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10-01-2021 at 01:38 AM
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The Video Game Fraud of the Century - Dot Nine

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 Nine" can be found here:

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



DISQUALIFICATIONS

Today, we'll discuss the evidence and arguments we and others have accumulated both for and against Billy's claimed Pac-Man score of 3,333,360 on July 3, 1999. Remember that I am not here to tell you what you want to hear. I am here to tell you the truth, which you may like or not.

The first category of things to discuss are potential grounds for disqualification. This basically means, "Even if we assume that Billy played a complete game on an actual Pac-Man cabinet and hit a score of 3,333,360, his game might still not be official." There are many reasons why a given historical game performance might not be considered "official", such as not being fully recorded on video in an era when that was an expectation, or (depending on the game) an inability to verify the settings used.

One of the most discussed controversies around Billy's score is his allegedly exorbitant number of breaks. Recall how Pac-Man has safe spots which, when entered properly, allow the player to effectively put the game on hold, as the ghosts circle in a predictable pattern due to poor AI.

As we discussed back in "Dot One", Billy typically speaks of these hiding spots as if they're temporary [S1]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20011226...lyRickChris.pl

However, contrary to what Billy suggests in that quote, the reversals do not operate on a series of 18-minute intervals. Rather, it's 18 minutes from the start of the board until the final reversal, which grants an indefinite pause in game play.

It's never been made clear exactly how many breaks Billy took during his claimed perfect score, nor how long they were. Pat Laffaye, who unknowingly arrived at Funspot the day after Billy's score, recalls hearing from Funspot manager Gary Vincent that multiple breaks were taken [S2]:


http://www.classicarcadegaming.com/f....html#msg77900

This entire topic is a quagmire of unwritten rules and selective enforcement, but hopefully this will serve as a summary. As part of developing a set of competitive gaming rules in the '80s, Twin Galaxies established regulations governing marathons. In 1983, ten minutes of break were allowed for every two hours of game time. The use of a "holding pattern" was also expressly forbidden, with the rules noting "The player should be actively scoring points at all times":


http://www.videoparadise-sanjose.com/tg-rules.htm

This changed at some point over the years. In 2002, a chat log was posted to the Twin Galaxies forums, discussing what the marathon gaming rules are and what they ought to be. While there was some disagreement on the particular rules used at past events, most agreed with Dwayne Richard in his recollection that break time was to be banked based on accumulated game time, similar to Guinness marathoning procedures [S3]:


https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...-Home-Consoles

One should keep in mind, the reason this was a Guinness rule was because they adjudicated things that were measured by time spent and not by score, such as "Most consecutive hours balancing a book on your head". It would surely be the standard if one wished to set the record for "Most consecutive hours playing Galaga", but that's different from "Highest marathon score on Galaga", just as much as a high score record is different from a speedrun record. [S4]

Subsequent to that 2002 conversation, a new official marathoning policy for Twin Galaxies was posted by Robert Mruczek in 2003. This policy made a clear distinction between the policies for home console games (most of which use a pause function) and arcade games, expressly allowing at-will breaks on many arcade games. [S5] It seems clear this policy was written with the 1999 Pac-Man scores in mind, as it specifically cites "Pac-Man type" games, acknowledging the use of these temporary respites:


https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...rathoning-v1-0

This would seem to have been an explicit (and perhaps retroactive) change in policy, as Nibbler champion Rick Carter replied in that thread, still citing the previously agreed upon banking procedure:


It surely can't be a coincidence that multiple arcade competitors were all on the same page that these rules applied to TG-sanctioned high score attempts, marathon or not. Regardless of how breaks were handled in future marathon attempts (such as the high profile Nibbler attempts by Tim McVey seen in the film Man vs Snake), and regardless of any logic behind treating games with temporary hiding spots differently than games with permanent spots, it's hard to deny that these rules were changed right around the time Billy made his unannounced trip to Funspot. Nevertheless, while we can discuss whether the score should have been admitted under TG rules at the time, it's unclear whether we should care about such breaks in active game play when evaluating a claimed milestone achievement in its historical context from a modern perspective.

Speaking of unannounced trips, by Twin Galaxies rules that would appear to be another point of potential disqualification. Helpfully, the Twin Galaxies submission rules active on their website in 1999 have a section dedicated to scores on "mature" (meaning older) games:


https://web.archive.org/web/19990417...lesintrod.html

https://web.archive.org/web/19991006...om/Rules1.html

If that last section sounds like it means TG intends to have staff in person at your live record attempt, another page on basement scores makes it clear that's exactly what they mean:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991007...om/Rules6.html

On one hand, this wasn't exactly a "basement". It was at Funspot, an established arcade. On the other, this was not any sort of traditional live event. In fact, as we've established, Billy went out of his way to make sure even key people like Walter Day and Rick Fothergill were unaware of his visit (a fact he himself admitted many times until that became inconvenient).

Under a section titled "No Photographs Required in Certain Contests", the author explains that photographs are waived during Twin Galaxies-sanctioned events:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991103...om/Rules4.html

Perhaps this is another reason why Billy tried so hard to fashion his July visit as some sort of head-to-head competition when it was not. Still, this makes it even more noteworthy that Billy didn't wait for Namco's National Family Fun Day the following weekend. That was a legit tournament! By rule, no photo would've been required - just the word of a referee, if one was present.

So what happens if you don't follow the "basement" rules, but you do have a referee present? The rules make that clear, too:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991103...om/Rules4.html

Again, those were the active TG rules as captured in November 1999. The only exception given is for TG-sanctioned tournaments, as we discussed. This requirement for photographs is reiterated later down the page:


Of course, TG's own records make clear this was never intended as a "referee" score. It was listed for years on the scoreboard with verification method "video" (from the guy who never submits taped scores), as seen in this capture in 2006:


https://web.archive.org/web/20060523...i=3229&vi=3365

Furthermore, Billy himself seems to be under the impression that nobody present was a referee at the time of the score (heard here with East Side Dave, at 28:00) [S6]:

There were Funspot people there. They were terrific, they were... so accommodating. Okay, there was news people there. There was a crowd there. I think there were people there that eventually became referees.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWLxh9Yi5Dc

Much as Billy may wish to emphasize referee rules, they don't apply here in any way. But let's say for the sake of argument that this is all a goof, and that this really was supposed to be a "referee" score, despite the rules prohibiting referee scores at anything other than a sanctioned event. Who exactly would the referee be?

Here's the list of active TG referees in late 1999:

https://web.archive.org/web/19991008...freferees.html

The only applicable name is Ken Sweet, a manager at Funspot. (He's the guy who picked up Billy at the airport for the May event.) Helpfully, Ken submitted a signed statement as part of Billy's September 2019 legal threat. Let's see what he has to say:


That's nice of Ken to amplify Billy's lie about there being some big announcement ahead of time. Of course, such a tepid statement can't help but be technically true, as Billy did indeed tell Gary Vincent of his intention to sneak in and play Pac-Man, but to call it an "announcement" is quite generous. That said, let's continue:


"Referees", plural and unnamed? Interesting claim, from the only actual TG referee present. (We'll also get more into this supposed crowd Billy had to be protected from in a moment.)

Continuing:


At the end of the day, Ken was not willing to lie and say he saw the final score when he did not.

Going back to the TG arcade rules linked above, here's what they have to say about witnesses:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991006...om/Rules1.html

Granted, the reasons given for why the referee must witness the final score don't directly apply to original Pac-Man: The game didn't allow multiple buy-ins, and it would be silly to think someone else walked up and got 333,360 (missing the millions digit) for Billy to claim as his own. But the reasons given for this rule are not all-encompassing. More importantly, these rules don't say "Sure, we'll make exceptions if you can argue your game doesn't need witnesses, even if your game is 'mature', and even if you don't announce your score attempt to us ahead of time."

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention Billy's violation of the often-discussed gentleman's agreement, which while certainly unsporting, doesn't necessarily pose grounds by itself for disqualification (not without some sort of sportsmanship clause, which the TG rules of the time did not explicitly include).

Much less frequently discussed, however, is the topic of glitch abuse. Today, speedrunners revel in breaking games in half, but this was an explicit deviation from Twin Galaxies practices, which governed games as the game designers intended. Very few people, not even ardent Billy critic Dwayne Richard, have made a big deal of the fact that the collection of the phantom dots on the right side, which boost the score by 540 points (90 points on each of six lives), is effectively glitch abuse. These dots are the result of an unintended mechanic, being produced by code gone awry, regenerating with each life lost unlike every other dot in the game.

You don't need to take my word for it. In Exhibit E, at about 8:30, the host asks about a feature on the split screen, to which Billy's response was:

Everything at the end of the game is a glitch.

Recall the controversy three years after Billy's Pac-Man score, around a time of 32.04 seconds allegedly set by Todd Rogers on the game Barnstorming which seemed to be impossible. This discussion was plagued by TG policy of secret submissions, and thus secret strategies, with people speculating how Todd could have achieved a time so low within the rules. One of the honest TG referees, Wolff Morrow, made it clear that some special glitch that would enable Todd to fly faster than anyone else would be disallowed:


https://atariage.com/forums/topic/10...ge/6/#comments

In fact, then-TG head referee Ron Corcoran (a noted scumbag, and friend of Billy's) was in agreement that such a special "trick" would have been disallowed [S7]:


https://atariage.com/forums/topic/10...ge/8/#comments

This blanket policy against bugs and glitches continued for several years:


https://web.archive.org/web/20060327...ndex.aspx?c=47

At the end of the day, in a setting like a court of law, it would be hard to argue that Billy's score should be disqualified on any one of these bases, for the simple fact that Twin Galaxies (as piloted by Billy's friend and promoter Walter Day) was the de facto competitive gaming authority of the time. The rules were whatever TG chose them to be. [S8] For years, the game was adjudicated on 3+1 settings, for a maximum of four lives. The moment Walter decided TG would change to allow 5+1 settings, that was now the rule. A game tactic was a "glitch" if and only if Twin Galaxies said it was. TG could've literally said "You can take breaks on Pac-Man, and no other game", and that would've been the rule. And as we've seen with Billy's scores in the '80s, any trip to any arcade becomes a "tournament" if TG decides they want certain scores to be retroactively official.

However, this is not an appeal to the Twin Galaxies of old, an organization which no longer exists. This is an appeal to the gaming public, and to people who care about competitive gaming history. Yes, we've all seen King of Kong, but researching this topic reveals the nepotism has gone so much further than what was seen in the movie. The old Twin Galaxies was not in any way, shape, or form any sort of impartial arbiter whatsoever for its partners like Billy Mitchell. There was no debate on whether a rule would be changed for Billy, just like there was no nomination process for his "award". Every rule was adjusted for Billy, every allowance granted, and when he ambushed Walter Day with a surprise trip to Funspot, in clear violation of the written rules, it was simply admitted anyway. Perhaps any one of these would not be grounds for disqualifying an historic score if one believed the score was (as we would commonly understand the term) genuinely achieved. But the totality of the rule-pretzeling granted to insiders like Billy compared to his competitors (like Fothergill, and later Wiebe), to say nothing of those who were outright excluded (like Bastable), should give anyone pause before taking Walter Day's stamp of approval the least bit seriously. [S9] In other words, as an historical adjudicator, old Twin Galaxies does not have the least bit of credibility.

Boy, if this is the circumstantial case around Billy's 1999 score, that tape authenticating it had better be something else.

POINTS, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE

Let's pause for a moment and establish some quick math. We calculated early board points back in "Dot One", but as a quick refresher, after the first 20 boards, if you collected every optional fruit and ghost (as well as the required dots and power pellets), your score will be 365,600. Board 21 begins a long stretch of "ninth key" boards, which all run the same and can all be defeated using the same pattern, netting 12,600 points for each board.

Here is the ninth key pattern Billy uses:


Again, this is a modified version of the pattern "Stacked", with only a slight variation in the final corner. It's a very safe, easy to run pattern (and there's nothing wrong with that). Aside from a couple novelty patterns, such as ghost pass-through patterns, we have observed only this pattern used by Billy on every complete ninth key board he has played publicly, including his 2019 Funspot attempts and his 2020 "Reunion machine" plays in Chicago.

Before we continue, let's take another look at the ninth key pattern given in the 1982 book The Video Master's Guide to Pac-Man by Jim Sykora and John Birkner, seen way back in "Dot Two":


https://www.digitpress.com/library/b...mg_pac-man.pdf

In our research, we were not able to determine a definitive origin for the complete "Stacked" pattern Billy uses. [S10] However, despite Billy's claims that he and Ayra developed all their own techniques themselves, the first half of "Stacked" is a match for the book pattern, only deviating near the upper right corner after the whole bottom half of the board is clear, and before the book pattern uses a timed pause just above the ghost pen. Sure, it could be a coincidence. With all the ninth key patterns out there, there are bound to be some similarities. But it's also possible Billy and Chris found this pattern, with near-continuous motion, and found an alternative ending (perhaps their own, perhaps someone else's) to cut out that one point of potential error.

Getting back to the math, on a perfect pace, your score will roll over one million on board 71. [S11] Using that pattern, the score will be 996,320 at the point of rollover, which happens when you collect a key worth 5,000 points. Because of the way the game handles the banked record score, that means your "High Score" display will read as 996,320 for the entire time you're between one and two million. At the two million rollover, that banked high score becomes 998,080, and at the three million rollover, it becomes 999,720. (Again, this is when using that particular pattern). This means that A) any bit of "perfect score" footage using that ninth key pattern can be assessed for what board the player is on, and B) such footage can potentially be falsified (proven fake) if the banked high score and the current score are not consistent with a perfect pace. (Note that a player can go off-pattern and still achieve the maximum score, and that doing so on a rollover board will result in an unusual banked high score.)

While Billy's complete July 1999 Pac-Man tapes have never been released, it turns out there are little bits of footage from two of those tapes floating around the Internet. First up was about a minute worth of footage in Dwayne Richard's documentary The Perfect Fraudman, starting at about 1:15:00:


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

This footage was captured by pointing a camcorder at a TV screen -- a copy method Dwayne is apparently fond of. This makes the scores on the still shots hard to read, but watching in motion you can see that board started at score 20,800 (with no millions digit). A score of 1,020,800, with a banked high score of 996,320 (which the banked score in that shot appears to be) is consistent with the start of board 73 on perfect score pace.

In 2018, during a Facebook livestream conducted by Twin Galaxies, we were given a glimpse of more footage, this time from a tape labeled "(2) 6HR PERFECT GAME PAC MAN" [S12]:


Again, the current score (and identical banked high score) of 403,400 is consistent with a perfect score pace at the end of board 23.

This tape is one of hundreds in the possession of Twin Galaxies, which are in the process of being digitally captured and made available for public viewing as part of the Twin Galaxies video tape archive:

https://www.twingalaxies.com/wiki_in...o-Tape-Archive

While our research project was underway, unbeknownst to me, this tape had already been fully digitized by Twin Galaxies for eventual release as part of the public archive. (Again, while the tape may have been important to us, it is just one of hundreds in their possession.) It was in this context that I reached out to TG, requesting that a complete digital copy of the tape be made available to help answer our various questions related to its contents.

That request was granted.

Before I continue, I must make clear that Twin Galaxies does not make any claims whatsoever about the provenance or authenticity of the tape or its contents. Any conclusions I make to those ends are strictly my own. (This also applies to the aforementioned Facebook livestream of the same tape.) As with many of the tapes in their custody, the label does not specify who submitted it, nor what date the depicted score was achieved. From their perspective, it is simply a physical tape in their possession.

With that said, I do believe this to be, if not the original "Tape 2" of Billy's July 1999 score, then a very close-to-original copy of it.

The full two-hour video can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ufz16AafaY

I have also assembled a compilation of various highlights found on the tape, which you can see here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TuU0VwOqsc


EDIT: Billy has filed copyright strikes against the two linked videos. Again, Billy Mitchell hates evidence. The full two-hour video can be seen here as part of TG's video archive:

https://view.vzaar.com/23489924/video


The tape starts with Pac-Man in the park spot, as ghosts circle around:


The current score (same as the banked high score) is 378,100, with ten dots (100 points) remaining. That places this as board 21, on max score pace. Note that while this was the first "ninth key" board, Billy did not use his standard pattern, which would have eaten those remaining dots at the start. It's unknown what pattern he used, if any, before parking and setting up his recording. Billy also seems to have operated the camera himself, as he is not heard interacting with anyone as he takes a moment before continuing his game.

While you never see Billy's face on the tape, nor do you even see the control panel or his joystick movements, in the monitor you do see a reflection of hair similar to his from 1999. The best view of this hair silhouette comes when Billy readjusts his seat on his stool, as he does more frequently later on the tape. [S13] You can also hear Billy's voice on the tape. At one point, Billy remarks "Steve Krogman, where are you when I need you?" (This would seem to confirm Krogman's earlier story of coaching Billy through his perfect score attempts in May.)

The pattern Billy runs affords the player an extra moment of safety while clearing the top left corner. In 1999, Billy occasionally used this time to clear the final seven dots left-to-right instead of his standard right-to-left, for no apparent reason other than to change up the monotony. Billy took this a step further on board 73, not long after his first score rollover, allowing Pac-Man to wander well off course of the final dots:


But since Billy is never heard reacting as he reverses to eat the last seven dots before the ghosts arrive, one could assume this deviation was yet another expression of his boredom.

Early on in the tape, Billy remarked that Fothergill told him he had run all 235 ninth key boards without going off-pattern once, and that he (Billy) wished to do the same. (Apparently board 21 didn't count?) [S14] Billy also noted out specific milestones, like one million, and occasionally talked himself through his pattern, especially later on as his game concentration started to wane. This becomes most apparent after he screwed up his pattern on board 142, at score 1,896,940 [S15]:


Billy was supposed to turn left at the very top of the board, but instead turned an intersection early, going off-pattern for the first time in his ninth key stretch. On the surface, it would appear Billy got a little lazy with those "1/60 of a second" reflexes and buffered his anticipated turn way too early. And that may indeed be what happened. However, if you refer back to those ninth key patterns seen above, this misstep happens to the exact point at which the "Stacked" pattern deviates from the original book pattern from Sykora and Birkner. Granted, Billy doesn't follow up by taking the downward turn seen in the book, so we can't say for sure that his brain fart involved turning at the junction as he had perhaps originally learned the pattern long ago (as opposed to an ordinary bad turn), but that is a possibility.

Following his bad turn, Billy darted back down the way he came and escaped through the side tunnel. He then spent the next two minutes scrambling around, manually grouping the ghosts for easier evasion, before eventually clearing the board without losing a life. As to the earlier point of trying to get through without an error, Billy simply muttered "Okay, Rick. You got me."

Recall back in "Dot One", I wrote:

We did find exactly one piece -- one single piece -- of his overall 1999 Pac-Man story which I can confidently say did happen exactly as he describes.

In Exhibit A, at about 10:40, Billy talks about making his first bad turn and going off-pattern, saying this happened specifically at the score 1.89 million. (In some tellings, it's "1.9 million", which is a fair approximation.) [S16] Imagine my surprise as I discovered this element was exactly as Billy described! And to such an accurate level of detail, too! With no rhetorical tricks, no weasel words, no anything. I was genuinely astonished. Aside from expected rounding, Billy went off-pattern exactly when and how he said he did.

To mark this momentous occasion, I would like to present Billy Mitchell the following award:


(Okay, in Exhibit D at 1:01:10, Billy said this happened at 2.9 million. And there was Billy's story from "Dot Three" about going off-pattern because some Boston reporter was pestering him. And there was the time at Retropalooza 2019 where he misidentified the spot where he went off-pattern. [S17] But let's not spoil this occasion! After all, twenty years from now, this will become the moment he was crowned "Truth-Teller of the Century".)

Billy did go off-pattern again on "Tape 2", although his stories about when he did are a little fuzzier. This time, it was board 147, at score 1,960,060 [S18]:


This was a very curious error, turning right instead of left as he came down from the top of the board. That's not a buffering error like before. [S19] He admitted it himself on the tape when he finished the board, remarking "Just forgot where I was goin'".

This error happened five boards after the previous error. However in Exhibit D, Billy tells the story as if these errors kept happening on consecutive boards (at 1:01:20) [S20]:

I'm playin', and I got just almost to 2.9 million, when I made my first bad turn. First bad turn, and there's chaos on the board. There's chaos... everywhere and I'm... Somehow I survive the chaos and I finish the board. I go "Oh, whew, okay." Next board, whoom, I come apart again. And there's chaos. And somehow I survived it. Again, in the third board, I come apart, there's chaos everywhere.

While the tape does not contain any bombshell revelations people might have hoped for, there are a lot of interesting details to that tape. [S21] Here's a quick refresher on Billy's description of the scene at Funspot that day [S22]:


https://twitter.com/billypacman/stat...20849332326400

Despite Billy's stories about coming to Funspot on one of the busiest days of the year, you don't hear a lot of background activity on his tape. What noise you do hear, such as an occasional other game being played, really stands out. It's quite a contrast from the sort of high stress environment where Billy says true champions prove their worth. (Maybe Billy should have made some announcement that he was going to be there.) During the later part of the tape, the sound of some kid in the distance blowing on a cheap toy whistle over and over kept echoing through Funspot's halls, all captured in the background of Billy's Big Score. (Whistle Kid, wherever you are, you're our hero!)

At one point, a community bumpkin walks up and asks "You filmin' that thing?" Billy tells him it's going to be a world record. The guy asks Billy what the current record is, and (judging by shadows cast on the screen) Billy audibly taps on something on the cabinet marquee and says "It's right there." The guy wishes Billy "Good luck", and leaves him to his game. (So much for these crowds circling around him in rapt anticipation.) Someone else passes by later, to which Billy admonishes "Just keep your kids away." This leads into Billy telling the story of the kid unplugging all the games on him the night before, and how the Pac-Man machine was thus moved, in his words, "over here". [S23] Soon after that conversation, Billy takes a cell phone call from a Tammy, who seems to be calling for business, unaware that Billy is in New Hampshire. He continues playing through their short conversation. [S24]

Recall, from Exhibit A, at about 16:50, Billy's explanation for why his score took "more than five hours" [S25]:

But when I did it the first time, there was no hurry. Remember, there's people all around. There's reporters talking to me. There's times when I stopped and I answered questions. So I... I took more than five hours.

Of course, no "reporters" of any kind are heard on his tape. As to the claim that Billy was surrounded by spectators, Billy's camera remains notably still throughout most of the recording. The only time the view shakes is when those two stragglers approach and begin chatting with him.

Toward the end, another voice, presumably someone from Funspot staff, comes up and says "The tape's ending." Billy asks this person to get another one, and they do. Notably, Billy doesn't go into a park spot. He just keeps playing, knowing the tape is about to end. The last sight we see is Billy, still running his pattern, rounding a turn on board 155, at score 2,054,590 (with banked high score 998,080), still on perfect pace:


Billy claims to have played the remainder of his game without going off-pattern. In an interview with Scene World, in describing his practice of calling out his moves in advance, Billy adds (at 7:10) [S26]:

It was by doing that that I regained my focus, at about 2.1 million, and then I played all the way to the end, again without a single bad turn.

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

But again, Billy's stories of how often he went off-pattern have not been consistent. In 2019, Billy said the number of off-pattern boards for his perfect score was as high as fifteen (heard here at 2:14:40):

When you make a mistake, it's called chaos. Pandemonium. It's asses and elbows all over the board. When I... The last time I got a perfect score, I had... I only had like two... two chaoses. The first time, I had a lot. I mean, fifteen boards.

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

In fact, later in that video (at 4:14:30), Billy gives an illustration of several supposed off-pattern boards that bear no resemblance to the tape whatsoever:

And I thought "Okay, I made a bad turn. No big deal." I somehow survived. Somehow. Didn't die. The next board, boom, I zoned out, went off-pattern again. Somehow, survived. I mean, I wasn't nearly as good at surviving chaos then as I am now. Now, I think I could probably do a hundred boards if I... was on a perfect screen. And it was... then I... then I would do a good board, then I'd go off-pattern again. I'd have chaos. Then I'd have chaos again. Then I do one good board, then I have chaos, chaos. It just went on for about... just about 200,000 points... 2.1 million. And finally, that's when I began... you know... "Bottom right, left s-channel, inside, all the way up, across the top, take the key, bury it in the corner, right s-channel." And I started coaching my movements several seconds in advance, which helped me maintain focus, and not zone out. And from 2.1, all the way to 3.3, I never made another bad turn.

In contrast, the tape we were provided (which, again, ends at score 2,054,590), only shows two such boards total. Also, he began calling out his moves on board 149, around score 1,984,000. Perhaps when Billy referred to "the first time" he did a perfect score, he meant his secret perfect score from the '80s?

To be clear, these sorts of discrepancies, of when and how often Billy went off-pattern, and when he started verbalizing his moves in advance, are easily attributable to faulty memory. (That's setting aside Billy's unfounded confidence that his memory is superior to everyone else's, of course.) But this raises a deeper question to consider. If the tape disagrees with Billy's memory, no reasonable person would say "I believe Billy, therefore the tape must be wrong." The tape is the permanent record. We don't need to rely on Billy's memory, and can in fact objectively show his memory to be incorrect. [S27] And yet, so much stock has been put in Billy's fluid fish tales about meeting Masaya Nakamura, or about being given this or that award in Japan, or about who said what to whom, all because he tells the stories confidently, and has his friend back him up. Granted, we don't have a full recording of Billy's entire time in Japan, but as we've discussed, we do have permanent evidence relating to his visit which does not match the stories he likes to tell. Furthermore, unlike the stories of when Billy went off-pattern, which don't particularly matter in the grand scheme of things, Billy's outlandish Japan stories come with incentives to lie, particularly when that lie involves misattributing the origin of his "Player of the Century" title given to him by his friend Walter, claiming it came from the CEO of Namco, or the founder of JAMMA, or Sonic the Hedgehog, or whoever else Billy wishes to be "flattered" by. If Billy can't get simple details which don't even matter correct, why should anything be believed solely on the basis of his word?

If you think we're done talking about Billy's Pac-Man tapes, think again! Amazingly, the tape we were provided wasn't the last bit of 1999 Billy Pac-Man footage we found. It would appear Billy gave a copy of his "Tape 3" to G4TV, for use in various interview segments in the early 2000s. The first bit of footage comes from the episode "Icons: Pac-Man":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLtBeGx4fTE

First up, at 0:50, we see the end of board 255, followed by the start of board 256:


While the aspect ratio is different, that does appear to be the same angle of recording, with the same ceiling tiles reflected, as in the other footage we can identify as Billy's. (Note also that this was aired at a time when there were next to no other recordings of perfect scores, or close-to-perfect scores, available to use, much less ones that match every hallmark of Billy's known tape.) For perfect pace, the current score entering the split screen should be shown as 326,600 (minus the millions digit), and the banked high score should be 999,720. While the scores seen on G4 aren't entirely legible, both do appear to be consistent. [S28]

Next up in sequence is a photo from Tim Balderramos' book The Perfect Game: Confessions of a Pac-Man Junkie. On page 42, we see a scene from a "Perfect Pac-Man Show" at Twin Galaxies' "Video Game Festival" event at the Mall of America in 2001 [S29]:


This is again a clear match for Billy's July 1999 tapes, with the same tilt and angle. It's also consistent with accounts (including from Balderramos) that it was Billy's tape that was played live at the event. You can see Pac-Man on right side of the board, about where the right tunnel should be. With all the regular dots remaining, and with all five spare lives still in store, this would appear to show Billy's first move on the split screen.

That moment in that wide photo is a match for this photo, taken at a different angle by the website NGenres at the same event [S30]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20011211...interview.html

It's also a match for this photo from that event, with Walter in a different position and pose, from RePlay Magazine [S31]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20020616...l_festival.gif

Additionally, this would appear to be the same moment in the game we saw in Billy's visit to Wonder Park:


https://web.archive.org/web/20010725...-visit/01.html

In the third segment of the G4 show, we see the next part of the split screen, where Billy travels down and then turns to the right, emerging through the left wall on the other side of the screen (at 5:50):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX18yB7aitM

It's unclear why this portion of tape is seen so much brighter than in the previous segment of G4 (as uploaded to YouTube). The displayed current score is up to 326,620, meaning Billy ate two hidden dots on his way through the garbage. The clip continues as Billy eats a sequence of dots on the normal side:


While the footage shown is presented as being more-or-less continuous, there is a break in continuity relating to the disappearance of three regular dots, as you can see in this clip from another G4 episode called "Hi Score: Billy Mitchell" [S32]:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmVv7QQ-1qg

This shot is much crisper. We can clearly identify the correct banked high score. We can also see his current total score is 3,326,920, and that since the earlier shot when he was at 3,326,620, he has eaten 25 dots (for 250 points) and a power pellet (for 50 points), making the two shots consistent. [S33] We can also see Billy's still on his first life, with five in reserve. Again, Billy has eaten exactly two of the hidden dots on the garbage side, which we can't see. [S34]

Going back to the previous G4 installment, we can actually identify that same frame, from the later footage, with a dumb overlay in the way:


Recall in Exhibit C, at about 45:10, Billy's outlandish story of "a hundred people" being allowed to approach his game for the last two boards, and how Billy imitated getting jostled around by the advancing crowd as he valiantly continued playing. And yet, note our above examples from "Tape 2" of how Billy's camera shook slightly as a result of just one person walking near it. Now, compare it to the various clips shown. There is a little bit of shaking in the clip showing Billy's arrival at the split screen (probably from Billy himself jumping up and down, surprised he actually got to the end). But multiple clips starting at 5:56 here look about as calm as a Buddhist monastery:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX18yB7aitM

The G4 footage continues, as Billy parks Pac-Man along the right side again. The show then fades away from Pac-Man and to a close-up of Billy's face:


And that's the last we ever see of Billy's "perfect game" in progress. What happens from there, we don't know.

Wherever you fall on the debate regarding Billy and his blatant lies and cheated scores, this tape is a part of video gaming history, which makes the cloud of mystery around it all the more interesting.

FREE PARKING

Before we continue, some eagle-eyed readers may have picked up on the fact that we just caught Billy Mitchell in yet another lie about his Pac-Man game (and not just a misremembrance this time). This one has to do with his play on the split screen in particular. Let's go back to a topic we briefly touched on back in "Dot Three":


https://www.capitalgazette.com/ct-pa...522-story.html

This is a reference to something called the "BC" park spot, a technique used almost universally by modern perfect score players (outside of speedrun attempts). [S35] You can see an example in Jamey Pittman's MAME perfect score on YouTube:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuoH0vz3Mqk

At the start of the level, the player travels over to the yellow letters "BC" and turns down. The spot below "C" registers as a barrier. The player then sits there and waits, as three of the ghosts (the three whose names rhyme with "Stinky") trap themselves in an inescapable channel along the right side of the board. The player is then free to collect the nine hidden dots, all the regular dots, and the key, needing only to contend with the mostly non-threatening Clyde in the process. (It is possible to trap Clyde in that inescapable channel as well, but that requires an additional maneuver.)

In Exhibit E, at 7:10, Billy describes the process that led to him discovering this technique shortly before his claimed perfect score:

No, that particular one is a... is a safe spot, where the men actually trap themselves. They actually take themselves out of the equation, and then you’re free to roam the board. So... and it was funny because, the night before I... I was going there to do it, I’m like "Jesus! This last board is so hard, it’s unbelievable, I... I think I’m going to get all the way up there and I’m just gonna blow it." And I thought "Wait a minute, maybe I can trap these guys." And it was something that had just never been done before. But I had this idea that it would work. And literally the night before the perfect game I did it... and when I did it, it worked, and I thought "Oh wow, I just gotta get there. Once I get there, it’s easy." And I got there.

Billy continues by describing the actual technique:

When you start the board, go immediately through... through the left tunnel as quickly as you can. As you’re going through the tunnel, pull down, and the man goes through the tunnel and comes down, let go of the joystick and you’re there. That’s it. Yeah... It's called the... Some people call it the "BC" park spot, because you're on top of a letter "B" and a letter "C".

In Exhibit A, Billy reiterates that he traveled through the side tunnel on the left on the way to the "BC" spot. [S36] Of course, this is a problem, as we've now seen multiple views of Billy parked in the vicinity of the blue characters "A7", with all the regular dots intact (meaning he could not have traveled through the tunnel):


Furthermore, we never see Billy use the "BC" spot at all, opting instead to return to "A7" each time he leaves. In fact, the last thing we see, before the video fades out to Billy's face, is Pac-Man once again back at "A7", with both Inky and Clyde still running free:


Even if we wanted to grant him leeway, and wonder if possibly he figured out the "BC" spot in the course of playing the split screen on his claimed perfect score, his characterizations makes it clear that this was a pre-game revelation, specifically illustrating that it was this discovery which allayed his concerns going into his big score attempts that he might not be able to finish the final board. [S37]

At first, I didn't think much of this item. "Oh wow. We caught Billy in lie #1,426,895,309. Throw it in the pile." However, my research colleague convinced me this particular misdirection runs much deeper than at first appearance.

If you just watch the G4 segments above, you may not notice two significant cuts, done in such a way as to give the impression of otherwise uninterrupted game play. (To be clear, the G4 editor likely had no idea the relevance of these edits, and was just focused on making a clean presentation.)

The first of these cuts happens when Pac-Man is on the garbage side of the split screen. At 5:30 here, you can see Billy ignore the normal side of the board and immediately go to the "A7" spot, with no ghosts trapped in the side channel:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX18yB7aitM

Then at 5:50, you can see Billy leave the "A7" spot with two ghosts trapped in the channel:


The problem is, unlike the "BC" spot, Pinky does not actually trap himself when the player is parked at "A7". Instead, he aims for his target tile (which, when Pac-Man is facing up, is a little ways up and to the left of the player), and hovers in a circle around that spot. Even the timed reversals do not resolve this, as Pinky heads to the top left corner briefly before returning to that same hover spot. In order to trap Pinky in the side channel, you have to leave "A7" and do a special maneuver. David Race helpfully demonstrated this for us on original hardware:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P89HRhqJpA

Note that the maneuver required to trap Pinky is not especially perilous. It just happens to be another step, which in Billy's case, was likely an improvised one.

The other edit comes into play when Billy parks Pac-Man just north of the ghost pen. At some point, Billy leaves this safe spot, only to collect three dots, before returning to the exact same spot as before:


Those shots are from that same G4 video, at about 6:10. They are shown two seconds apart from each other, with various cutaways to Billy's face and such in between. It's not clear how cautiously Billy ventured from that spot above the ghost pen, or what caused him to return there after only three dots, but the trepidation in this sort of game play is palpable. (Note that David recreates a similar maneuver in his example video above. However, a player on a perfect score pace operating in an uncertain environment would surely be handling the situation with much more caution.)

These two cuts, while so quick and easy to miss, reveal a much deeper game of cat-and-mouse going on in Billy's split screen play. Additionally, it just so happens that this approach is consistent with a description Billy gave to GameSpot Japan that September [GT]:


https://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/games/new...16/news05.html

Going by our professional translation of that passage (seen in "Dot Eight Supplemental"), Billy referred to the split screen as "very important", adding that he "took it slow and steady".

So why, in all his stories since 1999, have we never heard of the dramatic perils of the split screen? Why are we not regaled with tales of this final boss, the ultimate obstacle between Billy and his claim to video game immortality? As my colleague remarked:

Now we all know Mitchell is not averse to giving himself a compliment or two. Ask yourself this though, why don’t we ever get the tale of "Oh man! It was tough going back then, it was even before I started using the BC Parkspot so it was far harder without trapping all four ghosts, but I still did it!" Which is what definitely happened if Mitchell did indeed go the whole way to 3,333,360. It would be a massive feather in his cap, the final screen, the pressure, no fail safes needed, and I still prevailed! How come, then, we get split screen recollections of BC parking, it being relatively easy and reporters interviewing him as well as 100 hundred fervent spectators jostling him from behind as he played the final 2 boards?? Why does he need to lie particularly if the truth would paint a far more impressive picture??

Indeed, the narrative from Billy for many years has been that the split screen is essentially a given. [S38] Here he is in Exhibit C, with his usual story of crowds of people (at 45:40):

So they come forward for the last two boards. And now there's people standing, and there's some of this going on, and I mean they're running against me. But then I... The last board actually is easy, so I did the board. [long silence]

In Exhibit E, at 6:50, Billy stresses how the "BC" spot is so easy, anyone could learn it:

It's something so simple, so easy, that I could teach anybody. When I was at 257 last month, I taught a number of people. I had people who really didn’t play the game, and they said "Oh, I could never do that!" I said "Sure you can, one time. Here, watch." And... I could even teach you guys.

During his 20th anniversary perfect score attempts in 2019, Billy speculated on what sort of dark fate would have awaited him if he hadn't used the "BC" spot in 1999 (at 6:09:30):

And the thing is, when I came up here to do the perfect game the first time, I was so terrified I would die on this board. And the idea of hiding, and of trapping them, it's something I learned, might've been the day before I came up here, but it was definitely within a couple days, which made it easy. Otherwise, I'd have came up here and played... I don't know what I would've, I mean... Who knows if I would've done it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sRM4GDud1Q

So if he didn't trap them, he might not have done the score? But... he didn't trap them. So...

These assurances of the infallibility of the "BC" spot and the inconsequentiality of the split screen take on a whole new meaning in light of this cat-and-mouse game depicted in Billy's 1999 footage. I was not the only one to raise an eyebrow over Billy's assurances that nobody could possibly die on the split screen in that context, as my colleague illustrates:

For the uninitiated, you listen to Mitchell talk about the Split Screen nowadays and watch him execute the BC parkspot. It is as he says, "relatively easy". As a result, you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that the split screen may have been his undoing back in 1999. That is of course, until you see his Split Screen footage courtesy of G4!! He was struggling!! I’ve often wondered if that’s why he tries hard to convince the listener of the relative ease of the final board - to put them off the scent that the unthinkable happened and he messed up!!

Indeed, shortly before the previous quote from Billy's 2019 stream, he made the following remark, at 6:08:10:

And there’s actually players that have gotten this far, perfect, and died in the middle of the board. Not me!

To quote the Bard, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

NO VID, NO DID

So we have some video, some of which raises some interesting questions. But even more curious is what video we don't have.

It has been said many times that Billy's recording consists of three tapes. "Tape 2" begins on board 21, and goes for two hours before running out on board 155. On a standard VHS tape, this would mean it was recorded on "SP", or "Standard Play" (highest quality), granting two hours per tape. Using the same setting, that gives two hours for "Tape 1" (boards 1-20, including all the tedious "blue time" boards), and two hours for "Tape 3" (boards 156-256). [S39] Worth noting is that Billy never takes a break during "Tape 2", thus any such breaks he may have taken during "Tape 3" would cut short the number of boards he could play before that tape would run out.

The beginning and end of "Tape 2" are different in basically every way. The first time, Billy has parked Pac-Man and appears to handle his own tape setup, whereas the second time, someone else handles it. The first time, Billy doesn't use his regular ninth key pattern, whereas the second time, he never (intentionally) interrupts his pattern, even when he knows the tape is about to end.

In researching this story, no legitimate question was completely off-limits. And thus, we considered the possibility that there never was a "Tape 1". The idea would be, Billy just sat there playing, with an idle camcorder, starting and restarting the game until he got the first twenty boards correct. Then, rather than wearing out a single VHS tape by recording and rewinding and recording each attempt each time, he just parked once he got his golden start and started filming from there. And then he would have cheekily labeled this first tape "2 of 3", figuring nobody would ever know the difference. Honestly, would that really be so alien from the Billy Mitchell we have come to know?

This theory was bolstered a bit by certain language in some of the reporting, specifically this bit from the Tampa Bay Times:


To be clear, this was in reference to the previous game that allegedly got cut short due to a kid unplugging the machine. But still, it raises an eyebrow, does it not? If this was a perfect score attempt, why would he not be recording from the beginning?

The UK Dreamcast Magazine also references some odd recording habits, describing the aftermath of the unplugging incident as follows:


The theory that there wasn't a "Tape 1" is countered by evidence of its showing at the 2001 Mall of America event. First is Tim Balderramos' recollection of seeing such a tape there:

I have never seen Chris' tape. I did see Billy's tape at the Video Game Festival - but that was all grouping. I did make a tape - with bits and pieces of my first perfect game - to serve as a "highlight reel" for the festival.

https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...l=1#post684217

Note that "grouping" would only be occurring on blue time boards (although similar free-hand play could be seen on the occasion Billy goes off-pattern).

Our search also turned up a single shot from that event, of what appears to be an early board [S40]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20050704...os_MOA_275.jpg

In this photo, we get a sense of the high video quality from Billy's recording, done at SP setting. At first blush, that banked high score looks like six digits leading with a 5. However, the dots eaten are a significant departure from the ninth key pattern Billy uses, and no such departure was seen at around 530-thousand on "Tape 2". A closer inspection shows that score is actually five digits, in the 53-thousand range. (If it helps, see how the letter "C" in "SCORE" is duplicated across both screens.)

So case closed, right? That's what we thought for a while. But then, one of my colleagues pointed out that the angle isn't quite the same as in "Tape 2":


Feel free to compare it to clips from Dwayne's documentary, or (if you still have access to it) TG's Facebook livestream as well. Obviously the display is curved, being on a Pac-Man monitor, and the angle is certainly close. But the curvature of the maze and the text in the "Tape 2" example seems noticeably different from what little we see of "Tape 1" in that photo.

Now, this is easily explained by a number of possible factors. The display at Mall of America is a multi-screen, with each TV introducing its own curvature in conflict with one another. It's also possible that Billy incidentally moved or repositioned the camera in between "Tape 1" and "Tape 2". (Note that there doesn't seem to be any repositioning in between "Tape 2" and "Tape 3", but that changeover was handled by Funspot staff.)

To reiterate, this could totally be nothing. It's not a thing that needs explaining.

However, my favorite theory -- and to be clear, this is just speculation -- is that Billy perhaps recorded a full "Tape 1" of blue time boards on an earlier game, perhaps even the game where the kid allegedly unplugged the machine, and then held on to that tape. After all, he was trying to get the score, right? So he would have been recording those earlier attempts, would he not? And then, for subsequent attempts, rather than grind this poor VHS tape into the dust recording over and over with each attempt, he perhaps decided "Well, I have a full 'Tape 1' here. I'll just call that my 'Tape 1' for my final game, and nobody will know the difference. It's not like anybody but Walter is going to see these anyway." There's little that would identify it as being from a different session, provided he parked Pac-Man in the same spot. [S41] His hair in the reflection is going to be the same. You don't really see his clothes, and even if you did, he probably brought multiple of those company-branded shirts for his big photo moment. The ambient noise on one tape might sound like a busy evening, and the other might sound like a slow afternoon, but there's no way to prove anything from that either way.

At the end of the day, we have nothing to prove this amusing hypothesis (aside from the aforementioned comparisons), and we have nothing to disprove it. You are free to decide for yourself.

Getting back to the tapes we know we have footage for, another interesting aspect is that they are known to be incomplete. First, we have a technical break in continuity between "Tape 1" and "Tape 2". [S42] In fact, we don't even know how Billy arrived in the standard park spot, and whether he did so on camera. Did Billy just keep playing as "Tape 1" ran out, as he did with "Tape 2"? Billy and his defenders insisted that Bill Bastable's maximum score in the '80s should be disqualified on the basis that he activated the pausing dip switch during the game -- something which he openly acknowledges. However, with any lengthy break in video, Billy could have just as easily done the same, and only he and his Funspot friends would have had any way of knowing. It would have been incumbent on one of them to say "No Billy, this big score you're attempting at our arcade has to be disqualified."

The point is not to say that any legacy scores of that era with poor recording should be disqualified or otherwise automatically cast into doubt. But it seems Billy lacked even a good faith effort to authenticate his incomplete tapes. First and foremost, the VHS standard does include a "SLP" (or "EP") setting to record for six hours on lower quality. But let's assume the camcorder he used only had the "SP" option, as some camcorders did. Or maybe he wasn't sure how long he would be playing. [S43] Or maybe he chose SP because he wanted to record his big historic moment in highest quality possible, so he could show it off at a couple events and then never again. [S44] But that still doesn't excuse the lack of continuity. Was he not able to acquire a second camcorder, in addition to the one provided by Funspot? This wouldn't even require a second tripod, as the second camera could be brought out only to record the main camera's tape transitions for continuity.

At the very least, a clock or stopwatch could be used, started on camera, set on the bezel where your "next game" quarters go, which would A) demonstrate some tiny piece of continuity between tapes, and B) account for how much time had lapsed. Surely Billy owns a stopwatch:


https://web.archive.org/web/20020108...ly-Pacman2.jpg

Remember Chris Ayra and his submission tape? Only a few months after Billy's trip to Funspot, Chris used two stopwatches during his perfect score, which were shown frequently on the tape. The point is, for a game like Pac-Man with its park spots, there are many ways to at least try to make a good faith effort to produce a complete record of your score which you wish to be adjudicated. But Billy made no such effort at the start of "Tape 2".

And of course, the break at the end of "Tape 2" is even worse. Forget a good faith effort, Billy makes no effort whatsoever to capture game play in a camcorder that he is told is about to run out. (And we know he has a park method for the ninth key board.)

In the 2004 Wired profile on Twin Galaxies, while bouncing back and forth between talk of arcade score and console scores, Walter Day made clear what should be included on a videotape submission:


https://www.wired.com/2004/11/the-scorekeeper/

Not only was Billy given a pass on these things, his inclusion on the scoreboard, along with the withholding of the tape from public view, is a tacit claim to the public (by himself and by Twin Galaxies at the time) that Billy's submission actually did live up to these standards, which would of course then be expected of his competitors.

Of course, Twin Galaxies wasn't so keen to note these breaks in continuity, reporting just the opposite in their press release the day of Billy's score:


https://web.archive.org/web/19991009...ld_Record.html

As was noted before, no one from TG had watched Billy's tapes when that was written. So why were TG staff in Iowa so quick to assure everyone that "every last move" was recorded, when they had no way of knowing it was true?

These breaks in continuity could be one reason why Billy does not eagerly show off what's supposed to be the masterpiece of his gaming career. As for public viewings, we have Billy's presentation at Wonder Park in Japan, and we have the Mall of America event, and... that's it? And the listed schedules for those events didn't allot nearly enough time to show the whole performance.

Even more strange was CGE UK. In August 2005, Billy, Walter, and some other American gamers wearing matching shirts all took a trip to a gaming convention in England. At their booth, Billy showed off footage of his recent Donkey Kong MAME tape, as well as a Pac-Man tape -- except, as seen briefly over Billy's shoulder in this video, it wasn't Billy's 1999 tape. Both the video and audio are a match for the 2000 perfect score tape by Billy's old friend, Chris Ayra. You can even hear Billy (on Ayra's tape) shout a time of "13:53" in both recordings (18:20 in the CGE UK video, 12:10 in the TG stream):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt02I3mYOT0

https://view.vzaar.com/22327099/video

This is quite odd, as Ayra himself was not present at that event. It's not clear whether this was presented as being Ayra's game, or falsely presented as Billy's tape, or presented without any context (with people then likely assuming it belonged to Billy). [S45]

But this again raises the question, why wouldn't Billy simply show his own tape? It's his big moment! These days, he has channels on Twitch and YouTube dedicated to scores he wants to show off, to silence all those darn haters. Instead he just redoes the score on stream every so often? Is it simply that the tape shows unflattering phone calls (which Billy could have muted), or poor game play, or the lack of spectators Billy claims were there?

As one of my research colleagues remarked, when we began our research:

When the anniversary rolled around for his 1999 feat last year, why hasn't he uploaded the video of this momentous performance to YouTube to celebrate? Why is he going off to Funspot to "re-enact" the moment? Why is it that I can go off to YouTube and watch Franco Harris' 1972 "Immaculate Reception" for the Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch the game, but I can't watch Mitchell's 1999 recording of his perfect score? The perfect Pac-Man was the bedrock claim of the Most Famous Video Game Player, a figure that Day promoted at every opportunity as boosting the TG brand. Why didn't Day digitize anything from that game and upload it to TG's video archive in the 2000s like he did with Steve Wiebe's 885k Donkey Kong game? Why did Mitchell apparently bring Chris Ayra's Pac-Man patterns tape to London in 2005 instead of highlights from his own game, from Mr. Perfect Pac-Man himself?

WHERE'S THE FINAL SCORE?

So we have footage of the split screen, on a perfect score pace. But it ends a ways into the first of six lives. Our next question is: Does anyone claim to have seen the final score of 3,333,360 on Billy's tape?

First up, we have Ron Corcoran, a man who for nearly two decades has remained in prison for appalling acts we shall not discuss here. He claimed to have watched Billy's tape #3, though he was very tight-lipped on anything past the phone call to Chris Ayra:


https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...l=1#post559334

If this seems in any way reassuring, remember that this is the guy who joined Todd Rogers in entering his own illegitimate scores and assisted Todd in falsifying world records (which, again, is far and away the least of his crimes).

Another unconvincing witness testimonial comes from this signed statement from Funspot floor walker Tom Fisher, courtesy of Billy's September 2019 legal threat:


This seems rather vague for sworn testimony, does it not? What exactly does this mean, "watched him finish"? "Finish" what, eating a taco? But let's assume in good faith that Tom meant "finish his game of Pac-Man". Did Tom merely watch Billy celebrate after the fact? Was he standing beside the Pac-Man cabinet, watching Billy as he played, unable to see the screen? Was Tom merely standing in the room as stuff seemed to be happening? Did he or did he not see either the final score, or the exact moment that score was achieved? I guess we aren't allowed to know. That seems like something I would have clarified. And what's this bit about the "first" split screen? Does Tom think Pac-Man has multiple kill screens the way Ms. Pac-Man does?

In his statement, Fisher adds "I hereby certify that his Perfect Game on PacMan was fair and honest." This despite not being a qualified referee for such a determination, and despite admitting to leaving Billy's vicinity for upwards of thirty minutes at a time. Again, this is apparently what passes for sworn testimony these days.

Also, while I have no particular desire to disparage Mr. Fisher, I can't ignore the fact that ten years later, arcade staff at Boomers knowingly participated in staging fake videos for Billy on some random weekday afternoon. (If those individuals wish to dispute my use of the term "knowingly", they are free to pursue the matter. Given the evidence, I can see no other explanation for their involvement.) In that light, regardless of whether they genuinely believe what they say, any arcade staff with apparent allegiance to Billy assuring me "Don't worry, the score is real, I saw it" holds very little weight with me. [S46] The community deserves a lot more than that.

There's also this professional translation of Japanese coverage of Billy's visit to Wonder Park (originally posted by GameSpot Japan), which we saw in "Dot Eight":

While Mitchell showed off his incredible skills live at the event, a video broadcast played back the stunning moment when the record was achieved.

https://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/games/new...16/news05.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20000818...16/news05.html

A similar note was included in Namco's Japanese coverage of the same event, with a description of the split screen squeezed in as well [GT]:


https://web.archive.org/web/20030222...sit/index.html

While this may at first appear to be two sources corroborating the same claim, a closer inspection with translations turned off reveals much of the text is a verbatim match between the two:


The green underlined segment is part of a direct quote attributed to Billy (which should be identical, as it was presumably received through a single translator), while the blue underlined segment is the portion referring to "the moment when the record was achieved". Oddly, the biggest differences are in the different at length quotes attributed to Billy. Other than a parenthetical aside inserted into the Namco piece (the one emphasizing the split screen effect), the text framing Billy's quote is almost completely identical.

Especially curious is that neither piece cites the other as a source. While it appears possible we accidentally unearthed some twenty-year old case of plagiarism, it's also possible there's a perfectly innocent reason the two pieces share so much verbiage in common. [S47] At any rate, it's safe to say this was indeed a single claim of Billy's tape displaying "the moment when the record was achieved", repeated by two outlets, rather than two distinct claims.

With that out of the way, there are a few reasons not to take this as a serious claim of having witnessed the actual final score (aside from the possibility of something being lost in translation). First, as with Mr. Fisher, the language given is very inexact. What exactly does "the moment when the record was achieved" mean? As we've discussed, some spectators mistakenly believe that the reaching of the split screen itself is the "perfect game". In fact, one of the two pages literally describes the "moment" as if it were the split screen, further reducing confidence that the original witness wasn't confused about what they saw. Second, neither entry attributes this claim of witnessing this to any actual person. Who exactly saw this "moment"? Don't tell me it was Billy (who is already quoted in the piece) who told some reporter "Oh yeah, I just showed off the final moment of my game! That proves without a doubt that I did the score!" Third, even if the information wasn't being relayed from Billy himself as a trusted source, this could still very easily be a case of some writer reporting second-hand what they were told from someone at the event, someone who maybe didn't know what the final score should be, with miscommunication along the way. We've seen all sorts of misreporting and incorrect impressions from English language professionals at CNN and Wired. Obviously the same thing can happen in Japanese media. Lastly, while there are other references to Billy's tape playing at Wonder Park, there are no other references to the specific final score being shown on his tape.

A claim to be taken more seriously, however, is that of later TG head referee Robert Mruczek. In 2018, parallel to the Donkey Kong dispute, a dispute over Billy's Pac-Man score was opened up (specifically citing that the listed time of 5.5 hours was bogus, and that the score should be removed from the "fastest completion" leaderboard). In the course of that thread, Mruczek recalled pulling Billy's "Tape 3" out of a box, and watching it just out of curiosity:


https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...-30-00-0/page4

When pressed for whether he recalled seeing the exact final score, Mruczek recalled that he did:


This gives us a specific, identified witness who claims to have seen the final score on the tape. A few months later, Mruczek expressed similar recollections in an interview with YouTuber Tipster (starting at 1:11:30) [S48]:

I did have possession, at one point, of the three tapes for the perfect Pac-Man. I mentioned on the forums that I watched portions of it out of curiosity. I wasn't officially charged with verifying it. The score was already done for years, and was in the database. I just never saw someone clear the ninth key before, and never mind the kill screen, so I watched portions of his tape. And it was amusing watching Billy standing there and telling himself "focus" at the beginning of every board. It's actually pretty funny. I watched the very end of the performance, and it looked like a good performance to me. I don't think that Billy's perfect Pac-Man was fake. I think it was perfectly real, as evidenced by the fact that almost a dozen people have done it since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sarJ_YL7wOE

The following year, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Mruczek for YouTube, and we discussed the matter yet again (with the following quote starting at 51:50) [S49]:

Well, I never saw a perfect Pac-Man then. I never saw a ninth pattern successfully executed at that point, let alone a kill screen. So... as far as I know, it looked legit. I would have no way to compare it to anything else, to be honest with you. I never saw anything else at that point. But it looked like, you know, it was definitely Billy in front of the game, hand on the joystick, playing the game. That much I'm 100% sure of. It wasn't... It wasn't, you know, Billy playing a video tape of a previously recorded performance, and mimicking joystick movements. It was definitely him playing the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jsTVjeZUI

If this sounds like a loose evaluation for an adjudicator, it should be reiterated that this was not an adjudication. Mruczek produced extensive notes and write-ups for various scores he authenticated. But in this case, he makes clear that this was a casual viewing of a tape he pulled out of a batch sent to his house by Walter Day.

At any rate, I found Mruczek's answers satisfactory at the time (as I also expressed in the linked TG thread), and I had decided that, aside from the various grounds for disqualification we've discussed, a score of 3,333,360 likely was indeed set on Pac-Man that day.

However, discoveries made in the course of this research project (more of which we'll get to in a moment) put that confidence in doubt yet again.

Notably, another tape in the same batch of tapes in Mruczek's possession was finally aired on the Twin Galaxies Twitch channel last year [S50]:


As we discussed at the end of "Dot Four", this tape (the one labeled "Perfect Pac-Man patterns") was a condensed copy of Chris Ayra's perfect score on Pac-Man, minus the "one second" boards and the long ninth key stretch. Twin Galaxies broadcast the tape during a Twitch livestream in November 2020, allowing the public to see this mysterious tape for the first time. And what we saw was a tape that, in some ways, matches what Robert Mruczek describes. In fact, you hear Billy's voice on the tape more than you hear Ayra's, as Billy explains various Pac-Man lingo and makes phone calls, while Ayra continues playing (with neither of them being seen). Billy even at times speaks to the recording, referring to Chris by name as if he wasn't there. Aside from the reference to "World record headquarters" (which is not heard on any publicly available footage of either Billy's or Chris's game), the key element Mruczek describes that would seem to be unique from the available footage of Billy's game is the sound of other Funspot games in the background. [S51]

This is not to impugn Mruczek's memory, or to suggest he necessarily popped in the Ayra tape when he meant to watch Billy's "Tape 3" (although those could be considered). Rather, it could simply be a case of watching multiple tapes in one night, waking up the next day, and forgetting which elements belonged to which tapes, with perhaps a movie line thrown in. Truthfully, everyone's memory sucks, which is why hard documentation is so important. I know I've been certain in my memory of things, only to discover I'd had something wrong for years. Mruczek was very clear that he was watching this casually, and not with an eye for adjudicating or documenting what was a years-old historical score. And he was, at the time, an admirer of Billy (as many of us were before we discovered he's a cheater), making favorable memory another thing to come into play. Note also Mruczek's stated recollection that he is "fairly sure" a phone call was received but not initiated, which runs contrary to Billy's stories of calling Chris Ayra and Walter Day (if we are to put any stock in those). It's also possible that everything Mruczek recalls, from the phone calls to the "Headquarters" line, are all accurate, except for the final score which by itself was added in memory.

In my own opinion, this alone would be weak grounds for declaring that the score didn't happen. Sure, maybe Mruczek misremembers, or misattributes Ayra's final score to Billy's final tape, but the fact that something could happen is not evidence that it did. However, the next two points served to reignite my own doubts in Billy's claimed score.

All this time, we've been discussing missing video, but there's something else missing from Billy's visit to Funspot: Still pictures! They supposedly exist. Let's go back to Tom Fisher's signed statement:


Well, if he took pictures, it must be legit, right? Heck, he apparently did it with Billy's own camera! Except, of these multiple "pictures", we've seen exactly one of them, on the Funspot Wall of Fame and the cover of Weirs Times:


But as was mentioned in "Dot Three", this photo appears to have been taken some time later. The camcorder Billy used and the stool he sat on are gone, and the machine appears to be back in attract mode, and not parked on the final screen. Whatever high score display Billy tapped on during the "Tape 2" video is gone. And that's all we have. No photos of -- or perhaps more importantly, no photos from -- the supposed crowd of people.

But what's truly shocking is the lack of photo of the final score -- just literally the game showing Billy's displayed score of 333,360 (with a banked high score of 999,720) on the split screen. [S52] Not a single such photo or video frame in almost 22 years! Remember, we got a close (if hard to read) photo of Rick's 3,333,270 score in May, complete with the split screen fruit display on attract mode:


And that was at an actual sanctioned tournament, with a referee team present, where photo and video proof was not even required. And they still managed to take a photo of the screen with his big score! (I mean, seriously, who wouldn't be thrilled to take a photo of their big score they worked so hard to achieve?)

For a score that Billy insists is genuine, and wants (and in some cases, demands) people to believe, he doesn't seem to have gone to even the most basic efforts to authenticate it.

There's another item I found stunning. Let's go back to that G4 episode, particularly that shot with the corny overlay:


So G4 had access to "Tape 3", and they wanted a shot to represent Billy's big game. And they indeed showed the moment Billy arrives at the split screen. But they didn't show the actual final screen with the actual final score? They had to show a screen-in-progress, with an overlay? This alone should raise the question of whether the final segment, with the final score, was actually captured on tape. In fact, out of the nine total clips G4 used between their various features (only two of which were repeats), all of them come from the early stretch of Billy's first life on the split screen. [S53] In other words, G4 used seven unique segments of Billy's game play, and they didn't once show the end of Billy's game.

In Exhibit D, at 1:04:20, Billy described his slow, casual approach to the split screen, while throwing in his usual stories of crowds of onlookers and Boston reporters as well:

So I played, and again, people and the crowd were coming forward, they hadn't seen the split screen, and they were seein' it, and... Once I get there, it's relatively safe, and I could show people stuff and talk, and there were reporters, a couple of 'em, from Boston.

Compare this relaxed attitude, short of the goal line, to how Billy describes the rest of his game play that day (here at 5:10):

I had such a tight grip over the joystick at times, I was afraid I was gonna shatter it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX18yB7aitM

Billy also claims to have made and received phone calls with everyone from Chris Ayra to Walter Day to Rick Fothergill, all during the split screen. There's no word on exactly how long this split screen allegedly took him. Whether this stuff is or isn't true, is it possible the tape just ran out before he decided to finish? [S54]

But even so, would that not have been yet another reason to take a photo of the final score? It's not like he can say he didn't have a camera.

(I would also ask why none of these supposed Boston reporters took a photo of the final score, but that's easily explained, as they did not exist.)

Walter Day in particular has claimed on multiple occasions (noted in "Dot Three") to have been on the phone at the moment Billy finished the perfect score. Here were Walter's words to Oxford American:

As he played the final board, having now gone without food for nearly two days, Mitchell called Day on his cell phone. Day recounts, "He was telling me, ‘I’m going here, now I’m going here,’ and then he said, ‘I did it.’"

https://main.oxfordamerican.org/maga...he-perfect-man

Of course, Walter would be reliant on Billy to inform him what the current score was. But still, that would be a significant element to this, would it not?

So why was there no mention of this historic moment in TG's press release issued hours after Billy's score?

https://web.archive.org/web/19991009...ld_Record.html

Day quotes himself multiple times in his own press release, praising this score as "possibly, the most difficult feat to accomplish in the world of video game playing". And yet he didn't think it important to add "I was on the phone for the big moment"? Especially at a point in time when he hadn't actually seen the tapes?

My research colleague was especially incredulous over this omission:

Now it bothered me that this "telephone witness" testimony wasn't included in the original reports of the perfect in July 1999, and particularly that it wasn't mentioned in TG's own press release that Day authored or vetted. This kind of "I was there when history was made" quote seems tailor made for Day's promotional machine. Based on what you've outlined above, it just makes me wonder if such "telephone verification" is there in case the public learns one day that 1) Mitchell died on the split screen before clearing all 9 dots, or 2) the tape that recorded "every move" actually ended or somehow missed the moment when the 360 threshold was crossed, and that no one thought to take a photo of Mitchell's history-defining score (which is equally perplexing with all the "Boston reporters" with cameras apparently floating around, let alone Mitchell's own duty to document his score for submission to TG if there was a video tape issue that didn't catch the last moments).

And again, calling back to things we discussed previously, why was Billy supposedly horsing around on the final board, calling people and giving away his ruse of a secret trip to cut in line and be the first, when anything could still go wrong? According to him, he was not even 24 hours removed from some kid unplugging his machine and resetting his game.

All of this, combined with the fact that Billy, for two decades, has declined to "silence the haters" by publishing the tape with the final score himself? Or a picture? It's not as if a photo with the final score would reveal any strategies (to say nothing of the fact that they provided actual video of his strategy to G4). Literally the only argument defending Billy never showing the final score is "Because he never needed to," and even that is an act of disrespect to the community which has a right to see this claimed watershed moment in gaming history which they are asked and expected to recognize. Every other argument for why the moment was never shown, when other moments recorded from the same event were, boils down to either "His tape ran out" or "He never actually got the score".

I was somewhat facetious earlier, with the suggestion that Billy could have passed an earlier tape off as "Tape 1" of his perfect score. But these circumstances bring us to a serious, and I believe, justified question: Did Billy Mitchell actually complete the "perfect score"? Aside from Mruczek's recollection, it doesn't seem like the final score was on his tape, and the only registered referee present that day claims to have arrived after the deed was done. Is it possible Billy died on the split screen? Or did he just get close enough and declare victory, because who's going to say otherwise? Did he justify it to himself by saying "I got to the end on my first life, and that's what counts"? [S55] Is this why he says getting the perfect score "was not the most memorable moment"? Did he just tell everyone "I got every conceivable point in the game" the same way he told that to the Miami Herald in 1984? Did he screw up the math, clearing eight dots on one of his lives instead of nine, failing to catch his mistake in time? Was Billy afraid of having to tell everyone about such a boneheaded mistake? Did not eating food for two days factor into such an error? Did it factor into an impatient decision to declare victory? Did Billy make a big show of calling his friend and declaring he had completed the perfect score, to assuage any curious onlookers as to what they just saw? [S56] Did Billy hang out on the split screen for an extended time, telling people "Yeah yeah, I'll finish it in a moment," and then quickly "finish" his game (and reset his machine) when no one was looking? Did Billy tell Funspot staff "Oh you just missed the final score, but don't worry, it's all on tape," before later telling G4 "Oh, the tape ran out, but don't worry, Funspot staff witnessed the final score"? Did Billy's Funspot friends, lured in by his confidence, simply accept Billy's story of finishing the perfect score when they weren't looking? Did they think there was no need to check the current and banked high score on the machine? Did they get suckered into thinking there was no need to take a close up of Billy's screen? Did they tell themselves, "Well, I never saw the final score, but I won't bring that up, because that might make some people think Billy was lying, and I know he would never do that"? Or even worse, were they every bit as complicit in a charade as Billy's other friends at Boomers in 2010, who were more than happy to go along with his bogus story and avoid any video shots of the game cabinet showing the wrong score? [S57]

We started with some pretty clear TG rule-bending (and at times rule-breaking), along with selective enforcement, and verification without review. We had disputes over breaks, lack of witnesses, and a video tape that wasn't watched before the announcement. And now we've come to the far end of the road, and we're standing over a gaping hole where either a video or a photo of 3,333,360 should be. No image of that score from Funspot, no image of it from Wonder Park, no image of it from Twin Galaxies, no image of it from Namco, no image of it from G4, and no image of it from Mall of America. [S58] Heck, we don't even have a single shot from lives two through six! Out of thirteen total stills or clips of his split screen, each and every one of those is from Billy's first life. [S59]


And in addition to that final photo or video not being there, we're surrounded by red flags, saying it should have been there, with a few nonsensical split screen stories sprinkled in. To say nothing of the alleged crowds of witnesses who have produced no evidence themselves.

As my research colleague remarked:

It actually makes all of his sport analogies all the more laughable. We don't have to take the word of a friend and business partner that Tiger Woods won the Masters or Joe Namath led the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III. But that's what you have to do with Mitchell and his perfect score.

Another research colleague had some fun with this scenario, calling back to Billy's embarrassing attempts to compare himself to Neil Armstrong:

Next thing we know Armstrong and co. are on their way home claiming they achieved their goal. No photo of the flag stuck in the surface, no moon rock collected. Just a thumbs up photo of Armstrong stood inside the Lunar module next to a porthole. Oh yeah and his buddies on board said he did it too. The entire journey was filmed but they don’t want to show it.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF

So who has the other tapes? [S60] Or to put it another way, who should we be seeking for proof the final score was indeed captured on tape? (Or proof that it wasn't?)

In his sworn statement as part of his lawsuit against Twin Galaxies, Billy attempted to characterize Jace Hall as a malicious party for declining to either publish the given tape in their possession or speculate as to who the tape originally belonged to:


There are many problems with this particular block of text, [S61] but the most important things are, if one read that statement and took it at face value, they might be led to believe that what Twin Galaxies has is the entirety of Billy's recording, and that Billy has no copy of his perfect score and is thus reliant on the publication of the tape in Twin Galaxies' possession.

A similar passage is found in Walter Day's signed sworn testimony, filed as an exhibit accompanying Billy's declaration. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar:


On the face of it, this seems to be a deliberate mischaracterization. Both Billy and Walter know full well that Billy's performance was not recorded on a single tape, and yet according to them, the provision of this one single videotape is all that stands between Billy and the authentication of his score. Meanwhile, we have now seen the tape in question, and we are no closer than before to knowing if Billy reached the final score. In fact, all the tape constructively did is provide a few laughs and refute some of Billy's ancillary stories.

This Team Billy narrative was also reflected in a more recent video produced by Billy's son, "Little Billy". Here he is, starting at 3:40:

And Billy recorded his game. But some may ask, "Where is that recording? It was never released publicly." That's a great question. The truth is that Twin Galaxies, specifically their owner Jace Hall, actually has Billy's recording, but is deliberately hiding it from the public eye.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmgNyPKS-Xo

Little Billy continues with many of the same speculative talking points from Billy's and Walter's court declarations, before concluding (at 6:20):

Obviously, Jace Hall knows that the video belongs to Billy Mitchell. He just doesn't want the public to see the undisputable evidence that Billy Mitchell achieved the first perfect score on Pac-Man.

Setting aside the question of how much Little Billy may or may not take after his father, we've seen extensive use of selective language on the part of Billy and Walter throughout this series. On that note, you'll notice neither of them outright say Billy does not have a copy of his perfect score. It is merely implied by way of accusing Jace Hall of having withheld media they consider to be to their benefit. [S62]


EDIT: The aforementioned copyright strikes against the full, unedited two-hour upload (as well as the shorter commentary review) demonstrate the bad faith in which their arguments were made.


Honestly, the very idea that Billy did not keep a copy of his perfect score is such a strange thing to actually believe, it's tempting to leave it at "If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you." And that's before acknowledging the fact that Billy evidently had enough copies to bring one to Japan, and then to provide one to G4TV, and then to bring one to Mall of America.

It also runs contrary to Billy's and Chris Ayra's stated inclination to retain their gaming materials, as noted in Billy's 2008 profile in Harper's Magazine:


https://web.archive.org/web/20080827...y_mitchell.pdf

However, once again, an obscure Billy interview saves the day for us. This time, it was a March 2016 phone chat with Donkey Kong player Allen Staal, streamed to Allen's Twitch account "Muscleandfitness". [S63] Here Billy is in his own words, at 3:03:40

Speaking of videos, I thought, thanks to... thanks to a friend that I... I won't mention his name, I thought the... I thought the copy of the perfect Pac-Man game that I did way back when, I thought it was gone forever thanks to somebody who I'll... who I won't name here. But I... But I actually was down at Chris Ayra's house, and he actually has the original copy. I didn't know that. Yeah. So now I... I have it again. Not that... Not that it matters, but I just thought it was lost to history.

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/56261197

So what exactly was this contrived nonsense Billy was so adamantly accusing Jace Hall of again? And more importantly, why can't we simply see the tape showing the final score? [S64]

As my research colleague remarked:

I just find it suspicious that for all intents and purposes Mitchell has CCTV footage proving he didn't shoot JR but instead of showing it he's simply using the eye witness account of someone who used to work for the CCTV company who is "sure they saw it." Around 17 years ago.

While the most obvious explanation for the lack of provision of the tape is that it doesn't include the final score, in fairness, I should point out that there are other possible reasons. However, these possibilities aren't flattering to Billy either. As my research colleague similarly pondered:

Imagine if the tape caught Billy talking to Day, where it's clear from Mitchell's side of the call that he has to convince him to ignore the handshake agreement. "Look, I know what you said in May to the crowd at Funspot, but I'm looking at a perfect score right now! It's on tape! You can't throw it out because I didn't get this score playing against Rick at the next tournament!" To say nothing about the strong possibility that Tape 3 wouldn't support anything that Mitchell has claimed over the years -- the giant cheering crowds, the Boston reporters jotting down his sassy quote "I never have to play that damn thing again" (which if it did happen, was probably muttered to a Funspot tech who came over to check on Pac-Man while the Whistle Kid's whistle echoed through the arcade). Strip away the bluster, Mitchell would be just as vulnerable as Bill Bastable to charges that he didn't play by the "rules of fair competition," which begs the question: Who's really first now?

Imagine if we were to see the mythical "Tape 3", only to discover Billy strong-arming Walter Day with his usual ultimatum. "You either accept this score, or I'm going to pull my funding, and I'll sue you for defamation!"

At any rate, the withholding of the tape provides Billy yet another liar's canvas; as long as he doesn't publish the tape, then it shows whatever he says it shows.

You may choose to believe in Billy's claimed 1999 Pac-Man score, if you wish. But ask yourself: What exactly would disprove this score? The one where he arrived without announcing it beforehand, while lying and saying that he did. The one where he apparently played in isolation, where the only "witnesses" were loyal friends among the arcade staff, and even they can't attest to witnessing the whole game. If the game wasn't completed, how exactly would we prove that? How would we go about proving a negative? To that end, why should such a score (from this guy of all people), under these circumstances, be treated as anything other than unofficial, no matter what his friends are willing to say for him? What exactly is it that's supposed to make this more credible than any other arcade high score rumors of yore?

As my research colleague said:

I'll be the first to say that if Mitchell got 360, then he got 360. But right now, it looks like we don't have any actual video or photographic evidence that it happened, leaving us with just "witnesses" who, according to the rules, wouldn't be enough to have that score recognized. If this sounds pedantic, I guess one only has to speculate if TG would have accepted a perfect submission from Fothergill without a photo of the screen displaying the score?

In fact, we've tried proving it was real! We found footage of the split screen, which we're happy to share. We've shown that he did indeed get that far, on perfect score pace. We've shown you exactly one person who claims to have seen the actual final score themselves. If we had that final shot of 3,333,360, we would just show it to you, and close the matter of whether he hit the score or not. Instead, we have a very conspicuous absence of it, and a lot of lies and shifting stories, from parties who have already shown themselves to be untrustworthy in these matters.

IN DONKEY KONG'S SHADOW

People are naturally very trusting, and thus are reluctant to believe that someone exuding confidence would be telling outright, brazen lies. You see this in the tendency to want to see if a statement is technically true if you interpret it a certain way (which of course leads to professional liars being vague or evasive enough as to later claim the widest possible latitude in interpretation). In my diligence, we followed each of these roads we saw, even when at times we felt the premise of such an overly favorable interpretation of a misleading statement was silly.

But we also cannot escape the fact that this same core group of people has lied to us elsewhere, even now taking their fraud to court in the hopes of suppressing the truth. While this Pac-Man story has been told in some shape or form a few times over the years, it's especially worth revisiting in light of what we've learned from the 2018 dispute over Billy's fraudulent Donkey Kong scores. One cannot help but raise an eyebrow looking at the similarities between the story around his claimed Pac-Man score and his later claimed DK scores, which are (no matter what Billy says) proven to have been completely falsified.

You don't even need me to make the comparison. Billy will do it himself, such as in a 2018 interview with Josh Houslander's X-Cast. (Note that Billy refers to Boomers, the site of his fake DK score and board swap video, by its old name "Grand Prix".) Starting at about 6:10:

I was thinking about it today, and I didn't realize it 'til today, that the situation at Funspot was not a whole lot different than the situation at Grand Prix in 2010. The game was supplied by an arcade or a distributor. The situation was announced. And the location, obviously was announced. And it's kind of interesting that... When this attempt was going to be done, and people knew about it... I got up there, and I arrived early. And everything was already prepared. In the case of Funspot, Gary had everything prepared. Quite honestly, he was terrific. Grand Prix had everything prepared. The recordings were set up. The area was roped off. A lot of people smarter than me set up the situation to be recorded. They set up the game settings, to make sure that they were on the proper setting. And the fact of the matter is, I wasn't even a caretaker of the surroundings. And, you know, when I finally gained success, when the good news finally came to me, I mean there were scores of people there to congratulate me. There was media. I did a few interviews. You know, there was, you know, the obvious fun stuff of, you know, hugs and handshakes, and all that silly stuff. I was there for hours afterwards, and, I mean, I was interacting with people. So I sat here and I realized, today, that what happened at Funspot with the perfect Pac-Man is not a whole lot different than what happened at Grand Prix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JSzpjo8Oe0

If you wanted, you could interpret this to mean that it took Billy a few days to realize that the story he tells about Boomers is similar to the real story of Funspot. But on the other hand, if one of those series of events genuinely does remind him of the other, that would be a stunning admission.

Regardless of Billy's nostalgia for his various gaming hoaxes over the years, there are notable similarities here. First up, there's the lack of sincere verification. The MAME DK tapes do not show the machine power-on, as the written rules require. As we would later learn, this was to hide the loading screen, which would have been a dead giveaway for MAME. While it would be pretty silly to think Billy's 1999 Pac-Man score was on early MAME rather than Funspot's genuine Pac-Man cabinet, the breaks in continuity on the recording and the lack of photo of the final score from the same liar are all the more alarming.

Recall also that Billy never published his Donkey Kong tapes himself. One was shown at Funspot, another was shown at the Big Bang event in Iowa, and clips were provided to King of Kong and Chasing Ghosts. (The Mruczek MTV interview was a function of Twin Galaxies and not of Billy himself.) The DK tapes that proved Billy cheated were leaked without his involvement, while the Pac-Man tapes were never published at all. In both cases, we were asked to trust the word of random, uninitiated witnesses in lieu of actual evidence.

And any time a peculiarity was raised about Billy's methodology with Donkey Kong, be it that he discarded extra lives and points, or that he played in front of a bunch of clueless mortgage brokers rather than actual gamers, the answer was always the same: "Because I'm Billy Mitchell".

The Pac-Man and Tokyo Game Show saga built Billy's public profile, enabling further fraudulence down the line. When Billy claimed to hit back-to-back records on Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior in 2010, rather than overwhelming skepticism, much of the response amounted to acceptance that Billy Mitchell of all people could pull off such a feat:

https://www.twingalaxies.com/showthr...-the-DK-record

Remember how Billy's friend, Walter Day, was only too happy to promote a perfect score on Pac-Man as some sort of century-defining achievement? Check out this Twin Galaxies poster promoting the Donkey Kong competition between Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe [S65]:


https://www.twingalaxies.com/images/...illion_725.jpg

So now, not five years into the new century, a million points is already being declared the "classic gaming feat of the 21st Century". It seems that, whatever game Billy's focused on at any given moment, Walter Day's Twin Galaxies would say that's the most important game of all time. (Oh, and for reference, the world record on DK currently sits at 1,272,700 by John McCurdy.) [S66]

Recall how much of the promotion around Billy's Pac-Man score was fueled by Twin Galaxies, under the guise that TG was somehow separate from Billy. Well, you see this at play in this "Twin Galaxies" branded poster. You'll never guess who commissioned it!


https://web.archive.org/web/20051212...x?c=19&id=1191

As one of my research colleagues incredulously inquired:

What kind of person creates a poster claiming their score as gaming feat of the century just 4 years in to a new century??

There's a line Billy likes to repeat that, if his Donkey Kong scores are fake (which they are), then you can't just blame him; you have to blame all these other people tangentially involved in the scenario as well. But just as with Donkey Kong, surely not everyone involved intended to deceive. Billy got a few individuals from Funspot to sign pre-written witness statements, which aside from Tom's attestation of having "watched him finish", don't leave us any more informed as to what happened than we were before. [S67]

Guinness chose to reinstate all of Billy's scores, including Pac-Man, as well as a DK score Billy also assured them was never intended as an actual scoreboard submission but which he demanded be reinstated anyway, all despite the mountain of evidence against those DK scores which they failed to address, because reasons. It probably had a lot to do with the explicit threat of legal retaliation, but that hasn't stopped Billy in his TG lawsuit from touting that as some kind of exoneration. With Donkey Kong, as with Pac-Man, Billy loves to outsource his authentication, so that (at least by appearances) it's not just him and Walter personally saying it. [S68] That's how you end up with things like this:


It's interesting to compare the situations of Rick Fothergill and Steve Wiebe, and Billy's self-absorption and poor sportsmanship toward both. In 2003, on MTV's True Life episode "I'm a Gamer", Billy announced he would be vying for a gaming feat so major it would shock the world, refusing to say what this feat would be (starting at about 37:00 here):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qW2AiO5jIQ

Billy expressed a similar sentiment to Retro Gaming Radio in 2003. When asked by the hosts where he's gone to break records, Billy ignores the specific question and starts talking about his trip to Japan, and his plan to return to the limelight (starting at about 10:00):

My favorite trip, without a doubt, after doing the perfect score on Pac-Man and gaining all the notoriety I gained, I was flown to the Tokyo Game Show. And in front of Mr. Nakamura, who is the father of Pac-Man, and probably about 70,000 Japanese, I was awarded the title of "Video Game Player of the Century". For sure, that was my favorite trip. And I keep telling everybody that, when I do my next accomplishment, it'll be bigger than that. It'll take me back to Japan again.

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

It is believed that this planned feat involved the aforementioned million point score on Donkey Kong, something which (due to his choice to cheat) he was evidently unable to do legitimately. Compare this to his 1999 interview, where he expressed his desire to achieve the fastest time for a perfect score on Pac-Man:


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

And earlier that summer, in his local South Florida Sun-Sentinel:


https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl...436-story.html

All of this sounds great. Sure, as one might say, "accept nothing less than victory". But that becomes a problem when "accept nothing less than victory" becomes "deny others the satisfaction of their earned victories". Billy lost his million point race to Wiebe, but rather than simply congratulate Wiebe and look to the next milestone to chase, Billy chose instead to tell the world he won the race after all. In fact, he went so far as to fabricate evidence wholesale just to authenticate his lies. (You don't suppose he laid awake at night terrified of being taunted for failure the way he and his son happily taunted Fothergill all those years?) And then, for years afterward, he shamelessly embraced those accolades he knows he never earned.

This is the guy whose word we're supposed to take? This is the guy who supposedly would never lie about a Pac-Man score?

Of course Billy will tell you that Masaya Nakamura personally declared him the "Video Game Player of the Century" to a roaring crowd of thousands. Just like he'll tell you he defeated Rick Fothergill in head-to-head competition. Just like he'll tell you he hit all the contested Donkey Kong scores exactly on the head. Just like he'll tell you he has no idea how his DK tapes got covered in MAME signatures. It is a classic case of someone who is unsatisfied with the truth, and who has no compunctions about running with a bald-faced lie instead.

As my research colleague put it:

His arrogance knowing he can control whatever he wishes TG-wise leads to his blatant disregard for the rules. In terms of having a copy of the full run recorded? Agreeing to a gentleman’s handshake in the name of sportsmanship? Following the rules on breaks? "That’s for all you plebs. I’m Billy Mitchell! All I’m interested in is making sure I get the headlines and putting the extra sprinkles on top of my achievements." It’s this arrogance that had led him to where he is now. The unthinkable happened -- the peasants revolted against the king and he has no evidence to clear his name because he never thought he needed any back when he was on the throne. Any player abiding by the rules back in the day would have the evidence needed to exonerate any accusations of wrong doing. That's all people have been asking for, from Mitchell, since the dispute into his scores was opened. Mitchell was untouchable at the top of the TG tree, he answered to nobody, and he arrogantly presumed his word was good enough. Whilst others were jumping through hoops to get their own scores accepted.

And sure, there should be a time and a place for forgiveness, but that requires contrition. Forgiveness cannot happen for someone who is suing people to maintain the lies, who keeps adding new lies, and who continues to insist we accept claims we know to be untrue, all with the apparent hope that the broader gaming community accepts at least some of his tall tales if they cannot be outright disproven.

THE SOAPBOX

I'd like to conclude today with a bit of soapboxing, which I think I've earned. Like most of you, I had always heard the basic elements of this story, told confidently by people in positions of authority. Even after discovering Billy Mitchell is a massive liar and a cheater, the process of researching this aspect of his "legacy" was still shocking, discovering just how badly we, the entire gaming community, had all been lied to all these years. It's not just that the walls of this house were flimsy. The whole foundation was rotten to the core.

And yet so much of it had been taken for granted to such a degree, for such a long amount of time, it seems that few people really questioned it. I myself had not thought to call it into doubt, until it was brought to my attention that Billy's Namco plaque said nothing of what Billy ascribed to it, and that his printed certificate from Walter Day preceded his trip to Japan -- a circumstance that merited an explanation. And even when I did start to examine the facts, I did not expect to find so much material evidence (especially from Japan) to contradict the stories. (And again, that's a massive credit to my research colleagues who left no stones unturned!)

I'm not going to put anybody on the spot of course, but it seems even many of Billy's most ardent critics, the ones who would have had the most reason to broadcast corrections like these, even they had taken so much of this narrative for granted. One such person even responded to the Donkey Kong MAME evidence by suggesting Namco be asked to rescind Billy's "Video Game Player of the Century" award, an award which it turns out Namco had nothing to do with in the first place.

In a way, this recalls the later events leading up to King of Kong, how the community had accepted the Billy-favorable framing that Wiebe's early DK scores should be disqualified because he played on a "Double Donkey Kong" board, something which is now perfectly within the rules [S69]:

http://donkeykongforum.com/index.php?topic=2429.0

It's only natural to ask what other aspects of this Pac-Man story, what other portions of this foundation, are also worth calling into question. And one that springs to mind immediately is the framing around competitive Pac-Man and the "perfect score" itself.

A "perfect score" of Pac-Man, as we have defined it for the past twenty years, consists of three elements: Perfect eats (ghosts and fruit), enduring the three hour stretch of "ninth key" boards, and knowing about the hidden dots on the split screen. (Remember that the regular dots and power pellets are requisite.) Two of those are challenges of skill; even using patterns, one must recall and execute the patterns without dying. The third is simply a question of information. If you know those hidden dots exist, and if you know how to trap the ghosts in the side tunnel, those dots are trivial to collect. They're just sitting there, not protected by any sort of in-game threat. And yet, the Twin Galaxies of Walter Day so readily discarded the two signifiers of skill, and made the question of the perfect score entirely one of who knew about the hidden dots.

Why is that?

At about 1:10 in this clip from G4, Billy's biggest cheerleader, Walter Day, stresses how supposedly impossible a perfect score on Pac-Man is to achieve:

It was so extraordinary that, even though now the rest of society knows how to do it, no one can probably really pull it off.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmVv7QQ-1qg

And just like that, up becomes down. The things Billy had in common with those who came before him -- the ability to eat every ghost, and survive the ninth key stretch -- those are meaningless, while his rack advance discovery of unintended extra points becomes the defining thing that, even with a guide, only the most elite of gamers allegedly could achieve. [S70]

And yet, when Twin Galaxies went to describe the feat in 1999, the signifiers of skill (the ones demonstrated by Bill Bastable and others years earlier) were the sole focus:


As we've discussed, what actually separated Billy and Ayra from those who came before them was the personal possession of a Pac-Man cabinet. No arcade owner was going to let you open up their machine and fiddle with the settings, all so you could explore the garbage half of the split screen, and maybe get even better at tying up their income box for several hours. It's not that I totally begrudge this advantage. Many players have "unfair" advantages (such as excessive free time, or access to rare games or equipment). It's that I don't believe such advantages should be characterized as something they are not. This was never a discovery of skill, but rather a discovery of money. [S71]

And yet, here we are, still arguing over changed settings, and who was supposedly "first", precisely because Billy and Walter have gone to such lengths to reduce the Pac-Man conversation to just that scope. (Setting aside that Billy's key argument for being "first", that anyone who may have done it before him didn't record it, falls flat if Billy didn't finish recording his either.) Six lives plus hidden dots is still spoken of as if it's Mt. Everest, while a perfect score with four lives is tossed into the rubbish. In no other game is the gulf of recognition so wide, over a margin so insignificant to actual skill or achievement.

The stilted discourse around this score, while it was always there, is stunning when you allow yourself to see it. For all the later references to it being a "Holy Grail", very few at the time seemed to think of it as a thing that needed to be or had not yet been achieved. Nearly everything you thought you knew about this score was a lie, including perhaps even the score itself. Tragically, our collective understanding of gaming history may never fully cleanse itself of Billy Mitchell's and Walter Day's opportunism.

I don't presume to speak for the competitive Pac-Man community, but for my part as a gaming historian I am comfortable saying, without reservation, that Bill Bastable got a perfect score on Pac-Man in 1982. He did it in the "no hidden dots" / "no glitch abuse" category, which was the only category known at the time (aside from the shorter "blue time" category promoted by Randy Tufts, who likely also did a full 256-board perfect score at that time, albeit with less contemporary documentation). Yes, eventually the "hidden dots" category was discovered and developed later, and yes, that allows a player to reach a higher score. And we can discuss who got that score at what time. But the knowledge of those hidden dots are not what make the player. The ability to execute perfect eats, combined with the ninth key stretch, are what make a Pac-Man player a champion. It was never genuinely a race, but even if it were, Bill Bastable had snapped that finish line tape before Billy Mitchell had even arrived at the race track. [S72] And even beyond Mr. Bastable, into the present day, if you want to learn Pac-Man grouping and patterns, and you want to knock out a perfect score at your nearest barcade, as far as I'm concerned, you can show up and do so, at whatever that machine is set to. You can do a 3+1 perfect score, or a 5+1 perfect score, or a "jumper" perfect score, or a "Reunion" machine perfect score, or whatever is available, as long as it has a kill screen. You don't need to arrange for the proprietor to open up the cabinet and change the settings (or unsolder the board revision) before it "counts". [S73]

A MEANS TO AN END

As for Billy's claimed score, we've presented the evidence and the context both for and against. Setting aside all the unsportsmanlike conduct, and setting aside the many grounds on which this score should have been disqualified even by the rules of old Twin Galaxies, your guess as to whether Billy Mitchell ultimately piloted a Pac-Man cabinet to a score of 3,333,360 on July 3, 1999, is as good as mine. I would certainly argue that, at the very least, it stands unproven historically, noting that a number of people attesting to it have proven themselves untrustworthy. But you have a right to make your own conclusion, as long as it is based on the facts. [S74]

But there's yet another question to answer: Why are we discussing this in the first place?

I'm assuming the reader, like myself, cares about gaming history in a general sense. What I do find neat about the top Pac-Man score is that it's a "maxout", but rather than being all nines, it's a very particular target score. There are no extra points to endlessly leech. Add the fact that this was an extremely popular game in its day (so much so that it put a hit song on the radio), and it's easy to see why the score would carry some prestige. But that's sort of an intellectual curiosity. With respect to Misters Tufts, Bastable, Fothergill, and Race, as far as gaming skill, I can think of any number of feats that impress me more than a single perfect score on original Pac-Man. In 2015, dram55 beat Kaizo Mario World deathless, a feat which has since only been repeated by Calco2. [S75] Eight people have beaten Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! all the way through while blindfolded, a feat which while astonishing in itself, was further upstaged at AGDQ 2020 when sinister1 and zallard1 beat the whole game blindfolded and while sharing halves of one controller. [S76] Even the Pac-Man masters themselves seem to be in consensus that the various derivatives of Pac-Man pose a greater challenge than the original.

Billy's narrative relies, in part, on the conflation of attention (especially mainstream media attention) with gaming prestige. It could be that a perfect score on Pac-Man is strictly less difficult than a deathless run of Ninja Gaiden, but Time Magazine isn't going to cover the latter. CNN isn't impressed by real-time arbitrary code execution on Ocarina of Time. USA Today has no idea what is or is not a real Pac-Man score. Guinness World Records is a household name, but that doesn't mean they know anything about gaming adjudication. (Heck, they still have a page for Rodrigo Lopes, nearly two years after he was wiped from Twin Galaxies.) [S77] And as we've seen, newspapers routinely print rounded scores.

But what these outlets can't offer in terms of proper gaming adjudication, they more than make up for in attention. Billy and Walter valued Time and CNN because that publicity was what they sought. Never forget Walter Day's all-too-telling words from King of Kong:

The success of this was not just because someone got a perfect Pac-Man score, but because Billy Mitchell got a perfect Pac-Man score.

As my research colleague pondered in response to this famous line:

Isn't it usually the feats or achievements that define the player, and not the player that defines the achievement?

And of course, Walter Day's own stories and exaggerations are tailor-made to play into this quest for media coverage. Here's an extended version of Walter's spiel on Billy, delivered at the 2007 Pac-Man World Championship (at about 12:40) [S78]:

Billy's the most distinguished person in the book, because he's the only person to have a full page that recognizes his status as the video game player of the century. He was crowned the video game player of the century at the Tokyo Game Show in 1999 because he had the most distinguished career in video game playing, because he was the person with five listings in the Guinness World Record book back in 1983, '84, '85. He's the person who was the... the founding member of history's first official video game... professional video game team, back in 1983. He's held more world records almost than 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 on Pac-Man. And if you don't know what a perfect game of Pac-Man is, I'll tell ya right now. He had to go through 256 screens, eating every single dot, eating every single fruit, getting every single blue man, every single power pel... power pellet, to the 256th screen, which took him six hours, playing freelance without a pattern, without dying even once. So that put not only Billy Mitchell on the map, but it actually put arcade gaming on the map again.

https://archive.org/details/DwayneRi...-candyCut.webm

While we could argue whether or not Billy Mitchell's and Walter Day's pursuit of mainstream media attention (or their choice to exaggerate and outright lie) was good for competitive gaming, it was certainly good for themselves. They looked for a "Holy Grail" to jumpstart Billy's career, on which the old Twin Galaxies could also ride to prominence, and "The Perfect Pac-Man" fit the bill, well, perfectly. For years, Walter went around telling people "Here's Billy Mitchell, you don't know who he is, but I assure you he's famous", and it worked. [S79] He told people "This guy was just named Player of the Century" (without saying it was he who decided that), and with enough emphasis, he got others to repeat it. They got the attention they wanted, which in turn could be monetized further, leading to feature film appearances, monetary investment in Twin Galaxies, and countless dollars in convention fees. And we're left with a byproduct mythos of a man who, no matter what he says, is no more of a "Player of the Century" than Todd Rogers is the "King of Video Games".

This attention continues to this day, amplified it seems by the controversy of his cheating. You sit only a click away from interview after interview after interview, always in a safe venue, either among known friends and sycophants, or those who choose to rely solely on him for their information and therefore won't notice or react to the many blatant, provable lies he likes to tell to their faces (such as that he got three million point DK scores his first week of streaming, or that he hit his contested scores "exactly on the head"). Billy showers these hosts in flattery, suggesting to people who have done literally zero research into the case whatsoever that they're the ones who can see what's really going on. [S80] Billy is quite skilled at convincing these suckers both that they don't need to know any more, and that the people researching these stories are somehow less informed for their work. And consequently, he has casual observers who are only too happy to carry his water for him: "How are you gonna argue with the guy? Namco themselves called him player of the century!"

I have said elsewhere that Billy's actual skill is not games, it's people. Unlike Todd Rogers, who simply told lies, Billy successfully got others invested in the lies as well. He went to great measures to wrangle others into his stories, to involve innocent (and sometimes not-so-innocent) bystanders. His self-flattery of his own claimed perfect score became communal flattery of other perfect score players down the line, who were the ones most qualified to comment on his claimed achievement. His involvement with Funspot meant his lies were of tangible value to them as well. Like other narcissists, Billy Mitchell compels those around him to compromise their morals (as we've seen with prepared witness statements his acquaintances did not want to sign), knowing that the first compromise makes one more malleable down the road. He knew when and how to turn friends against friends, and when not to. And through it all, he never forgot who his true accomplices are.

Billy didn't play the game as much as he played the people and the media around the game. Sure, he needed something to latch on to -- in this case Pac-Man -- but it didn't ultimately matter what that was. Had Rick Fothergill completed the perfect score at the May 1999 tournament, the mythos around Billy Mitchell would have been manufactured the same way around something else instead, with Rick's score becoming an afterthought. And once Billy was established, he could tell whatever story he wanted, about Fothergill, or Bill Bastable, or Masaya Nakamura, as nobody was going to make a stink and tell him "No". Even now, by way of his lawsuits, the community is forced to give him attention, lest they otherwise isolate the bully with his target(s). Even this series you're reading, compelled by ongoing legal battles and lingering historical questions, is forced to acknowledge what few elements of Billy's story may have been true by way of debunking the many lies and exaggerations. (Although given his genuine hostility to critics and journalists over the years, to say nothing of legal threats and litigation, it's hard to believe Billy actually wants this sort of coverage.)

And thus we arrive at the true conflict of this story: Billy Mitchell's need for attention, versus the truth. At no point did Billy decide the truth should win out. Never did he respect the community or gaming history enough to sit down and at least once tell the full and unvarnished story of his insistent claim to video game immortality. We are asked to believe and recognize this score, and yet all we are given to flesh out the story are provable lies, and blatant ones at that. As if we had any doubt where his priorities are, his lies have now crept into his sworn court testimony.

We can spend all day attempting to answer the question of whether Billy hit a score of 3,333,360 on a Pac-Man cabinet on July 3, 1999. And as a matter of gaming history, it is a question worth asking for our own sake. But from the perspective of Billy Mitchell, it was never about Pac-Man. All of this, all of us, have merely been a means to an end.

REWRITING HISTORY

There's one last item to discuss in all this. They say journalism is the first draft of history. On this occasion, that certainly wasn't the case. There was no actual journalism in Billy's "perfect Pac-Man" story when it originated. This was all about confidence men, rubber-stamped press releases, mainstream fluff profiles, and very few uncomfortable questions.

The reasons for this are varied. From the mainstream perspective, this story was no more important than those "lost dog" type stories concluding every nightly newscast. Time Magazine wasn't going to waste their fact-checkers' time investigating whether a Pac-Man score was real or not. Of course, industry publications weren't going to raise a stink, not when there are new games to review and sell. And from the perspective of many hobbyists, their approach to games journalism was an extension of their approach to the games themselves: It's supposed to be fun! (And it should be!) Surely, many didn't even want to consider that these de facto authorities and heroes for which they relied on for their information were outright liars, not even if someone had raised that possibility.

All of this should be taken into account when we reexamine a story such as this today. Billy often talks about his critics "reaching into the past" and "changing history", while of course never acknowledging that he both changed "history" (or his story) over the years, and that he never accurately told it in the first place. He has been rewriting history for decades, sometimes replacing it altogether with whatever self-serving narrative he decides is more flattering, while at other times vacillating between different variations depending on the convenience of the day.

Billy's and Walter's relentless tour of the convention circuit plays into this as well, giving both of them frequent opportunity to repeat and solidify the lies. [S81] In Exhibit C (2017 Classic Game Fest in Austin), Billy defended his friend Todd Rogers from analysts who correctly concluded Todd's claim of 5.51 seconds on Dragster was impossible. Here are Billy's ironic words, starting at about 51:10:

You would be shocked as to the number of people who want to go back in history, and they want to rewrite history. They want to take something, or change something, or minimize something that you did to compete in the... or that you did in the industry of gaming. And that can never be done when we do things like this, and that's one of the reasons we do 'em.

And continuing a moment later:

Now they want to rewrite history and say the score he got, he never really got. Why? Because they weren't there to beat it, to see it, and if they can rewrite it, they can have their name up there at a score that they did get because they participated at a more minimal level. That's why we like things written into history, so no one can ever change it.

And it worked, since people didn't question it for years, until it had gained a tenure as established history. As my research colleague said, in reference to Karl Jobst's 2019 video on Todd Rogers and Dragster [S82]:

Ultimately, Jobst argues (I believe) that Todd's story could have been dismantled years earlier if people would have fact-checked his story. I think the criticism, while valid, is a tad unfair -- if Todd is being interviewed at Funspot, for example, you basically have people who know nothing about Todd taking him at his word, which is to simply say that basic trust still greases the wheels of human interaction. And people like Todd (and Mitchell) were able to exploit that.

And it's true. Just like how gaming competition requires trust between competitors, gaming journalism requires trust between sources. [S83] The true problem is failing to recognize when that trust has been broken. Piecing together gaming history decades later is difficult enough without bad faith parties allowing the record to be vandalized and polluted with self-serving lies. While we cannot account for every potential new story Billy will come up with to plug the holes in his previous ones, we can demonstrate that his existing claims do not match the documentary record, which I believe we have sufficiently done here.

Lest anyone think I'm just out to take shots at everyone from behind the bulwark of hindsight, I used to be a fan of Billy's and believe in him as well. I was on Reddit speaking highly of him as recently as February 2018. [S84] Much like competitive Pac-Man, this isn't about who figured out that Billy Mitchell is a liar first. This is about coming to terms with the facts and accepting that a massive fraud has been perpetrated on the gaming community for over twenty years.

I have no qualms with the people who innocently interviewed Billy Mitchell years ago, back when he was widely considered a legitimate competitor. [S85] While "journalism" (of a sort) may have had a role in carrying the bogus "Player of the Century" story in the first place, it has also had a hand in exposing it now. We never would have pieced all of this together if people had not interviewed Billy so many times over the years. Having said that, this is a different era now. Not everyone has to care that a guy cheated at Donkey Kong, or may have cheated at Pac-Man, but the people covering the story as "journalists" are obliged to. If you are choosing to interview the guy, not caring whether he's a toxic scumbag makes you a toxic scumbag (and would mean you certainly have no grounds whatsoever to complain about anyone else's lack of integrity in gaming journalism). There have been sincere attempts to cover the Donkey Kong cheating scandal in a constructive manner, and I thank those journalists for their efforts. [S86] But that work involves fact-checking, investigation, and a willingness to ask uncomfortable questions, and not simply giving an established liar an unconditional opportunity to amplify his lies. Should Billy Mitchell have something to say today, he has a platform of his own on Twitch and YouTube; he does not need yours as well. Much of this work has been done for you. I have cited original sources here as much as possible. If you are not willing to do the work of reading and processing the fruits of that research, then you should not be giving attention to proven liars and swindlers. Gaming history -- actual gaming history -- is worse off for your indifference.

Charisma and flattery go a long way, so I have no doubt that Billy will continue to enjoy interviews and positive attention in some quarters of the gaming community. He has lost allies in recent years, including current Pac-Man champion David Race, who was alienated in part due to various claims from Billy about Pac-Man which David knew were not true. [S87] On the other hand, Billy has also rounded up new allies, including new self-described "journalists" willing to conduct new interviews, eager to be sharing a stage or a YouTube window with a gaming movie star, too starstruck to care that he unironically compares himself to Neil Armstrong, excited for the opportunity to ask Billy Mitchell if he's set any world records on Call of Duty or Fortnite yet. Nothing we say or do will stop that altogether. All we can do is report the truth, and remind people that when you're listening to Billy's stories, you are listening to a lying narcissist's fanfic autobiography, and not any actual gaming history.

CONTINUE?

Once again, tremendous thanks to David Race, Pat Laffaye, Bill Bastable, as well as Rick Fothergill (who answered questions by way of David Race), and also to Robert Mruczek, who helped clarify some items for us after this series began publishing. And while my research colleagues have chosen to remain anonymous, they deserve a massive standing ovation, which I assure you, they do see and hear.

That wraps up this series... for now. Another aspect we took interest in was Billy's more recent attempts to "recreate" his claimed perfect score on Pac-Man, most notably in 2019 and 2020, as well as his 8th place finish at the 2007 Pac-Man World Championship. However, the material already covered was a large enough pile of research to go through and sculpt into something presentable. There was no need to withhold this project any longer until research into those more isolated stories could be finished. Also, who knows, maybe this project will shake some more cobwebs loose, and jog some people's memories, regarding things we've already discussed. We look forward to including any new discoveries, or anything we might have somehow missed in a future installment.

Thank you for reading. Keep on whistlin'. And we'll see you all again some day in "Dot Ten".
ThanksThe Evener, ProveAll, lexmark, wwdkong, RedDawn and 3 others thanked this post
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Comments
  1. bensweeneyonbass's Avatar

    Good ol' East Side Dave. Gave us the Jry snek.

  2. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    FYI, Billy has already filed copyright strikes against the two upload vids:

    Again, Billy Mitchell hates evidence. Also "Jace Hall is evil for withholding this evidence that would exonerate me! Wait, no, don't publish it! No one's supposed to see it!"

    And as stated, as a score submission, that tape and its contents are property of Twin Galaxies.

    Stay tuned.



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  3. ersatz_cats's Avatar

    Note: The whole tape is now available on TG's archive:

    https://view.vzaar.com/23489924/video

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  4. RedDawn's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by ersatz_cats

    FYI, Billy has already filed copyright strikes against the two upload vids:

    You could upload them to Bitchute. They wont be removed from there.
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  5. The Evener's Avatar

    Quote Originally Posted by ersatz_cats

    FYI, Billy has already filed copyright strikes against the two upload vids:

    What?? Does that mean he isn't going to finally share Tapes 1, 2, and 3 of his Perfect game on his YouTube channel? #ReleaseTheTapes

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  6. Snowflake's Avatar

    gotta love scumbags who try to use well meaning legal clauses to silence their opponents

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  7. lexmark's Avatar

    If there is no evidence of Mitchells final score, video or photo, then isn't Rick's score the first VERIFIABLE perfect Pac on those settings? If there is no final score showing, then what the hell was RTM looking at to see a 360? Sounds weird to me!


    john


    .

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  8. Snowflake's Avatar

    speculation here. but any chance mitchell pulled a fast one? submitted a different score and TG just "rounded"?

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