NEW WORLD RECORD! Robbie Lakeman Finally Topples Hank Chien For The Donkey Kong Title!

Donkey Kong World Champion Robbie Lakeman
(Photo: Dave Danzara)
September 6th, 2014 - Robbie Lakeman called Hank Chien on Friday morning to break the news personally: "Dr. Kong" was no longer the world champion.

Hours before, alone in a late-night session that he opted not to stream to Twitch TV, Lakeman finally cracked the score that he'd barely missed on two prior occasions, becoming the fifth player—following Billy Mitchell, Tim Sczerby, Steve Wiebe, and Dr. Chien—to set the world record on a Donkey Kong arcade machine.

Late on Friday evening, with rumors and speculation swirling, a crowd gathered in Lakeman's Twitch channel as it wordlessly came to life. A nearly silent, awkwardly-angled, "TV cam" rebroadcast of the previous night's three-hour performance began.

A less-than-ideal presentation, but more than enough to electrify the Donkey Kong faithful as they realized what was unfolding. Nobody knew what the final score would be, only that they were about to witness arcade gaming history.

1,141,800, as it turned out. A number that will hold very little meaning to those unschooled in the Donkey Kong dark arts, but Lakeman's 3,200 point-lead over Chien finally brings to an end the reign of the player who spent four years terrorizing the top spot by beating his own top score again and again, and who some suspected might never be defeated.

The Road to the Record

Photo: William McEvoy

It started two and a half years ago as a bar bet between Lakeman and a friend—get into the Donkey Kong top 20, or at the very least to the kill screen.

Already an avid golfer and poker player, Lakeman took up competitive classic gaming and quickly established a formidable resume. After attaining several world records and putting in regular strong showings at the annual Funspot Tournament, Lakeman eventually gravitated to Donkey Kong, the game being, in his words, "where all the competition is."

Lakeman proved to be a quick study. His first kill screen came just before the Kong Off 2 in 2012, and by the time of the Kong Off 3 one year later, he had earned a spot among the top 12... though not without one hell of a fight.

While boasting since August of 2013 that he felt capable of taking on Hank, it wasn't until the middle of this year that Lakeman started making serious attempts.

His near-nightly sessions—all streamed in public—continued for months, with Lakeman throwing himself against a score that refused to yield. As frustration mounted, he exploded into foul-tempered rants at the game and desperate pleas to his viewers to refrain from announcing games-in-progress on the Web, for fear of jinxing.

Finally, almost immediately after making the decision to go off-stream and play in private, Thursday night's session came together, and with it the culmination of Lakeman's ambition.

The Swings That Missed

Lakeman was not the only player in the hunt for the Donkey Kong record in recent times.

Vincent Lemay's attempt in January 2013 was a week long affair, spent holed up at the 1up barcade in Colorado. Lemay missed the record by 2,700 points then quit playing, deciding to wait until someone else pushed it higher.

The attempt made some noise in the gaming press, and Lemay and Chien's rivalry became the subject of a short documentary by Vice Magazine.

Lemay intends to try again for the record this October... though now he'll be targeting a different player.

Ross Benziger's close call came nine months after Lemay's, at the Kencade in Oregon. Benziger's objective wasn't even to beat Chien's score, but simply to attain a "top 12" position in the arcade standings in order to secure a spot at the Kong Off 3.

Finally, just two weeks ago during the Donkey Kong Online Open #4, MAME champion Dean Saglio found his way to a machine at Richie Knucklez' arcade in New Jersey when, approaching the end of a run that was on pace to break the record (and with Chien himself only a few feet away on an adjacent machine) the game reset:

The rumored Hank Chien "force field" never seemed more intimidating than after this horrifying incident, but evidently, this burst of electromagnetic interference was its last, glorious gasp.

What Next?

As long as it took for Chien's score to finally go down, and with how narrowly it was beaten, it's possible that Lakeman's may not stand for very long. With the players that are already parked right behind him, and up-and-comers on the approach, Lakeman could be a short-lived champion.

To that possibility, Lakeman says: "it's a great feeling to say that I was on top at one point. Even if it's gone a couple days from now."

Congratulations Robbie! Your journey over the past two and a half years (the last few months in particular) has been an inspiring lesson in persistence, and the potential of the competitive spirit.

I often find it difficult to express to outsiders what it is that we're actually doing, and why we're doing it, when we play this game.

Thanks for expressing it so well.

Robbie and Hank

Robbie's recent Arcade Impossible master class on
Donkey Kong point-pressing techniques



Kotaku: A New World Record Ends Hank Chien's Reign As Donkey Kong Champion

The Verge: Gamer claims 'Donkey Kong' world record, ending plastic surgeon's four-year reign

Polygon: Newcomer sets all-time high score in Donkey Kong

Game Informer: The World Record For Highest Score In Donkey Kong Has Been Beaten

Joystiq: On like Donkey Kong; new champion crowned with record score

Digital Trends: There's a New World Record-Setting High Scorer in Donkey Kong

Thanks to all of the above (and many more) for crediting Donkey Blog as the source of this story.


Anonymous said...

Pssh, Hank will take it right back. Team Chien!

Robert F said...

nice job Robbie :)

Anonymous said...

Very cool. Hopefully there will be a higher-quality version of this run available, but it's understandable that it's rough at this point.

Anonymous said...

Atleast I know what a vagina feels like.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Don't count out Dr. Chien. He'll be #1 again! Go Team Chien!

Anonymous said...

he should go back to Starcraft that's what all the tryhard asians play rite?

Anonymous said...

That picture of Billy Mitchell standing behind Robbie is pretty ominous.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Robbie!

Anonymous said...

Wont stand for long, an aussie (soon to be record holder) has been lurking in the shadows. Watch this space.

Mario500 said...

I did not like the phrase after the ellipsis in this paragraph of the article:

"Lakeman proved to be a quick study. His first kill screen came just before the Kong Off 2 in 2012, and by the time of the Kong Off 3 one year later, he had earned a spot among the top 12... though not without one hell of a fight."

Anonymous said...

This game fried my brain when I tried to play it, no way am I getting into it, gonna sit back and watch you guys drive yourself nuts instead :)

This game is evil.

Leonie Daecher said...

You know, there are not many people which set the world record on a Donkey Kong arcade machine. It seems to me that it's happy destiny...But now it's a piece of gaming history

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