's Perfect game as "inspiring" others to play these classic games, Mitchell has a tendency for taking a complement and running with it.

And yet, that still isn't the end of it. Recall how Billy told that "inner circle" story for years, and then after an encounter with Toru Iwatani, started telling everyone it was Mr. Iwatani who told the story first?

Check out this bit, professionally translated, from the Japanese Namco site [S36]:

In an interview with WIRED magazine, Billy predicted that "Pac-Man World," a PlayStation game to be released this fall, will have a huge impact on the U.S. and reignite the passion for gaming that was ignited by the original Pac-Man in 1980.

It is indeed "very flattering" of people like Mr. Nakamura to allegedly give Billy credit for all these things Billy wants to take credit for (retroactively if necessary), so Billy doesn't have to be so laughable as to be seen taking credit for those things himself.


Here's a story that's changed much more recently. If you've followed this Billy stuff for the last couple years, there's a good chance you've heard this, and you probably assumed it was always part of the narrative.

Starting in early 2018, Billy added the following extra flourish to his stories about his trip to Japan. Let's hear it in his own words, in the previously linked interview with After 2 Beers, from February 2019 (starting at 72:30):

When I was in L.A., I just started playin' the Pac-Man, and I just said "Oh, I'm gonna keep going." And I played it, all 256 boards to the kill screen. Well, I hadn't done that since... 1999. I had... I did it in New Hampshire for the perfect score. And when I went to Japan, I had to repeat the perfect score, and I did.

Yes, according to Billy, he flew halfway around the world, and knocked out a second perfect score in Japan like it was nothing. [S37] And he... just didn't tell anybody for eighteen years, I guess?

This wasn't just one offhand remark, either. Here's Billy in his signed statement as part of his September 2019 legal threat:

Whoever runs Billy's Twitter on a given day also seconds this claim that a second perfect score was done specifically at Wonder Park (which they refer to by the name "Pac-Man Studio", which is the same location):

Walter Day backs him up too, in his letter to Guinness accompanying that threat:

Nice of Walter Day to lie for his friend. Also, that letter was submitted to court by Billy's attorney. Perjury seems to be a theme with them.

Billy's second-biggest cheerleader, Isaiah "Triforce" Johnson, also got on board with this "second perfecto" story, not long after it was first introduced. [S38] Here he is from an April 2018 stream, adding a few exaggerations and flourishes of his own (at 19:10):

He did that live at an... at an event, at Funspot of all places. There was witnesses, it was on TV, and the whole nine yard. Then he went to Japan, and re-performed it there in Japan, where Namco then awarded him the plaque "gamer of the century". And then that got inputted into Twin Galaxies, which then later on, went on to... Guinness Book of World Records.

So why was this lie created recently? My research colleague tried to find a reason:

Is it basically a Todd Rogers-esque "I got the score in front of important people, so you can trust me"? Even if in his own mind he was trying to address questions about the Funspot score by saying "Well, I got it in Japan too, so that's my Plan B achievement" -- except Rick got the perfect at the end of July, which beats out Mitchell's "second" perfect. Weird, right? Mitchell claimed his hosts had his itinerary mapped out, practically minute by minute. So we're supposed to believe that Namco, after springing for airfare and hotel to have him as their invited guest with a scheduled appearance at the TGS on Friday and a commemorative plaque for his July 3 1999 score waiting to be handed over, they were still skeptical of his claims and compelled him to achieve another perfect?

Another reason for Billy to add this lie is simply "Because he could", as another research colleague remarked:

It's not the first time Mitchell has done this. The obvious example is Pete B - Mitchell couldn't wait to retcon him back in to his story as an extra TG official and witness. However it completely made a mockery of his comments at the Hall of Fame and the Boomers videos.

To look at it another way, Billy isn't trying to convince you or me of anything. An inquisitive eye and open mind are enough to expose Billy's strained relationship with the truth. Stories like this are for the benefit of those fans who take his word as gospel. And the people gullible enough to believe all of Billy's other bald-faced lies will be gullible enough to believe this one as well.

But don't worry. This epic "second perfect score" lie can be debunked in no fewer than FIVE different ways. [S39]

First of all, there was no mention whatsoever of this supposed second perfecto, in any of the many media profiles over the years, or TG press releases, or media coverage from the event. You mean to tell me Walter Day, who was in Japan with Billy, wasn't taking every opportunity he could to promote this magnificent and historic achievement by his "Player of the Century" golden boy? Granted, judging by the photos, Walter was not present for Billy's visit to Wonder Park, but did this now "once in 3.3 billion" event just not come up in any conversation during the trip, either from Billy himself or Namco staff who would have witnessed it? (I'd love it if Team Billy's new answer was "Well, Walter didn't want to mention it, because he wanted to exaggerate how rare a perfect score is.")

Second, not only was this supposed Japan perfect score never mentioned in any Twin Galaxies media over the years, some of this media actively contradict the claim. Walter Day is only too happy to testify on Billy's behalf in the present day, but in 2009, long after there was any need to hype up the rarity of a Pac-Man maxout, Walter still expressed ignorance of this supposed second perfect score he would later be informed of. See this excerpt from page 360 of the third edition of the printed Twin Galaxies record book, praising Pac-Man perfect score player Tim Balderramos for being the only person to achieve the feat twice:

Third, we're not sure exactly how Billy thinks he could have squeezed in an entire perfect score on Pac-Man at his appearance at Wonder Park. The event was only scheduled for one hour [GT]:

The business hours for the arcade were a little longer (from 11:00-23:00), but that doesn't help when he's stopping in the middle of the day to take pictures and such:

Are we supposed to believe he kept his hosts out until ten at night, just so he could ignore everyone and maybe string together a surprise perfect score that he won't tell anyone about for 18 years? [S40]

Fourth, there is coverage of Billy's appearance at Wonder Park, and (surprise, surprise) it tells a very different story. Here is a professional translation [S41]:

"I practiced about 10,000 times on the day of the event. The final (256th) stage was very important, so I took it slow and steady," he added enthusiastically about the historic day. While Mitchell showed off his incredible skills live at the event, a video broadcast played back the stunning moment when the record was achieved.

So the people covering the event didn't make any mention of Billy doing a perfect score, but they were excited to report Billy playing a tape from his game at Funspot. And it's not like we have to use our imaginations of what this split screen demonstration may have looked like. Recall this photo we saw in "Dot Six", which was later reprinted in Tips & Tricks:

Granted, Billy probably is the type of person to play a VCR tape and say "Look at what I'm achieving right now!"

Do you want English coverage instead? Going back to the December 1999 issue of Tips & Tricks, page 112 included a half-page feature on Billy's visit to Wonder Park in Japan. Once again, a lengthy description of Billy's appearance at the arcade, which does mention that he "played a little" while he was there:

Mr. Mitchell showed some of his Pac-Man tips and even played a little himself.

And yet, they make no mention of him repeating this big historic achievement they just spent a hundred words describing the magnitude of.

But really, what better way is there to debunk something than through Billy's own words? In Exhibit C, starting at about 45:00, Billy trails off from his typical story for the thumbs up photo:

He says "You did it, give me a quote!" And I said "I never have to play that damn game again. And that was my quote. But... I'm gonna again. I promised somebody I'd do another perfect score, so I'll do it again soon.

Given the context and the way Billy used the word "another", it seems pretty clear that Billy was saying he hadn't done a perfect score since the one at Funspot. However, I didn't count this among the official five strikes against this claimed Japan score, because he does not explicitly say he hasn't done such a score since July 1999. So his few remaining defenders will simply say "Oh, he just meant he'll do another perfect score, on top of the X perfect scores he's already done, where X is whatever number Billy tells us it is on any given day." Such are the benefits of never giving a straight answer to anything, I suppose. [S42]

In a December 2020 livestream with "Pac-Man Entertainment", Billy told the story of his attempts to show off actual game play while at Wonder Park in Japan (starting at about 47:10):

One of the most sweatin' moments was, I'm being interviewed by Japanese TV, and of course that's challenging, and they said "Gee, can you give us an example of your gameplay?" And I said "Sure". And I... the intention was just to play three boards. And I'm playing the very first board, the very first board, and I suddenly realized that this was different from what I was used to in the United States. I took off, and like, on the second corner, I'm about to get pinned in the corner. You can imagine, I flew all the way to Japan to get pinned and embarrassed in the second corner. But I recognized it just as it happened, and I managed to bail out and get out, and it just took longer, but I managed to do the screen and survive and I managed to get my bearings... And I... instead of doing three boards, I did two, and I was so thrown off balance after the second board I turned around, like "Okay, I'm done." I didn't want to risk it a third time.

We had also considered this a potential sixth strike against Billy's "second perfecto" story. They didn't even have American Pac-Man at the arcade! [S43] We're supposed to believe this guy, who arrived days early to the May tournament, and stayed late, and still couldn't assemble a complete perfect score, who took multiple days to allegedly achieve one in July, who announced and performed attempts at Classic Gaming Expo and failed to achieve one, who took multiple days in 2019 and in 2020 to max out Pac-Man on Twitch streams, we're supposed to believe this guy did it at the drop of a hat, in a foreign country, on a foreign machine where his practiced techniques didn't work, while still shaking off 12 hours of jet lag, and that he did all this during his scheduled one hour visit to Wonder Park?

However, in our research we were informed that, despite the way Billy frames it, American Pac-Man and Japanese Puck-Man actually play the same. There's nothing special about the Japanese version that would have prevented his techniques from working.

Indeed, in this 2013 panel, Billy gives a different variation of this story, attributing his poor game play to something other than regional differences (at 6:40):

I was on TV, and I did an interview, and I'm... there's three Pac-Mans, and I'm playin' one, and it's just like here. And I'm playin', and I'm runnin' through it and they film it. Now it's time for me to do an interview. And I'm on camera. So I do the interview, and they say "Now, will you give us a demonstration?" "Sure," I turned around to play, and there's somebody on that one, so I played this one. Well, this was... the advanced chip, where the second board plays like the fifth board. Well, I played the first board... the first board plays like the second board. But I didn't know that, and I start playin', and I go into the bottom corner, and I mean, two corners, and something's wrong. All of a sudden I bail out. I'm on Japanese TV. I would've gotten nailed on the second board, or the first board. Well then I just had to sit there and play real careful, pretend like I knew what I was doing, and I didn't. I was real careful.

To be clear, there is no "advanced chip". What Billy is describing in the quote is the jumper revision (mentioned in "Dot Two"), where arcade owners soldered together two connectors on a Pac-Man PCB. This resulted in the game running at an accelerating difficulty, with the first board playing like the second board, and the second board playing like the fourth board (despite Billy saying above that "the second board plays like the fifth"):

Very strange of Namco to host an unauthorized board revision in their own arcade, though. I don't suppose they kept a nice array of bootleg games on hand as well? Of course, if Billy had simply played poorly due to travel exhaustion, nobody would have held it against him, but somehow it's always the machine's fault.

At any rate, this does at least qualify as a claim, prior to 2018, that there was a Pac-Man game on site on which Billy could theoretically have grouped 272 monsters on 17 early boards before running a few hours of his ninth key pattern, using the techniques he already knew from American Pac-Man.

You may ask, what makes 2018 so special? Well, here's where strike five comes into play: This claim that Billy did a second perfect score in Japan exists nowhere prior 2018, including in the many, many, many interviews, panels, and presentations Billy has done over the years.

And this is not limited to public statements, either. Former Billy Mitchell acquaintance David Race was first made aware of this claim through Billy's September 2019 evidence packet accompanying his legal threat to Twin Galaxies and Guinness. David reached out to Rick Fothergill, who was also unaware of this claim, despite having heard a number of other incongruent stories about Billy's attempts to play Pac-Man in Japan:,7333.0.html

We did find what I believe to be the first public iteration of this lie, in April 2018, shortly after the DK score dispute, courtesy of his local paper, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Compare that to the late night interview with his friend Triforce, from October 2017:

This was the damage control interview, in response to people asking about Bill Bastable's 1982 letter from Bally-Midway (the one we discussed back in "Dot Two"). The point of this video was to emphasize how undeniable and beyond reproach Billy's "first perfect game" was, and how there's no way any reasonable person could deny that Billy was first. At 10:50:

I was there, I was at Funspot, I did it, there was people there, there was media there, there was press there, there was a camera there, there was film footage there. I turned it into Twin Galaxies. I did everything that I was supposed to do to authenticate it.

Later on, Billy references his claim of having played Pac-Man on Japanese television (at about 12:20):

I had to go, I had to fly to Japan. I had to play on Japanese television. Boy, you talk about pressure. Okay, I was there, at Namco. Namco had never seen, didn't know anything about it. Nothing. Zero.

A lot of the usual Billy tropes got trotted out for that stream: His supposed press release in advance, the bounty for beating the split screen, "I never have to play that damn thing again". They even discuss his trip to Japan, and how Namco supposedly "authenticated" his score. But somehow, throughout the entire video, he fails to mention this major item which would later become a cornerstone of his "You can't deny I got the first perfect game of Pac-Man" spiel?

Again, we found no record whatsoever of even the claim -- just the claim -- that Billy had gotten a perfect score in Japan prior to 2018, despite our having reviewed countless print interviews, video interviews, media coverage, and other third-party reporting, as you see linked throughout this series. Despite discussing his Japan trip countless times, and despite his fondness for bragging about his alleged achievements and supposed gaming prowess to anyone who will listen, and despite his obvious inclination to show up his "haters" with any story he could tell (whether real, exaggerated, or outright fictitious), this claim of a second perfect score never appeared anywhere prior to the 2018 Donkey Kong score dispute, although it has become a staple of his Japan stories in almost every interview since.

This late night Triforce stream was the same one featuring Billy's diatribe attempting to discredit a true Pac-Man champion who had preceded him (at 21:10). Let's take those same remarks of Billy's, and replace a few words to apply it to this current topic:

There's not a prayer that [Billy] got a perfect score in [Japan]. None. Zero. He forgot to explain that to us in all the conversations we had? Okay. Without lying to you, he was nothing but a [tool], okay. And he was a [massive cheater], okay. But he forgot to explain to us that he got a perfect score? He forgot to explain to us that he had a [second one], okay? He [told] us various [stories] of different [games he played in Japan], and he forgot to [tell] us the one of a perfect score? Okay? I don't believe in the tooth fairy, not for a long, long time, okay.

Or alternatively, to quote Billy's words (and yes, these are his own, unaltered words), from his now-deleted "Road to Redemption" tirade at 2018 Southern-Fried Gaming Expo [S44]:

That's not human error. That's not a mistake. That's a flat-out lie. That's a childish lie, and you'd have to be a moron to believe it.


Lies about video games didn't start with Billy Mitchell, and they won't end with him. Plenty of players were caught lying about impossible scores on Pac-Man (and Donkey Kong, and Dragster, and any other game for which an upper limit was later discovered). Some of them did it to stay competitive with the lies of others. Most of them eventually grew up. Some even confessed and apologized. But a few never stopped lying -- about scores they could do, scores they had done, the way those scores were done, games they could beat, people they were better than, the accolades they'd received, their business acumen, or anything and everything else in their life that could be lied about.

With regard to Billy Mitchell, one is right to ask: What was the point of adding all these extra twists and bogus stories, especially when they're all highly dubious and some of them are outright provable lies?

Admittedly, if you boil away the bluster, and set aside the shameful way in which Billy conducted himself, the actual original story is pretty cool! It legitimately is neat to get a maximum score on Pac-Man. He (allegedly) got a world record on an all-time famous game, got in the newspapers, got a blurb in Time Magazine, and from there, got to fly to Japan and meet Masaya Nakamura himself, and even received a plaque commemorating his score. That's already the gaming story of a lifetime. Why sully it with all this fantasy and fiction about (paraphrasing) "The news went around the world that weekend" and "JAMMA crowned me Video Game Player of the Century" and "I'm so good, I did a second perfect game in Japan"?

The obvious answer would be insecurity. 20,000 people at TGS (most of whom were watching something else) wasn't enough for him, so he tells everyone it was 70,000 (all of whom were watching him). 90% patterns wasn't cool enough, so it becomes 0%. It most likely took over six hours, which becomes exactly six hours, which becomes five and a half hours (four if he was actually trying).

Gosh, he would never exaggerate the actual score he got, would he? He would never say "Close enough", and then spend the next 20 years telling the world he did exactly the thing he had set out to do even when he hadn't, right? Not our Billy!

Another possibility is jealousy. Billy often tells the story about how he started in pinball, then moved to video games because that's where the "competition" was. He was perhaps a bit too honest about his underlying motivation in Exhibit B, at about 5:20:

The most popular games, the games with the most competition, I tried to choose those because when you held or you possessed that record, you possessed something that was being chased by a lot of people. And that's what put you on top.

We've pretty well established he didn't much care for the actual competitions themselves. If he did he would, you know, play in lots of competitions. He also wouldn't have agreed with his rival to compete at a later time and then immediately break his word. Billy sought a gaming record he never has to defend, since it can't technically be broken, he sought to do it first (another thing that could never be "broken"), and then with his friend conjured up a competition-transcending title which also could never be "broken". And then, of course, when he was dethroned on Donkey Kong, he produced fake evidence to put himself back on top. He went to astonishing lengths to bypass the risk and the work, and skip ahead to what actually interested him. Rather than having a yearning for competition, it would seem what Billy really wanted was to be envied, both on and off the leaderboard. [S45] He wanted his "brush with greatness" story to be more special than everyone else's.

There are many resources online relating to dealing with narcissists and pathological liars. While working on this project, someone shared with me one such video, titled "5 Signs You're Dealing With A Narcissist", focusing on the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her fraudulent biotech company Theranos:

It's an interesting video in light of this Billy Mitchell story. In short, Elizabeth's company conducted fake blood tests to swindle investors. This fraud was concerted and deliberate, perpetrated through strategic secrecy, as well as the occasional legal threat. Even people whose job it was to be skeptical of her claims were taken in by her confidence, her knack for explaining away discrepancies, and her ability to unflinchingly lie. Most notably, as the title suggests, the video lists five characteristics of narcissists:

- [They are motivated by] having the world view them in a way that strokes their ego;

- They will lie about ridiculous things;

- They have a different relationship with lying (meaning, they are much more comfortable with lying);

- They often don't give up on the lie;

- They are very likely to dismiss you (meaning, if you don't play along, they will label you a hater and attack you).

This goes beyond simply "Fake it 'til you make it", which would not have required continued cheating (even years after Billy "made it" through his movie appearance), nor the changing stories, nor all these current lawsuits. Insofar as an actual strategy can be discerned from all this lying, it would appear to be: Tell an overly outlandish version of your story, getting your name out there far and wide, while forcing even your critics to acknowledge whatever portions may be true. Now you have both the real version and your exaggerated made-up version out there for only half the work. If you're lucky, people might even think the truth is somewhere in between those versions. And with a lot of people, it works. In Billy's case, he got his name interspersed so often with the phrase "Video Game Player of the Century" that people just believed there must be some officiality to the title. If a question came up, he had an answer; if a doubt came up, he had an excuse. When necessary, add more witnesses who don't speak for themselves, or more video proof you never get to see. Even worse, Billy appears to have peppered in elements of other people's stories just to make his own lies sound more impressive. If someone told you their life story, and it consisted of plot elements from various movies you know they'd seen, you'd probably pity them. But Billy rides his charm and charisma, and just like that these lies get baked into accepted history, requiring 100,000 words to adequately deconstruct.

We'll close today with a remark from my research colleague [S46]:

There's an interesting quote in one interview (when talking about his awesomeness in the Namco boardroom) where he coolly asks "How d'you know I'm not making all of this up?" That's one of the main issues here - Mitchell knows no one else was around at the time to say otherwise. This blank canvas is food and drink to the nonpathological liar. It certainly helps his cause even more when the interviewer doesn't have the greatest background knowledge of the subject. Or that they are young and Mitchell can immediately assert a superiority complex over them.

Do you want to see some rare Pac-Man footage from 1999? You won't believe what we found lying around! Join us next time as we wrap this up, and we finally ask the big question: What really happened at Funspot on July 3, 1999? (No, seriously, you won't want to miss what we discovered!)
  1. RedDawn's Avatar

    Something extremely evident about BM, yet never ceases to amaze me is his narcissism and outright lying about his grandeur. That first article from UK Dreamcast Magazine with him saying he was 'phoned by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to David Letterman' literally made me LOL. I'm surprised he didn't claim he was voted Time's man of the year as well. It makes one question how much of his BS he actually believes himself.

    Likesersatz_cats, datagod, Rev John, kernzyp liked this post
  2. The Evener's Avatar

    "Rare Pac-Man footage from 1999?" "What really happened at Funspot on July 3, 1999?" Sounds like this Thursday's going to be an interesting day...wonder if Brian Kuh will be dropping in to announce "there's a Pac-Man kill screen coming up"

    Thanksersatz_cats thanked this post
    LikesRedDawn, datagod, ersatz_cats, Rev John, Barra and 1 others liked this post
  3. datagod's Avatar


    I think you broke the TG record for longest post. Thank you for researching all this. I'll be reading it very carefully tonight. Incredibly interesting.

    Likesersatz_cats liked this post
  4. lexmark's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by datagod


    I think you broke the TG record for longest post. Thank you for researching all this. I'll be reading it very carefully tonight. Incredibly interesting.

    And don't forget to read the "supplemental " stuff too. You'll find little gems like this...........................




    Thanksersatz_cats thanked this post
    LikesRedDawn, kernzyp, datagod, ersatz_cats liked this post
  5. kernzyp's Avatar

    "People actually play on MAME and pass it off as arcade." (Billy Mitchel)
    Narcissists tell on themselves. Apply this to your world leaders, right now.
    The medical fiasco above? Going on right now. Covid 19.
    All world leaders are "bigger Mitchels".
    That behaviour is sociopathic.
    Most regulars on this website are better than he is. It just makes them lie and plot more.
    Faded prima donna.

  6. Streetwize's Avatar

    I should point out that he is called out for being anti-competitive even in KOK by at least Wiebe. Something along the lines of "'If you don't play you won't lose,' that's a terrible mentality to have." And yes, I'm certain it was directed at Mitchell.

    Likesersatz_cats liked this post
Join us