October 23rd, 2012 - The door is closed, and the lineup is set: there will be 12 "featured players" at the Kong Off 2.
The deadline to meet the qualification for a dedicated machine—a performance of 1,000,000 points or greater, live-streamed or refereed—passed on Friday, October 19th.
And at least a few players who wanted "in" will have to wait until the Kong Off 3 for their time at the center of classic gaming's biggest stage.
22-year-old Mitchell Elliott of Minnesota, who described himself as a "nerdy jock" to the Minnesota Star Tribune, is one of them.
An active participant in the Donkey Kong live-streaming community on Twitch TV, Elliott has been pushing the million for months now, eschewing the easier "survival" kill screen pace (which generally gets the player to the end with around 850,000 points), and going the Shaun Boyd route of settling only for the full monty. Shaking hands with Level 22 only after "rolling over the score" is the tougher way to play it, but who could argue that it's not also the more rewarding?
On Friday night Elliott logged onto Twitch and went for the Hail Mary pass, but came up short. He will be attending the Kong Off 2 playing (in rotation with others) on one of the "wild card" machines.
Another would-be main-eventer is Mike Groesbeck, who emailed me early last Thursday morning with the subject "Almost qualified."
"Almost" told me everything, and his disappointment was palpable:
I just wanted to share with someone that I nearly qualified last night, 923,300.
I've been watching Groesbeck's progress on the (currently-offline) Twin Galaxies forums for months, and I can't name anybody who came closer, or who wanted it more than he did.
Groesbeck shared the final six minutes of his game in a YouTube upload, which ended just nine screens short of the end... and indeed on pace for the million.
He accepted his final death with silent stoicism, and will compete alongside Elliott as a wildcard.
Finally, while it veers slightly from the topic, I'd like to recognize yet another up-and-coming Konger: while I was writing this very post, Robbie Lakeman live-streamed his first successful (MAME) kill screen game with a final score of 860,500.
The kill-screeners list has been growing at a rate of between two to five players per year since the release of The King of Kong in early 2007. At the time, you could count all known kill-screeners on one hand, with a finger or two to spare!
Now, almost six years later (and if you include MAME), the list is past 40.
Lakeman is, by my count, the eighth player this year to achieve the milestone (also the eighth since myself in December of 2011), which makes 2012 the busiest year on record for Level 22 newbies.
The situation is similar for million-pointers: a baker's dozen now, but I predict close to twice as many by the time of the Kong Off 3, which, as a result, will likely need to institute a different qualifying requirement.
Best of luck to Mitchell, Mike, and all the other wildcards, and congratulations to Robbie!
Perhaps you'll all have your own machines next time.