Surprise Challenger Sets Donkey Kong Record


Move over, Steve Wiebe. Take a hike, Billy Mitchell. There’s a new King of Kong in town, and his name is Hank Chien.

The rivalry between Donkey Kong superstars Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe has been well-chronicled, particularly in the full-length documentary The King of Kong: a Fistful of Quarters. In the film, Wiebe stole the Donkey Kong world record score from veteran score-seeker Mitchell, only to have him set it right back after the documentary was released. Wiebe retorted by setting a Donkey Kong, Jr. record, snatching the title from Ike Hall, who himself had broken the record set by – you guessed it – Billy Mitchell.

But there is a new champion of Donkey Kong, and it isn’t Billy Mitchell or Steve Wiebe: It’s 35-year-old plastic surgeon Hank Chien. Chien racked up a total of 1,061,700 points in 2 hours, 35 minutes before reaching the infamous “kill screen” that prevents players from continuing, breaking Mitchell’s score of 1,050,200 from 2007 (the aforementioned post-King of Kong attempt).

Two officials from videogame scoreboard site Twin Galaxies – David Nelson of New Hampshire and Eric Akeson of Washington state – verified the new record, set on an original Donkey Kong machine in Chien’s home town of New York, New York. To make matters more interesting, Chien is a relative newcomer to the pro-Kong scene, having been introduced to it by The King of Kong film. “The King of Kong piqued my interest in the game,” said Chien, “and after watching the documentary I started to play seriously in November 2008. Back then I wasn’t shooting for any world records; I was just playing for fun.”

However, after a casual 2-hour session before he caught a flight for a business trip led Chien to break 1 million points, he realized that the world record was potentially in his grasp. After preparing himself for the feat and refining his techniques, he was ready to take the plunge in the early part of 2010 – and he succeeded.

Though The King of Kong might have been what inspired Chien to take up Jumpman and rescue the girl from the gorilla, he says he found the portrayal of scorekeepers Twin Galaxies to be inaccurate. “In the King of Kong, Twin Galaxies was portrayed as showing favoritism to established players and showing skepticism of any ‘outsiders.’ My experience has been the complete opposite.”

Congratulations, Hank Chien. But watch out – now you’ll have two people gunning for your title.

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