Saying the world can seem both very large and very small is hackneyed; however, I believe we've entered a period of time when those two conditions are interdependent.
This is a discussion we have in new media all the time -- who is famous, and what use is fame now? Paul F. Tomkins (thanks Wil) is a fine comic and well-known, but I wouldn't call him famous. And yet, he manages to get enough people in major cities to pledge to see his shows that he can make a living travelling from fan-cluster to fan-cluster across North America, summoned by people's need to see him perform. He has the respect and appreciation of a large enough group of people to fill his perceptual horizon. Does anyone need more? Is it even possible to rationaly understand what more is? Is that why famous people go mad?
I'm getting to the movie, I promise.
So we have Steve Weibe, an average guy who takes to practicing Donkey Kong after he's laid off. Anyone who's spent any time hacking away at video games can understand the impetus -- you spend time, you attain a goal, and the goals come at intervals short enough to reinforce the adrenal hit. I've occassionally floated outside myself while playing a video game at 4am, asking "what are you doing?", and getting the answer "Not failing to solve that Act Two problem."
Weibe gets good enough to consider going for the world record. He needs a damn win, in a way that we all understand.
That's when we go down the rabbit hole. That's when we meet Billy Mitchell, the reigning champion of that particular 80's arcade game (among others). While Weibe comes across as a somewhat obsessed hobbyist, a character all we geeks count among our friends, Mitchell has parlayed mastery --
-- I want to back up and take a run at this. Mitchell has parlayed mastery of an thirty-year old arcade game into a business empire that has nothing to do with that arcade game. A small empire, but one that fills his perceptual horizon. He has used that arcade game world record to fuel his own confidence, his own drive, his own success. That record may only be acknowledged by a small world, but its power within that world gives Billy Mitchell the lodestone he needs to survive and thrive in a big world where others become lost. Every morning, he wakes up "Billy Mitchell, world record holder in Donkey Kong", and that sustains him with a fierce power that would shame the faith of a Jesuit priest. In a world of losers, the lost and the damned, Billy Mitchell is a winner.
And Steve FUCKING Weibe is not going to take that from him.
You know what that is? That is the recipe for great. goddam. drama.
The relentless grind of small indignities. The cumulative blessings of small victories. Honor, cheating, ego, sacrifice, suspense ... The King of Kong is available for your Netflix Streaming enjoyment even as we speak.