The ghosts of Pac-Man are fighting back in defense of fair sportsmanship. An anonymous John Doe going by the handle “Walter C.” has taken control of Guinness World Record holder Billy Mitchell’s old website and is using it to refute (or confirm) the Video Game Player Of The Century’s contentious Pac-Man high scores. PerfectPacman.com’s new domain owner spoke with Ari Notis of Kotaku on Tuesday to discuss his intentions going forward and it seems Walter C. is determined to get to the bottom of Mitchell’s mythical “perfect” score and subsequently publish his results on the same website that once contributed to the part-time restaurateur’s turn-of-the-century fame.
“If Billy did the perfect score in 1999, I’d want to know it, definitively,” he confides. “And if I was sure that he did, I would report it. Or if he didn’t do it, I’d want to know that. The stories around this supposed milestone achievement are fraught with inconsistencies and contradictions.” This would-be investigator has been sharing the multi-part series based on his findings since the beginning of September.
Billy Mitchell’s official website wasn’t always in the possession of our mystery whistleblower. After the Holyoke native vacated the space in spirit, the site inevitably broke down and lost ownership of its domain. An equally elusive individual purchased it a few years back, but under their control, perfectpacman.com stayed relatively inert. Enter Walter C. — he seized the site in June 2021 as soon as the opportunity presented itself and began using it, initially, for his own random content. Things like the release schedule for Magic: The Gathering and other fairly unrelated topics. He admits he bought the domain on a whim “with no real goal in mind.” Walter C. would eventually get his Pac-Men in a row and kickstart the process of transforming Mitchell’s professional website into the ultimate rebuttal of the century, so to speak: of the now-56-year-old’s impossibly flawless Pac-Man high score.
Labeled “under new management,” the announcement post was published on August 31 and portrayed Billy Mitchell under expressly negative light, describing him as a “liar,” “cheater,” and “narcissistic fraud who may have owned this web domain in the past,” without necessarily mentioning him by name. The title of Walter C.’s ongoing investigative piece is meant to sound as undeservingly hyperbolic as Mitchell’s own 1999 Tokyo Game Show moniker. It examines the world record holder’s Pac-Man gaming history in astounding detail, using archival news coverage, screengrabs, books, blogs, forums, podcasts, Twitch streams, and an expansive Dewey Decimal System of exclusively Billy Mitchell content.
Walter C. has teamed up with a select group of coders, video game historians, and programmers, most of which have requested to stay anonymous. Though the series wasn’t originally planned to release on perfectpacman.com, choosing to do so was poetic justice — a cruelly ironic twist in Billy Mitchell’s winding tale of success, fame, and (as Walter C. firmly asserts) fraud.
Billy Mitchell made history in 1999 when he completed a previously unplayable stage in Pac-Man and achieved a supposedly improbably high score of 3,333,360 points — widely considered a “perfect” rating by arcade game purists. He had just broken Canadian player Rick Fothergill’s Guinness World Record by 90 points and was practically coronated by Namco in Japan for such a feat. Until Mitchell, attaining exactly this high score on Pac-Man at level 256 was regarded as purely theoretical; it was reportedly possible in concept, but not in application. Back in the day, it was standard for arcade games to not include a preset final level; programmers assumed such an achievement was unlikely and often left certain stages unfinished. This usually manifests a kill screen rendered unplayable even by accomplished gamers. Pac-Man had one too, so did Donkey Kong, and yet Billy Mitchell was able to play through it, landing his “perfect” high score. He has since broken a few more records, this time via Donkey Kong.
Unfortunately for Billy Mitchell, his industry-breaking Pac-Man score was recently called into question by one Jeremy Young, a moderator at Donkey Kong Forums. He analyzed the circumstances of Mitchell’s video-taped playthroughs and looked into the circuit boards swapped between games, and suspected the world champion of running Pac-Man and Donkey Kong on illegitimate hardware. This was in August 2017. By Spring the following year, Young was officially accusing Mitchell of using Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) to falsify his high scores. Other record holders such as Wes Copeland and Todd Rogers affirmed Young’s claims.
Billy Mitchell went on air at the East Side Dave Show to debunk the perceived misrepresentations, denying to have ever worked with MAME, but it was too late. Both Twin Galaxies and Guinness stripped him of his world records, even after successive streams on Twitch proving he is capable of making exactly that high score using standard hardware.
This is a simulated MAME example of how Billy Mitchell pulled off his celebrated Pac-Man high score on regular hardware. Note the nonsense glyphs scattered across the kill screen:
Guinness would eventually grant Billy Mitchell his Pac-Man accolades back, but Twin Galaxies (and Walter Day) has stayed firm on its stance that Mitchell cheated. Moreover, Mitchell’s reputation has long been tarnished and any attempts at restoring his former glory only serve to further discredit him. Walter C. has chosen to back Twin Galaxies and Jeremy Young in this regard, given the intentionally acerbic tone of his essays, entitled The Video Game Fraud of the Century. There are currently six parts, with the most recent dated September 20. You can check them out here. Fair warning: they are lengthy. And yet for better or for worse, nothing could be more fitting of Billy Mitchell’s sprawling legacy.