I understand that scoring more than 1.2 million in any arcade game is worth celebrating, especially when it results in a world record.
But after watching Robbie Lakeman showcase his Donkey Kong skills last week, it didn’t look all that difficult to score some major points. In no way am I saying I could come anywhere close to Lakeman’s record – the one he just set, or any of the previous high marks he reached.
Yet, the 1981 Nintendo game consists of a simple set of controls, a joystick and jump button. Nowhere close to the head scratching controllers that dominate recent video game consoles.
So once Lakeman had showed off just how good he is at Donkey Kong (you don’t just luck your way into a record like that), he offered me a chance to try it out. Now I’m sure I played a few games of Donkey Kong when I was a kid hanging out at the local arcade, but that was a long time ago and any abilities I may have had were long gone.
Lakeman said for a first time player, a pretty good score would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 to 10,000 points. That didn’t seem like it would be all that difficult. You get three lives (plus a bonus one when you reach 7,000 points), and it seemed pretty simple: jump over the barrels, avoid the fireballs and pick up and hammers or bonus points when you can. And complete a level for a few extra points
There was no way I thought I’d make it anywhere near the kill screen (which comes just seconds into level 22), but I figured I could at least hold my own for a little bit.
While it looked simple enough, it all comes down to the hand-eye coordination to jump barrels at just the right time while avoiding other objects looking to take you out.
My first life went okay, as I racked up more than 1,300 points. Life two wasn’t quite as good, standing at just over 2,000 points with one to go. I’d need quite the rally if I was going to get that bonus life.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out of the first screen of level one and ended my first attempt at 3,100 points.
Round two was much, much worse as a couple mistimed jumps led to a couple quick deaths and a pathetic 1,300-point score.
Well, I guess that will teach me to think I can just jump into something and assume I’ll be good at it. One of these days I’ll learn.
But let’s get one thing clear, if I come across a Donkey Kong game in an arcade in the future, you better believe I’ll play a few games.
And if that’s the case, watch out Lakeman and all the other big Donkey Kong players because I’m coming for the record.