On December 3rd, 2009, Marshall "Eminem" Mathers made the following tweet:
"I just want everyone to see my actual new high Donkey Kong score. Wiebe beware!"
Out of nowhere, one of the most famous rappers in the world—one of the most famous entertainers in the world—had proudly announced that not only did he play Donkey Kong, but that he possessed abilities well above that of the common player. Even further, he alluded to competitive ambitions.
This was all a surprise, to say the least, to both his fans and to the Donkey Kong community.
On March 30th, 2010, four months after his original Donkey Kong tweet, Eminem followed it up with another:
"To my fellow Kongers, peep the new high score. Just imagine if I had more free time... "
If the first tweet was a surprise, this one was downright shocking. 272,300 is a great score, but 465,800 is no less than world class—close to the top 30 on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard (though, to be fair, the true elite scores in the top 10 are more than double this).
Patrick Scott Patterson, writing for Examiner.com, proposed that readers and Eminem fans should urge the star to make an official submission, but one was not forthcoming.
In November 2010, a Rolling Stone cover story interview with Eminem shed more light on the basis of his Donkey Kong fixation, and on his goals:
Eminem is a vintage video-game fiend. The studio lobby is filled with arcade classics: Donkey Kong, Frogger, Space Invaders. His interest grew after seeing a documentary called The King of Kong, about a mild-mannered engineer named Steve Wiebe and his quest to capture the world Donkey Kong record. (Two of Eminem's machines are autographed by Wiebe.) He says he's also trying to break Wiebe's record, and on one of his Donkey Kong games, all six high scores belong to MBM – Marshall Bruce Mathers.
The bad guy in The King of Kong is named Billy Mitchell, a loudmouthed jerk not entirely unlike a certain white rapper. Cocky and snide, he's an ideal dramatic foil for the sweet, modest family man Wiebe. "It's a perfect contrast," Eminem says of the pairing. "A hero and a villain." Just which of those two he himself wants to be is one of the many things Eminem is trying to figure out.
It would appear that "Wiebe beware" was no idle threat, and that Eminem is indeed pursuing the record. We can only assume that, if he hasn't lost interest, his game has improved since the interview.
So just how good is Eminem, and how does he approach the game on a strategic basis? It's hard to say from just one photo, but we can deduce at least a few things.We can see that Eminem's game ended on level 13. We don't know which specific screen, but the following can be asserted in any case:
- A score of 465,800, anywhere on level 13, is a game on pace to reach the kill screen with no more than 875,000 points.
- This, in turn, suggests a conservative playing style that generally eschews point pressing (specifically, the lower hammer on the barrel boards). That strategy would be consistent with what many (including myself) recommend to a pre-kill screen player: avoid the lower hammer until you can break the game.
- We see other, much lower scores (but still strong ones) in the photo, with Eminem's initials attached to two of them. This suggests that the 465,800 game may have been an "outlier"—a known phenomenon in Donkey Kong where one particular game presents the player with much better-than-average luck relative to his weaknesses.
- The biggest question of all relates to the dipswitch settings on Eminem's machine. Dipswitch options are limited for Donkey Kong, and most are irrelevant to a high score, but the player can choose to start the game with anywhere between three and six lives (three is the standard for tournament settings). Might Eminem play with a "life boost"? It would certainly put his score in an entirely different context, but even with a six-life game (seven including the extra life), a score nearing 500,000 takes serious ability.
- We must also bear in mind, for what it's worth, that Fitty Cent has accused Eminem of being a video game cheat.
Eminem's music and career demonstrate clearly that he possesses great cognitive and manual dexterity—not to mention strong obsessive/addictive tendencies—all of which are ingredients in the recipe for high-level Donkey Kong play.
Will Eminem ever achieve the world record? He has quite a difficult job ahead of him, though it would be wondrously bizarre if such a thing came to pass. We can hope, at the very least, that another high score is coming, and that we haven't heard the end of this story.