June 17, 2015

Donkey Kong: An excerpt from DEATH BY VIDEO GAME


Donkey-KongHank Chien is a plastic surgeon from New York. He specialises in reshaping his patients’ eyes to create a crease in the upper eyelid. He first heard about Barcade when browsing the Donkey Kong world leaderboard, an online list of the highest scores ever recorded on the formative arcade game. Unlike other patrons, he comes to Barcade not to soak up the beer and atmosphere, but to compete.

A few months before he found the global Donkey Kong leaderboard, Chien had watched the Seth Gordon documentary King of Kong, a film that documents the rivalry between two of the arcade game’s best players, Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, as they compete for the world-record score in the game. Chien, curious about the game (he was seven when it originally launched in 1981; the Taiwanese national had never played it before), loaded a version onto his home computer only to discover a natural, latent talent for the game. Each night when he returned home from his private practice in Flushing, Queens, he would play Donkey Kong.

Read the rest in Death By Video Game—available for purchase here, at your neighborhood independent bookstore, at Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.

Simon Parkin is a journalist whose writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, the Guardian, ESPN, and a number of other publications. DEATH BY VIDEO GAME is his first book.