Competitive Gaming scandals, and the need for an overhaul of the system


This article contains multiple embedded videos and hyperlinks to prove the statements made within.

In the past month, a couple of prominent members of the gaming high score community have been caught falsifying information and results in their top gaming scores.  Both Todd Rogers and Billy Mitchell have undisputable evidence against their claims in Dragster and Donkey Kong, respectively.

 

Let’s start with Todd Rogers.  The man has made claim that his fastest record in Dragster is 5.51.  In Dragster, you play as a drag racer, and the lower the time, the better the score.  Unfortunately, a 5.51 is literally impossible to achieve.  Using a tool-assisted setup which allows a computer to enter every possible controller and button combination, the fastest time one can make is actually a 5.57.  The prolific hardware expert Ben Heck actually built a setup specifically for testing this game.  The best score was 5.57.  Even worse, any proof of the original score has already been destroyed, and people who have seen the original evidence before it was destroyed claim that the score was smudged.

However, it’s not just one score that he has falsely reported.  In the above video, Pat and Ian from the CUPodcast find evidence of Rogers scores being higher than the second place holder by a factor of over 100.  Posts were made months ago on the Twin Galaxies official forums, but in many cases were denied as being valid.  One of the few that were proven even before the scandal was in Barnstorming on the Atari 2600, a flying game where obstacles on the course affect your speed, and hence your score.  In Barnstorming, it was proven that even removing all obstacles and flying straight would result in a lower score than the score that Rogers posted, proving it was impossible.  That one score was removed, but none of the others were even investigated.  He claimed a score of 99,999,990 on JJ and Jeff on the Turbografx-16, a score that would literally require 80 hours of gameplay in order to accomplish.  Other scores (that Twin Galaxies tried to claim were confirmed legitimate) were found impossible due to the digits end in a 8, when the game only scores in segments of 5 or 10.  A large (but not complete) list of games where Rogers score was either impossible or incredibly unlikely can be found here.  What is scary is that in the case of Dragster, Twin Galaxies actually ran a front page article stating the games creator (David Crane) said he has no doubts that Rogers score is legit.  It seems that the site was attempting to manipulate public opinion and discredit legitimate claims and concerns.

 

If it were only one person, it might be able to be written off as a coincidence, but even one of the “rock stars” of Twin Galaxies, one who many recognize immediately along with Walter Day, was proven that at a minimum, he misrepresented the hardware he was playing on.  While Mitchell has many legitimate records (his play in Pac-Man is bar none some of the best seen), and his Donkey Kong play is also incredible, it would seem that competition pushed him to lie about how he was playing.  In a pivotal moment in the King of Kong documentary, Steve Wiebe takes the high score for Donkey Kong (after having previous high scores rejected due to claims his hardware might be subject to tampering).  Hours after this, Mitchell sends a pre-recorded tape in that beats Wiebes score.  The tape was subject to much controversy due to looking like it could have been sliced in some areas, and was later rejected a few days after being accepted.

 

Mitchell claimed that he recorded using a direct feed from the machine, which at the time only a few machines even had set up since it is incredibly difficult to capture a live video feed from a DK machine.  However, the way the arcade game loads screens is different from how Mame (a popular arcade game emulator) loaded games during that time era.  A post at the Donkey Kong Forum shows the differences in how Mame loads, how an arcade machine loads, and also has a sample of a direct feed capture.  Mitchells tape loads in the same fashion a copy of Mame of that era would have loaded the game.  Not only would this make video capture significantly easier, it would also make cheating much more easier either by savestate or by altering the games code to allow more blue barrel drops, which give more points when busted by a hammer than a brown barrel.

When Mitchell claimed innocence, claiming the video proof of his game should be at Twin Galaxies and the tape whistleblower Jeremy Yonng used as evidence was an altered version of the game he played.  Jeremy fired back, giving multiple reasons why Mitchells claim was preposterous.

In closing, it would appear that many of our “gaming heroes” of the 80’s have been holding on to their spots by false scores and having friends in judges places.  It throws the entirety of the judging community of Twin Galaxies into question, since two of their “golden boys” are now proven frauds.  There either needs to be a changing of the guard over at Twin Galaxies, or a new community needs to rise using legitimate methodology to confirm scores.  In closing, I have one more video.

Above is a player who is very good at a number of games, and wanted to document his scores.  At the 9:30 time in the video, he brings out that not only did Twin Galaxies want to charge him in order to look at his score, they STILL would not consider it until he had participated in their forums on a regular basis.  A score is a score, no matter what the financial or social status of a player is.

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