Robbie Lakeman knew it was going to take just about a perfect game to reclaim the world record.
But having already broken the all-time high mark for Donkey Kong on six occasions, Lakeman knew it was possible – albeit a tall task.
It had been more than a year and half since he owned the best score in history for the classic arcade game, but the goal to be back on top was always in the back of his mind. It didn’t matter he had taken a small break from competitive gaming during that time.
Especially considering what happened on Dec. 21. On that night, Lakeman turned on Facebook Live to document his attempt that will once again land him in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Lakeman spent three and a half hours jumping and smashing barrels, alluding fireballs and springs, all the while racking up 1,230,100 points to break Wes Copeland’s record by 12,100 – a record that came at the expense of Lakeman’s, a mere eight days after he had grabbed the top spot from Copeland last April.
“The Donkey Kong record was the one I wanted to get back,” Lakeman said. “It’s been hyped up to be the Holy Grail of arcade games.”
The two have alternated sitting atop the Donkey Kong world since Lakeman captured his first world record in September 2014 when he knocked off Hank Chien, who had owned the title for almost four years.
“You have to create new techniques that other people haven’t thought of to score points,” Lakeman said.
Since first claiming the No. 1 ranking, Lakeman has owned the outright world record on four occasions (including right now) and broken his own three more times.
And there are also many times he plays that records aren’t even within reach.
“At one point, it became a second job,” he said.
Now he hopes that this one will stick around for a while, especially since Copeland is now on a break of his own.
“We’re getting down to within 20,000 to 30,000 points from maxing out the game,” Lakeman said.
The arcade game was released in 1981 – five years before Lakeman was born. Lakeman didn’t start seriously playing until five years ago, but it took less than two years to enter the record books.
It started with a few trips to Fun Spot in Laconia and a bet that he couldn’t get into the top 20 scores of all-time.
Needless to say, Lakeman found his way into the top 20 and continued to climb the rankings.
“When I was in the top 10, I figured I had to go for the record,” Lakeman said.
He bought his own machine for $650 and has spent countless hours honing his skills ever since.
It’s classic ’80s arcade gaming at its finest. There’s a joystick and a jump button – and that’s it.
The game consists of 21 levels, with the first four actually accounting for the hardest and most differing ones. That’s because the game was designed to be quick and take your money, so you weren’t supposed to make it very far.
“There’s a lot of randomness in the early levels,” Lakeman said.
Levels five through 21 each have the same six screens, three with barrels, along with one each of cement, elevator and rivet. And while there technically is a level 22, it’s known as the kill screen and only lasts a few seconds.
“The game ends in the same spot,” Lakeman said.
So after level four, Lakeman really has a good idea if he’s on track for a potential standout game – or if it’s better to cut his losses and pull the plug.
On the record setting night, he was sitting pretty well after the first four levels with a score of 131,600 and all four lives remaining – the three you get to start the game and the extra one after you reach 7,000 points.
As the game went on, his score kept pace with a record breaking performance. The funny thing is, he could have scored even more points to pad the record.
“I had enough points; I just wanted the record back,” he said.
To count, Lakeman must record his attempt, and verify his game console hasn’t been altered in any way.
“You can do it any time, any place, as long as you’re playing on original hardware,” he said.
So you can actually watch his record breaking game – if you have about three hours and 28 minutes. (You can find the link on our website and Lakeman’s Facebook page.) https://www.facebook.com/lakeman421/videos/780008106967/?hc_ref=ARQMlCLONFwn9a329_AxT6Jt9K5y2Xvzuu_x4FP3oF8gakmvU1ed37l0_8o0TkX-iHA&pnref=story
When Lakeman first broke the record on Sept. 5, 2014, he scored 1,141,800. So it’s gone up almost 90,000 in a little more than three years.
He owned it for a little over a year – breaking it twice – before Copeland made his way to the top of the scoring list for the first time.
But it wasn’t for long, as Lakeman took it back just six hours later. His second run as world record holder last four months, and his third stint just eight days. Lakeman’s hoping this one will last a little longer.
“I expect it to hold up for quite some time,” he said. “It was a special game.”
Lakeman will now compete against the best of the best this March in Kong Off in California.
He also holds the world record for points in Super Pacman at more than 12 million.
What really made Donkey Kong popular was the documentary King of Kong, where it follows early competitors in their quest for the world record.
And if you’ve ever seen the movie Pixels, the scene with Donkey Kong is Lakeman’s handiwork.
Now it’s time for Lakeman to sit back and enjoy his record setting performance – or maybe he’ll just keep trying to break his own mark.