Former Donkey Kong and Pac-Man high score record holder Billy Mitchell has filed suit against Twin Galaxies for stripping him of his titles in 2018. Twin Galaxies has stringent requirements for the equipment players use to earn high scores. Mitchell allegedly submitted three separate videos for high scores in Donkey Kong he claimed followed those guidelines, but after analysis, Twin Galaxies determined he had instead been using the MAME emulator.
According to Ars Technica, the suit, filed in California, levels accusations of defamation and names not only Twin Galaxies as a defendant but “Does 1-200,” forum users who participated in the discussion surrounding the investigation into Mitchell’s suspicious DK runs. After an intense investigation, Twin Galaxies announced that the allegations against Mitchell were well-founded and that it would strip him of his records. Furthermore, Twin Galaxies banned Mitchell from submitting high scores in the future.
“With this ruling Twin Galaxies can no longer recognize Billy Mitchell as the 1st million point Donkey Kong record holder. According to our findings, Steve Wiebe would be the official 1st million point record holder. Thanks again to all who contributed time, effort and expertise to this case. This dispute is ACCEPTED.”
Twin Galaxies’ official stance on which equipment that can be used for high score attempts is:
“The rules for submitting scores for the original arcade Donkey Kong competitive leaderboards requires the use of original arcade hardware only. The use of MAME or any other emulation software for submission to these leaderboards is strictly forbidden.””
The reason behind this strict approach is that emulators like MAME can be used to run ROM files of games that have been slightly modified in the user’s favor. Donkey Kong, for example, awards variable scores for smashing enemies with a hammer, each with a set probability:
- 300 points: 50%
- 500 points: 33.33%
- 800 points: 16.67%
With MAME, a player could slightly modify one of these percentages to lean towards higher score amounts. If Twin Galaxies allowed non-original hardware, even if a record attempt seemed valid on the surface, there would be no way of know whether someone gave themselves a slight advantage.
Mitchel’s suit states that Twin Galaxies’ statement implied that he did not achieve his scores legitimately, thus calling him a cheater in a roundabout fashion. He says that he believed that that statement was libelous and damaging to his brand.
The suit against Twin Galaxies and its unnamed forum members was initially filed in April 2019 but wasn’t served until earlier this year. Twin Galaxies’ response has been to file an anti-SLAPP motion against Mitchell stating that any statements made by Twin Galaxies’ and its users during and as a result of the investigation are protected speech. The hearing for the anti-SLAPP motion will take place on July 6, 2020, and may very well result in the suit being dismissed.