Arcade game legend accused of cheating to get his records

Arcade game legend accused of cheating to get his records

Arcade game legend accused of cheating to get his records

A new report accuses Billy Mitchell, world record holder on the legendary video game, of having obtained some of his scores on an emulator and not on a classic machine.

The case has rocked the world of arcade games for years and has just undergone a new twist. American Billy Mitchell, holder of several world records in video games Pac man And donkey kongis accused by a new report of having cheated to obtain some of his titles.

The disputed scores refer to the game donkey kongin which Mario appears for the first time and on which Billy Mitchell had already faced allegations of treason. In 2018 the Guinness World Record (known for his book of records) and the specialized site Twin Galaxies had deprived the record holder of the controversial awards due to similar allegations, Remember Vice.

Accused of playing on the emulator

This is a technical analysis carried out by Tanner Fokkens, and republished on Tuesday 6 September on the perfectpacman.com website, which has set the dust back on fire. The American engineer, also a competitive player in donkey kong, accuses Billy Mitchell of having achieved two of his records not on a classic arcade terminal, but on the MAME emulator. An emulator is software that reproduces the operation of an old game on more modern machines, here a computer.

But the emulator does not perfectly reproduce the functioning of the game: there may be differences, for example on the orientation of the image, or the transitions between the different screens of the game, these are the elements that the report uses to support its theory, analyzing the images of Billy Mitchell’s games, recorded on videotapes at the time.

Transitions displayed differently

The visualization of the transitions between the screens that precede the level and the level itself constitute in a sense “a fingerprint of the platform on which it is played,” explains Tanner Fokkens in his report. The elements that make up the level (beams, stairs) are displayed as the processor places “the graphic elements of the level in the video memory”, describes the engineer in an email to Vice.

“Like a normal person reading a book, the video hardware reads the video memory from left to right, then moves along a line and repeats the process until it reaches the end of the page. (…) The room hardware games the machine reads each page one word at a time, but the words on the page change as the processor changes the text [en plaçant de nouveaux éléments dans la mémoire vidéo]even while reading. “

Tanner Fokkens continues the metaphor by explaining that the emulator, he, “takes a picture of the entire page and shows all the words on it at that moment on the screen”. The different images that make up the transitions are therefore not the same depending on the machine used.

In summary, “it is impossible for an unmodified arcade machine to produce the transitions shown in Billy Mitchell’s videotape,” says Tanner Fokkens close to Vice. The analysis is supported by five other experts, including one of the developers who contributed to the open source MAME emulator, two other Donkey Kong record holders, and an arcade tech expert who was also a former technical assistant to Billy Mitchell.

Legal action still pending

The report points out that playing on an emulator is completely accepted and that it even constitutes a competitive category in its own right. But the records in this category and those obtained on a classic arcade terminal are not comparable, and those who try to pass the first for the second are “disqualified”, remembers the site perfectpacman.com.

Guinness World Records had returned his awards to Billy Mitchell, but the latter had filed a libel suit against Twin Galaxies, which is still pending. New testimonies were also filed on September 2, in which the player claims, for example, that his doctor refused to see him due to the site’s scam allegations, according to documents published by perfecpacman.com.

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