This Time It Will Last: Wes Copeland Retakes The Donkey Kong World Record From Robbie Lakeman!

January 4th 2016 - Wes Copeland has come forward in a commanding fashion to reclaim what he first held last September for only a few short hours. Once again, Copeland has taken the Donkey Kong world record from Robbie Lakeman... but unlike last time, he'll still have it when the sun rises.

The score to beat now is a neat and tidy 1,190,000. Lakeman plans to gun for it in due time, and in fact, jumped onto his Twitch livestream within minutes of Copeland's achievement to try for a repeat of his previous lightning-quick takeback. No such luck was forthcoming, but Lakeman showed the community that while he may be down, he's not necessarily out.

King For Not Even A Day

Donkey Kong's new champion Wes Copeland (right),
with his predecessor Robbie Lakeman

"Copie" didn't get where he did tonight without some serious pain. Nobody can say that the 25 year old software engineer didn't earn what he just pulled off.

Consulting The Guinness Book of World Records to learn of history's shortest reigning monarch, one will find that distinction belonging to a King Luis II of Portugal, who, in 1908, was head of his state for just 20 minutes before dying from an assassin's wound.

Last September, Copeland found himself in the company of that unfortunate early 20th century ruler, by beating Lakeman's record high score and becoming the new King of Kong... only to lose the title right back to Lakeman less than six hours later.

The gut-punch hit Copeland hard, knocking off the last of the effects of the celebratory bottle of Dom Perignon that he'd cracked open so soon prior. The new champ didn't even get to sleep on his title. The almost unimaginable turn of events left Copeland, in his words, "emotionally scarred" to this day.

Unfazed, Copeland immediately took to Donkey Kong Forum with a declaration of intent:

"When I first announced that I wanted to go for my first kill screen, while many were supportive, I did receive a fair share of cynicism and skepticism. I did it in a little over two months and proved the doubters wrong. When I mentioned I wanted 1 million I heard a similar chorus -- a wave of support from many and strong skepticism from a handful. I proved those folks wrong too. The exact same thing happened when I said I wanted 1.1m... and again when I said I wanted the world record. I intend to take the record back, regardless of who is holding it before I do, and at this point, I hope I've proven at the very least to those cynics and skeptics that I'm difficult to bet against.

That bottle of Dom Perignon was the first I'd ever had, and it was quite good. I am looking forward to opening another one."

Copeland in competition at the Kong Off 4 last July
Photo: William McEvoy

Some indeed called Copeland's September game "lucky," with even Wes himself surprised to have defeated Lakeman somewhat sooner than he'd expected. The two performances were subjected to deep comparative analysis on the forum. Merits were debated. Graphs were produced. Top competitor Ethan Daniels presented a tour de force argument making the case that "luck" was not a useful metric by which to contrast the two players' abilities.

It was obvious, at any rate, that this brief taste of championhood only left Copeland hungrier to regain it.

The Comeback

For the past four months, Copeland has thrown himself at Donkey Kong with as much furious determination as Lakeman, who spent much of 2014 trying to defeat Hank Chien.

Tonight's game came near the end of another Donkey Kong Online Open tournament. With a $2,000 world record bounty up for grabs through midnight, it was clearly the best of times.

There was no second bottle of Dom Perignon at the ready. In fact, Copeland's reaction the moment he zoomed past Lakeman's score was, to put it mildly, understated. Almost as if he hadn't even noticed. Copeland was more than ready to achieve the score, and he knew it, so any thrill may have been tempered by a heavy shadow of inevitability.

"I kinda feel like I've done everything I need to now." Copeland (now $2,000 richer) said after the game. "I just hope Robbie at least lets me sleep on it."

As before, Lakeman attempted a retaliation, but it came to an early end, at which point he congratulated Wes, and spoke for a few minutes to his viewers:

"I'm not gonna play anymore, at least for a while. I can finally focus on things that should really matter to me at this point... Wes, definitely enjoy it, you'll have it for a while. I had the record longer than I thought I would... I just turned 29, I'm working on getting my life more in order. This was an outlet for a while, but I've gotten where I want to be with it. The torch has now been passed."

Three world champions: (from left) Robbie Lakeman, Billy Mitchell, and Wes Copeland
receiving a voicemail from the one and only Allen Staal (second link extremely NSFW)

Is It (Finally) Over?

This past August, several top players were interviewed for The Last Kings of Kong, a feature that ran on ESPN's They explained that as long as the world record remains below "1.2," there are still points left to wrestle out of the giant ape. After Copeland's performance tonight, we're only 10,000 away. When talking about a seven-digit score, that amount seems like such a tiny fraction of the total, and indeed it is. But topping it is still possible.

In fact, 1,200,000 is actually a tad "conservative" (relatively speaking), but as the aforementioned Ethan Daniels put it on Donkey Kong Forum:

"...the ceiling number in my eyes is 1.24ish with current strats, but hot diggity the work load is astronomical at this point, fighting the limits of human perseverance as well as the RNG Lotto; hypothetical-math and reality are two different beasts."

It would seem that Copeland and Lakeman are both stepping back for a long break. That leaves the door open for competitors like Daniels, and of course Dean Saglio, who still holds the world record on the MAME arcade game emulator, and who many consider to be the true champion, if not for the firm and long-standing tradition that the record can only be set on original 1981 arcade hardware.

Those final maxout points are still sitting there.

Someone will come for them.


- Stream of Copeland's world record game
- Stream of Lakeman's reclamation attempt (link jumps directly to post-game comments)
- Official Twin Galaxies score submission and adjudication (still in process)
- Donkey Kong Forum congratulations thread
- Donkey Blog post: Robbie Lakeman breaks Hank Chien's record (September 2014)
- Donkey Blog post: Copeland beats Lakeman, Lakeman beats Copeland (September 2015)

For Reference

Thanks to stats hero and Donkey Kong Forum score submission referee Jeremy Young for getting immediately to work on the breakdown of this game.

Copeland's performance, while falling short of the point total of Dean Saglio's record on the MAME emulator, was nonetheless the highest level average ever achieved (Copeland's lower final score is due to a lower start score and fewer "death points"—see Understanding Pace for background).

The board-by-board numbers and pace graph (click to enlarge):


Anonymous said...

God damn Wes, you actually did it. Unreal.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think Wes had any chance of ever getting the record back and that it was a fluke when he did it and he wouldn't have time to get as good as Robbie. I thought Robbie would just get 1.2 and that would have been the end. It almost happened too, Robbie came close. Very impressive by Wes, I guess he's better than I realized.

Anonymous said...

Like a bawwwwwwssss

Allen S said...

Lit wht da fttt i was there watching it mate. My nails are go e sir. Congrats sir . Billy smsesed yku sir. Lit. This wont be beat for some time. Yer buddy. Luv ya bro no homeo.

Md Razu Ahmed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I wish a player I've seen live before would take up donkey kong seriously again. He is one of the best players I have seen play live. Brian Allen is his name, I think. He'd do well at a donkey kong off.

Unknown said...

Wow Wes amazing and truly deserved. Well done Dude!

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