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Q&A With Former 'Donkey Kong' High-Scorer Steve Wiebe

6/12/2014 Lie Shia Ong

By Lie Shia Ong
MSN Movies

Ever wish you could take 100 of your closest friends to a private movie screening? People in the Seattle area over the Labor Day weekend had the chance to get the highest score playing the "Fix-It Felix" game at GameWorks, to win an advance 3-D screening of Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" before the movie comes out in theaters Nov. 2.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is based on the arcade game "Fix-It Felix Jr.," in which Fix-It-Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock") has to fix buildings that Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, destroys. When Ralph decides he doesn't want to be the bad guy anymore and a deadly enemy threatens the arcade, he finally gets the chance to be good and save the day.

Bing: More about 'Wreck-It Ralph' | More about Steve Wiebe

Winning the screening was not so easy, however. Steve Wiebe, the former world record holder for the highest "Donkey Kong" score and also one of the subjects of the documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," stood in the way. The gamer played the "Fix-It Felix" game Friday and scored 44,400 points. We have yet heard if someone was able to surpass that score before 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, to win.

MSN Movies spoke with Wiebe right after he played the game to talk about the upcoming release of "Wreck-It Ralph" and his advice to those who want to try and beat his score.

MSN Movies: You just finished with a score of 44,400. How do you feel you did?

Steve Wiebe: It was going pretty good at the beginning and I was starting to accumulate men, and I had a problem with these piles of bricks that I'm not used to jumping over. I'm pretty pleased. At the beginning, I was struggling with the controls, figuring out how to maneuver Felix around. Once I got the hang of that, I started doing well. ... I'd like to play it again and get a higher score.

Were you able to practice beforehand?

This is the first time playing the "Fix-It Felix" stand-up version. There's a version on iPhone I downloaded, and it doesn't quite play the same, so it took a while to get adjusted to the arcade style.

Gamers who are in town in Seattle for the PAX convention and also anybody who wants to stop by at GameWorks have the chance to beat your high score for a chance to win a 3-D "Wreck-It Ralph" screening. What advice do you have for them?

Be patient because you don't have any clock you're going up against. Be careful. ... Figure out the controls and then you'll see your gameplay start getting better and better. That's what I found out.

You're the former world high-scorer of "Donkey Kong." How did you get started playing games?

... In the '80's, they had a big area where they had all the arcades ... and I got hooked. All my friends would play and we'd ride our bikes to the arcade. I found "Donkey Kong" was the favorite of mine, so I just got hooked on that. So I really wasn't trying to beat anyone's score. I just enjoyed playing it. I bought my own machine in college, and eventually I got these high scores and started submitting them to an agency called Twin Galaxies. So it just started off at the arcades with friends as just a hobby that we enjoyed doing.

You're a math teacher in Redmond. Do your students know about your records and your background in gaming?

Yeah, I have some things in the room that are dead giveaways. I have a "King of Kong" poster in my room and "Donkey Kong" stuff I have stuff scattered throughout. They're well aware, and if they don't know about it, they are tuned in from other students who have heard about it. I have fun with it. I show [the movie] to them during the school year.

Do they ever challenge you to a game?

A couple people said, "If I break your score, what do I get?" and I said, "I'll give you an A right now." It's going to take them a while to get that [high of a score]. So I tell them to feel free [to try].

What does your family think about your gaming hobby?

They're patient with it. Of course they're supportive. When I first got the machine in my garage, no one had a clue about what was going to happen. All the stuff that's unfolded since -- I couldn't have dreamed up. They just thought I was obsessed with a game at first. Then I started getting attention from it, then we [started getting] perks from it because we [got] invited to some concert: Some bands would come through town, and we'd get some passes right next to the stage and meet the band. So, my wife has been pretty happy with some of the perks that have come along.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is coming out in November. What are you looking forward most to when it comes to the movie?

The worlds that they're going to blend: the 8-bit and the modern gaming. I think there's something for everybody. ... The trailer looks cool. They have the cameos from the old characters from the classic games, which I'm looking forward to, the video game world they're going to create. I'm going to have fun taking my kids to it. It'll be a good time.

Some of your fans sent in questions they wanted me to ask you. Zach wants to know if Disney brought you on as a consultant at all for "Wreck-It Ralph."

No, I wasn't consulted during the making of it. I was surprised pleasantly when I saw there was going to be a movie about it.

Zach also wanted to know: A lot of people are building their own arcade cabinets these days, but they're using LCD screens. Do you think that's helping keep old games alive, or is it blasphemy?

I think with the parts wearing out it's hard to have all those parts in stock, so whatever it takes to have the game in working order, I'm all for that.

Dan wants to know if you want to break any more gaming records.

There was one game called "Popeye" that I want to break, but I haven't had time to start on that. And "Fix-It Felix Jr." is a great game. I'd like to have the record on that.

Katie wants to know if you're ever worried you'll ever get arthritis from playing all these games?

No. I've had drummer's hands, so I'm kind of used to swinging the drumsticks around. I haven't had any problems. I think I've passed that. I'm probably more worried about my vision. It's starting to get harder to see when you hit 40. [Laughs.]

Any message you want to send out to your fans?

I just want to say thanks for all the support: all the letters and e-mails and things like that throughout this whole experience. I love meeting the fans, so thank you!

"Wreck-It Ralph" is out in theaters Friday, Nov. 2.

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