Welcome to the Week in Review where I breakdown a major story in the Speedrunning and Score attack scenes and provide it to you to understand as easily as possible. On weeks where news is slow I will also talk about various games and why they are fantastic runs and games to watch and who to watch.

These are of course op-ed pieces that reflect my opinions and views alone and not those of the rest of the NoLife.Digital team.

Over the last few weeks we have seen two high profile gaming icons fall from grace and be found to have cheated at one point or another. Both of these icons have been in the scene since the 80’s and both featured in the 2007 documentary King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters. Todd Rogers, known for his Dragster world record time that was claimed to be impossible to beat and stood the test of time for over thirty years, had his time retracted due to cheating from him and from his officiating friend at Twin Galaxies. Billy Mitchell, the King of Kong, was found to have recorded his scores on MAME and not the original hardware. At the heart of both of them lies Twin Galaxies, a site that at one point in time was the number one place to go for world records and competition in the gaming world. Yet this controversy may finally be the last nail in the coffin for this once esteemed and established organization that has been losing credibility for years.

Dragster, a racing game on the Atari 2600, had long been the topic of controversy since the record had been 5.51 seconds (with the proof being a Polaroid picture being sent to Activision at the time in 1982) had never been beaten in over thirty years. It had been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest gaming record and many top ten lists claiming it would never be broken. The closest anyone has come since is 5.57 seconds, a time shared by a handful of people. The record holder was Todd Rogers and for years people wondered how could his time be .06 seconds faster for so long. Given the limitations of the system, broken down frame by frame and even using an optimization tool, the time of 5.57 seconds is the lowest time that can be achieved. Twin Galaxies introduced a new process for disputing scores in July of 2017 and the arguments against Todd Rogers 5.51 second record began to be filed. The community provided sufficient evidence to discredit the record and having been caught cheating, all of Todd Rogers’ scores have now been removed from Twin Galaxies. Unlike the community, who provided solid fact based evidence, Todd Rogers has continued to argue that he is being attacked by the community and defending himself by trying to say that gaming is about fun at the end of the day. While I agree that gaming is about having fun, when you play competitive it is also about being fair. If you wish to compete, you must do so with integrity. It does not matter who you are, whether that be a fresh face in the community or a veteran of thirty plus years. If you cheat, you will be discredited and lose all credibility.

screengrab from Apollo Legend video (click to view

Then there is Billy Mitchell, the King of Kong and the basis of the documentary by the same name. He has recently had some of his scores removed because they were played on an arcade emulator known as MAME. While MAME is an acceptable emulator when it comes to competition, MAME and original hardware are evaluated and approved in different fashions. By submitting MAME as if it was original hardware, it does not go through the same checks that it should have if it was submitted as MAME. One thing emulators can do, and especially true in MAME’s case, is that they can be recorded and manipulated to create what looks like one play-through that is in actuality an edited play-through. One of the ways to point out a difference between MAME and original hardware is how they both handle certain situations in the game. It is not something one can tell just by watching but those with experience with both systems and how they handle things like screen transitions can point out based on their experience. Yet, just like with Todd Rogers, Billy Mitchell is quick to say that the community is attacking him and that a “pack” mentality to discredit him and Rogers is forming. The King of Kong documentary from 2007 featured both Mitchell and Rogers and both have come out against the documentary over the last few years for portraying them in a negative light. For some years you could have understood those claims, documentaries are known for shaping narratives all the time. However, given the circumstances of cheating and the subsequent public statements crying wolf from the disgraced former record holders, I am less likely to believe that the documentary painted them in a negative light.

So why now of all times for people to start to scrutinize and debunk these old records? Maybe one reason is that people don’t want their heroes to die. Perhaps it is that players are getting to the skill level cap that exposes former players scores for being so good because they are in fact falsified. I for one believe it stems from a long time dissatisfaction with Twin Galaxies as a hub for all of these records. For some time Twin Galaxies had become defunct and was brought back and reopened in 2014. The idea behind this new team running Twin Galaxies was to create a more balanced and fair system for scores to be submitted and verified. Verification has long been a standing issue in both score attack and speedrunning scenes as verification can often have rules that make it difficult to submit or there be collusion between verifier and submitter. This new team did open the way for these older records to be disputed by people with solid facts and hard evidence. When one domino falls, the rest start to come down as well. The fall of Todd Rogers led others to believe that they too could challenge records like the Billy Mitchell MAME issue without fear of either being mocked or being dismissed. While I applaud Twin Galaxies for doing this now, I do not believe they are a site of relevance for future submissions. Many other communities have moved on to becoming more independent. The need for a hub as large as Twin Galaxies is no longer needed. The MegaMan speedrunning community was one of the first to break away and create their own site for leaderboards. Even the main speedrun community has made their own website for various games from the popular to the obscure. The community needs more people well versed in specific games to verify than what Twin Galaxies can offer. Their reputation has long been dead but their dispute system is the last bastion of hope for them as a credible source in the gaming community.

screengrab from Apollo Legend video (click to view)

The Who:
Todd Rogers: Long time record of 5.51 seconds in Dragster for Atari 2600 proven to be unable to achieve even by a computer following the rules of the game
Billy Mitchell: Icon of the classic gaming score attack scene and focus of the 2007 documentary King of Kong. Found to have submitted a high score using MAME but claiming it as original hardware
Eric ìOmnigamerî Koziel: Speedrunner who uncovered hard evidence that Dragster could not be beaten in the record time even with computer assistance.

The: What:
Cheaters exposed, cry wolf, can’t accept that they were caught.
Twin Galaxies is no longer a reputable source for future scores and times, better left being handled by their individual communities rather than a large hub.
Dispute systems should always be encouraged for integrity