Billy Mitchell: The Video Game Player of the Century

Who is Billy Mitchell?

Billy Mitchell is a renowned American video game player. Gaining popularity in the 1980s, Billy Mitchell was awarded the title of “Video Game Players of the Year” by Twin Galaxies in 1983.

Billy Mitchell became the first person to claim a perfect score of 3,333,360 points on Pac-Man in 1999. A holder of several records on different classic games, Billy Mitchell is also a restaurateur whose family owns the Rickey’s restaurants chain located in Hollywood, Florida, and Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Billy Mitchell Biography
Billy Mitchell Biography

Quick Facts

Full NameWilliam James Mitchell Jr.
Most Popularly Known AsBilly Mitchell
BirthdayJuly 16, 1965
Age57 years old
Sun signCancer
TraitsPositive traits- Optimistic, Nurturing, and Intuitive
Negative traits- Restless, Devious, and Possessive
BirthplaceHolyoke, Massachusetts, USA
EducationChaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School
Height5 feet and 11 inches
Eyes ColorBrown
Hair ColorBlack
Marital statusMarried
ProfessionVideo game player and restaurateur 
Net WorthUSD 1 million

Billy Mitchell Birthday

Billy Mitchell was born on July 16, 1965. He was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA. As of 2023, Billy Mitchell is 57 years old.

Early Life and Childhood

Billy Mitchell, who was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, grew up in South Florida. His family owns the famous Rickey’s restaurants located in Hollywood, Florida, and Pembroke Pines, Florida. 

When Billy was in grade school, he became interested in playing pinball. After becoming an avid pinball player, Billy started to play video games in his teen years. 

Although he was initially uninterested in video games, he started playing video games since he “wanted that attention”. His interest in video games grew as a result of friendly competition with his classmate. 

Billy Mitchell, Video Game Player of the Century
Billy Mitchell, Video Game Player of the Century

Billy and his classmate would often try to outscore each other on Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Eventually, Mitchell became curious if Donkey Kong had a recorded world-record high score. 

Hence, he reached out to Walter Day at Twin Galaxies and found out that a single arcade in Ottumwa, Iowa, tracked such records. He came to know of the 1.4 million records held by Steve Sanders. 

After meeting Sanders in November 1982 in Ottumwa for a photoshoot organized by Life, Billy Mitchell challenged Sanders to a game of Donkey Kong. He showed Sanders that the game had an impassable “kill screen” after reaching level 22 and also beat Sanders recording a high score of 874,300.

Sanders revealed later that he had lied about his previous Donkey Kong scores. After this, Twin Galaxies gave the record to Billy Mitchell. He held it for more than 18 years.

Billy Mitchell also became friends with Robert Childs. Childs had a business of buying and installing arcade cabinets in different places across the country. 

A student of Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School, Billy Mitchell, and several other players were invited by Walter Day in 1983 for a photo shoot and to participate in the “Electronic Circus”. “Electronic Circus” was a 40-city tour where the players would show off their arcade gaming skills at each stop. 

Although the idea could not come to fruition, Mitchell and the other players spent their time camping out at Twin Galaxies and competing for high scores on different video games. In the summer of 1983, Walter Day established the US National Video Game Team. 

Hailed as a slimmer version of the Electronic Circus, the US National Video Game Team was created to make a stop in a major US city and compete in various games. Billy Mitchell went on various trips with Day and was assigned the task of confirming high scores reported by players.

Twin Galaxies named Billy Mitchell, the player of the year in 1984. However, a year earlier, as a result of the 1983 video game crash, Twin Galaxies had to close down its storefront. Despite this, it still tracked scores. 

Mitchell submitted a record score for BurgerTime in 1985 and moved away from video games for the next ten years. He decided to instead shift his focus to his family’s restaurant business.

Pac-Man challenge

Released in 1980, Pac-Man is a popular maze action video game. Players of the hit video game found out that it had a type of kill screen. Upon reaching level 256, half the screen would contain nonsense glyphs as a result of which completing the level and continuing with the game was impossible.

In 1982, an eight-year-old player claimed to reach more than 6 million points in the game. This claim gained national coverage and President Ronald Reagan even congratulated the player via a letter. 

Pac-Man Ace
Pac-Man Ace, Billy Mitchell

However, following the claims, Billy Mitchell and his friend Chris Ayra discovered in 1983 that the highest possible score on Pac-Man was 3,333,360 which could only be achieved after a perfect no-death run and through the collection of all possible points on the nonsense side of level 256’s split-screen. 

There were reports that some Canadian players were allegedly close to reaching the theoretical high score in 1999. This prompted Mitchell to return to video gaming in an attempt at beating this group. 

Rick Fothergill set the world record on May 8, 1999, just 90 points short of a perfect score. Later that year, on July 3, Billy Mitchell was able to achieve the perfect score at a Laconia arcade.

For achieving this impossible feat, Twin Galaxies awarded him “Video Game Player of the Century“. Likewise, Mitchell traveled to Japan for the Tokyo Game Show the same year. 

Gaming Return

Billy Mitchell scored 933,900 on Donkey Kong in 2004 at the Midwest Gaming Classic making this his new personal best. Described by David Ramsey l as “probably the greatest arcade video game player of all time”, Mitchell stepped away from gaming for a while.  

In 2004 and 2005, Steve Wiebe attempted to set a new world record in Donkey Kong and invited Mitchell to these events to challenge him. However, Mitchell did not make an appearance at Wiebe’s events stating that as a result of his break from video gaming, he needed to retrain and practice for the competition.

Wiebe was able to achieve a score of more than one million points on an arcade unit at his home. This feat was recorded on videotape and was also accepted by Twin Galaxies. 

However, it was later retracted after it was revealed that Wiebe’s unit used an unofficial “Double Donkey Board” containing circuitry for both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. Although Weibe later landed a high score at a New Hampshire Funspot in the presence of multiple witnesses, just hours later, Billy Mitchell submitted his tape to Twin Galaxies. He recorded a new high score of 1,047,200 eventually beating Wiebe’s score and creating a new official world record. 

Since Mitchell’s high score was recorded on tape, his score was ultimately nullified and Wiebe was given the record again. This entire saga became the focus of the 2007 film The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. As a result of his negative portrayal in the film, Mitchell faced a lot of backlashes and received a lot of hate from fans. 

The King of Kong
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Mitchell made appearances in several other documentaries such as Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade, The King of Arcades, and Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler. On July 26, 2007, Mitchell made a Donkey Kong world record with a score of 1,050,200 during the annual convention for the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers.

Although the record was surpassed on February 26, 2010, by Hank Chien, Mitchell reclaimed the record with a score of 1,062,800 just a few months later. 

On June 4, 2007, Mitchell ranked eighth in the Microsoft Xbox 360 Pac-Man World Championships. A year later, he made history as the first video game player on a Topps Allen & Ginter trading card.

Billy Mitchell Controversies

After a video was posted online by Childs of Mitchell’s Boomers score, Jeremy Young, a moderator of the Donkey Kong Forums expressed his doubts about the scores in August 2017. According to Young, Mitchell had played both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr. that day and also broke records for both.

However, he used the same cabinet for setting the records while Childs swapped the circuit board between the runs. Young expressed concerns with the board swap after which Mitchell and Childs clarified that although some parts of the board-switching were staged, the section of the recording was made well after the records had been set on legitimate hardware.

Billy Mitchell Twin Galaxies
Billy Mitchell Twin Galaxies

After an investigation, Young found out that Mitchell’s scores on the Boomers video, the King of Kong, and Mortgage Brokers were made on MAME instead of real hardware. As a result of the investigation, Mitchell’s records were removed from the Donkey Kong Forums website.  

Wes Copeland corroborated Young’s claims stating that Mitchell’s run showed a statistically unlikely rate of scoring. Later, it was revealed that the verifier for the Boomers and Mortgage Brokers scores was Todd Rogers, a former Twin Galaxies referee who faced a ban from Twin Galaxies for submission of fraudulent scores. 

On April 12, 2018, Twin Galaxies started an investigation into Mitchell’s submitted scores. They discovered that Mitchell relied on an emulator to create the footage of his two high scores. 

As a result Twin Galaxies removed all of Mitchell’s scores from their records. The legendary gamer also faced a ban from submitting future scores. 

Due to this controversy, Guinness World Records released a statement about the removal of Mitchell’s name as the highest scorer on Donkey Kong. Similarly, Mitchell’s name was also removed as the highest scorer on Pac-Man and as the person with the first recorded perfect game. 

Consequently, Mitchell threatened to sue both Twin Galaxies and Guinness. In 2019, Mitchell filed lawsuits against Twin Galaxies and Jeremy Young. 

On the other hand, Twin Galaxies filed a counterclaim against Mitchell and Walter Day making allegations that the two defrauded Twin Galaxies’s present-day owners. Mitchell’s suit against Twin Galaxies was allowed to proceed in October 2021 by a U.S. appeals court. 

In June 2020, Guinness World Records restored Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong and Pac-Man records. Mitchell later revealed that his records were reinstated by Guinness as a result of Guinness’s investigation and not because of his legal threats towards them.

Wife and Children

Billy Mitchell is a married man. He and his wife share three children. They live in Weston, Florida. 

Billy Mitchell Net Worth

As of 2023, Billy Mitchell has an estimated net worth of approximately USD 1 million. Although the legendary video game player has accumulated quite impressive earnings as a result of his video gaming career, a majority of his net worth comes from his investments in the restaurant chain, Rickey’s restaurants.  

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