17th Apr2017

Movies to Show My Son: ‘The King of Kong’

by Dan Clark

Welcome to another installment of Movies to Show My Son. This is the blog series were I discuss movies I can’t way to show my son in the future. I’ll be covering my own personal experience with the movie, movie and life lessons I hope he will learn, and lastly my concerns about showing said film. This week’s film is The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

king-of-kong

Personal Memories:

With this movie being only ten years old I do not have the same type of personal attachment to it as something like The Sandlot. It was one of the first movies I remember watching on a streaming service before they completely took over. It was at a time when Netflix only gave you so many movies to stream a month (insane thinking about that now) and one of those months I chose to watch The King of Kong. At that point I had heard some people talking about it already, and saw some of the people it covers on networks like G4 – back when it showed more than reruns of Cheaters and Cops.

Age to Show:

I feel the best age to watch this is around 12 – 15 years old. Any younger and I could see this story about old guys fighting over a decades old video game record becoming boring. Any older and I could see this story about old guys fighting over a decades old video game record becoming boring. In the ages of 12-15 you are not typically that rebellious teenager that hates anything not modern but also not too young to comprehend mindless drama between adults. Personally it was also a video game hotspot for me. During that time I took video games a little too seriously as it was not simply about rescuing the princess from the castle anymore. It was about claiming bragging rights over who was the true Goldeneye champion.

Movie Lessons:

For a long time in my life the word documentary had this negative connotation to it. I think it was due to the fact that the only exposure I had to the medium was those stale history documentaries that are shown in Social Studies class the day after your teacher goes on an epic bender. So for a large part of my life I never associated documentaries with the type of storytelling King of Kong is full of from start to finish. I hope what my son will learn well before I did is that documentaries can be just as entertaining as massive blockbusters and as emotionally driven as indie dramas. The King of Kong shows that truth is more interesting than fiction, which makes you wonder why the history channel is full of fake reality shows and men with crazy hair talking about aliens.

When I show The King of Kong to my son I hope he sees how great film making made Billy Mitchell into one of the most evil but oddly charismatic movie villains of all time. How the director was able to get you invested into the story of Steve Wiebe, an ordinary guy with a somewhat extraordinary skill. My hope is this film will demonstrate the Roger Ebert classic line of, “It’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about”.

Life Lessons:

The biggest life lesson that can be taken from this film is the benefit of perseverance. I love the saying, ‘Stop giving excuses, and start providing results’. We have all been in those situations when we want to achieve something but things keep getting in our way. When adversity strikes it can be easy to give up, especially when it seems the world is working against us every step of the way. Steve Wiebe’s story shows that if you want something bad enough you have to do it yourself. There were multiple times when he could have given up because he was not being treated fairly. He could have took his preverbal donkey ball and gone home. Instead he shut up and put up.

My hope is my son will see that just because the excuses are there it does not mean you have to take them. The sweetest victories are the ones you have to fight the most for and even if it’s something as trivial as a video game score the mindset you have for yourself is contagious. The first time you give up or give in will begin the snowball for the next time you wish to call it quits.

It reminds me of a time when I was on my middle school Cross Country team. We had our first major race and I did horrible. There were maybe two hundred kids in the race and I finished ahead of maybe ten of them. I was humiliated and wanted to quit. My parents would not let me. They told me I had to honor my commitment that I would be part of the team for that year.

In all honesty the team would have be better without me, but they were right even if I did not believe it at the time. I went on to be a part of the team for the rest of my middle school and high school career. I got better…not by much mind you. In the end I did learn a lesson about the benefits of loyalty and following through with my commitments.

It is important to also know when to walk away. Sometimes loyalty can be taken too far and you end up in a situation longer than you should. You have to learn the difference between being determined and being stubborn. Honestly it is a difference I still have my own challenges with, but it it’s a good conversation to have using this film as a backdrop. Was Steve Wiebe right in the way he went about things? Should he have given up and spent his time on something more constructive? All of which are good questions that have multiple right answers.

Billy-Mitchell-kk

Concerns:

I can imagine the look on my son’s face as I ask him to watch this documentary about this guy who is trying to set a high score on a video game that was already old when I was his age. It would be like my dad coming to me as a kid asking if I wanted to watch a doc about competitive marble competition. (Today I would so watch that documentary. I mean I have watched docs about the world championships of Scrabble, Monopoly, and Magic: The Gathering) The benefit is the fact that Donkey Kong and Mario have been around awhile in different incarnations, and there tends to be an affinity for classic video games even with today’s youth. So hopefully he will have some knowledge and admiration for the property.

My other concern is maybe he takes the wrong lesson from this movie, and ends up treating video games much more seriously than he should. I know we live in a world where being a professional video game player is a legitimate career. Still, I do not want him to see this and then decide to try to be the Steve Wiebe of his generation on whatever game is popular at the time. Obviously this would be an extreme concern and very unlikely to happen. Well at least I hope so. The greater concern would be he would watch this and wish to be the next Billy Mitchell. Now that’s a scary thought.

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