Similarities and Differences
Obviously shown in the two clips is their use of nondiegetic sound in the form of popular songs curated specifically for the documentary’s use to help establish mood and characterize the scene. For instance, during the scene when Funspot is introduced, the lyrics “You’re the best…around! Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down” repeat throughout the scene in stressing the importance of winning for these hardcore arcade gamers including the main protagonist Steve Wiebe. The Joe Esposito song comments on the shots of adult gamers gathering at the New Hampshire arcade museum to attempt a new high score on their beloved arcade cabinets in that this “sport” of arcade gaming is just as intense and time-consuming as any other sport like football. Like football, gamers practice and hone their skills through repetition and developing a strategy to ensure a stronger chance of winning the game, though a sport like football might appeal more a mass audience as an entertainment medium bulky men running around tackling each other for the ball versus men sitting on stools staring at a screen in the most intense stare one could provide, rarely moving any body part except for the eyes and hands. Both sports show the need for dedication to the art in becoming a top player, especially for a newcomer like Steve Wiebe who has to prove himself at the Funspot arcade, a place equivalent in importance to the stadium where the Super Bowl is shown. The background music in the documentary scene expresses the significance of the Funspot building with arousing lyrics and an upbeat rhythm to the song.
Another technical aspect relevant in two clips from The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is the use of continuity editing in the form of montage sequences. Just as the film Rocky combined a short series of shots to show the passage of time within a narrative, the filmmakers for this documentary linked shots of related images to reinforce the message being conveyed to the audience. For example, during the scene when Leonard Cohen’s song “Everybody Knows” is playing in the background while images of Billy Mitchell preparing for work, the Donkey Kong arcade game in action, Billy at work, close-ups of Billy’s hot sauce and Steve Sanders with Billy looking through their strategy book for Donkey Kong are presented in rapid succession to imply a connection with Billy and the Donkey Kong game. The specific shots shown in the montage relate directly to the lyrics of the song played in unison while implying Billy Mitchell’s scheming actions and questionable morals through phrases like “Everybody knows the fight is fixed” and “The poor stay poor, and the rich get rich.” Those phrases coupled with shots of Billy Mitchell and Steve Sander looking over their Donkey Kong notes and shots of Billy Mitchell’s hot sauce accentuate the narrative purpose for these scenes edited together in a short montage in defining Billy Mitchell’s character to the audience. In defining Billy’s character, the scenes relate to the film’s argument of an honest path versus a route covered in deceit and cunning.
One more technical aspect utilized to great lengths is the scenes’ cinematography. The scenes involve close-ups on certain objects like the arcade cabinets, hot sauce bottles, or people being interviewed, which all relate to the overlying argument of winning the right way over the easy way. By first setting up an establishing shot of the Funspot building in the “You’re the Best” scene and cutting to close-ups on the building’s sign, gamers, and arcade cabinets, the camera steers the audience’s attention into connecting the separate shots as one big event. Each close-up shows a part of the main point that highlights the efforts of gamers traveling across the country to Funspot to claim a title for an arcade game, with close-ups on gamers’ faces giving the shots a personality since audiences can clearly view gamers’ expressions while striving to reach a new record. Likewise, in the scene with the song “Everybody Knows,” the camera zooms in on medium close-ups to close-ups on Billy Mitchell himself while he combs his long hair, Billy’s hot sauce covering a basket of wings, and the Donkey Kong notebook Billy and Steve Sanders keep for tips on the arcade game to connect Billy with the Donkey Kong game and his hot sauce business into one impression of Billy taking advantage of his dominant score for the Donkey Kong game and keeping his high score through Machiavellian tactics. Due to the short time each shot is shown in both scenes’ montages, the camera mostly remains in one place with few if any tilts or pans and mainly zooming in and out to give audiences a subject to focus attention on.
The two scenes from The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters are constructed similarly and serve the same purpose in promoting the documentary’s focus on competition and the rewards of claiming the number one spot on a ranking system. Both use discontinuous editing in the form of montage paired with nondiegetic sound through the film’s soundtrack while focusing on similar cinematography in terms of close-ups and little movement. Through these film techniques, the audience’s discovery process is carefully nurtured into siding with the honest, simple main protagonist against the clearly defined antagonist who plays unfairly.