Guinness World Records has reinstated a number of classic video game world records held by Billy Mitchell.
The move comes just over two years after Mitchell’s records were expunged following an investigation by Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard, which partners with Guinness to adjudicate video game records.
That investigation found that recordings of some of Mitchell’s record performances on Donkey Kong were not achieved on legitimate arcade hardware, based on extensive video analysis. Twin Galaxies has not changed its position on Mitchell’s records, resulting in a split between the two record-tracking organizations.
Guinness now once again recognizes Mitchell as the first player to achieve a perfect Pac-Man score of 3,333,360 points in 1999 and the first player to reach 1 million points in Donkey Kong in 2005.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mitchell said in an interview with Ars Technica.
In a video announcing the decision, Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday said the organization “review[ed] both the existing evidence and newly sourced eyewitness testimony, plus some new expert gameplay analyses and hardware verification. In the end, we found that there just wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the disqualification across the board.”
“In cases such as this where there is debate, we would typically defer to the original contemporaneous adjudication, and this is the case here,” Glenday continued.
Speaking to Ars Technica, Mitchell said Guinness relied on the expert analysis of Robbie Lakeman, who currently holds the Donkey Kong record of 1,260,070 points. Lakeman’s analysis was also included in a massive evidentiary package Mitchell released publicly last year.
“After reviewing Billy’s gameplay and reproducing similar games myself, I can honestly say that this is legitimate gameplay,” Lakeman said in a statement. “I do not see a reason why Billy would need to even use MAME or save states to film both games with this style of play.”
Mitchell added to Ars that his scores “occurred in live public venues under the observation of numerous referees and third-party eyewitnesses. In the 1,050,200 world record, I played on hardware verified by the senior engineer at Nintendo.
“To this day, I still possess the box used to ship the hardware, with his name and Nintendo’s UPS account number. Those are the facts.”
Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day said in Guinness’ video that he is “very pleased to see this happen, and I had faith it would turn out this way. All of those people who were part of the old days who played the old games and saw Billy Mitchell play—they knew that he was completely capable of getting these records, and they also knew that there was no MAME capable of being played on back in the golden age.”
In a written statement, Day also cites “industry veteran Todd Tuckey,” in saying that “what Twin Galaxies’ [new owners] assert about Billy Mitchell’s score is simply not possible. There has never and will never be an emulsion [sic] board that plugs into a Donkey Kong machine. It is simply impossible for anything but legitimate hardware to have been inside Billy Mitchell’s machine.
“Everybody’s really going to embrace this situation because they know Billy Mitchell is a tremendous player and his scores are legitimate,” Day added, perhaps underestimating the controversy that has surrounded Mitchell throughout his game playing career.
Mitchell told Ars he has known about the results of Guinness’ investigation since December but that today’s announcement was delayed because “we had to wrap up the legal agreement.” Mitchell wouldn’t comment any further on that, saying he was bound by a confidentiality agreement.
While Mitchell last year threatened to sue Guinness World Records over his score removal, he told Ars that this legal threat had been previously rendered moot and did not play into Guinness’ decision.
“We had no chance to beat [Guinness] in court, because we could not prove it acted with actual malice… that it knew its statements were false or they had a reckless disregard for truth or falsity,” he said. “You must prove this to win a defamation case. GWR made [today’s] decision because it was true and correct. Those are their values… At best, I feel that the legal sphere simply got their attention.”
Earlier this year, Mitchell moved forward with a defamation lawsuit against Twin Galaxies in Los Angeles county court, first reported publicly by Ars Technica. Mitchell tells Ars his lawyers have “sent [Twin Galaxies] a second retraction demand. We plan to either receive a retraction or proceed to a jury trial.”
A hearing in the Twin Galaxies trial is set for July 6. Twin Galaxies representatives were not immediately available for comment on Guinness’ decision.
“Unfortunately, in 2018 I became the subject of false allegations,” Mitchell said in summary in the Guinness video. “I just shook my head as to how this would happen. I didn’t shake my head long. My support system simply wouldn’t let me.”
Update: Reached for comment by Ars Technica, Twin Galaxies owner and CEO Jace Hall sent the following meme as an image, which he said could serve as his quote on the matter: