When Nintendo’s original “Donkey Kong” arcade game launched 33 years ago, Concord, New Hampshire, native Robbie Lakeman had yet to be born. Last Thursday, Lakeman, a lifelong gamer, defeated the high score of reigning “Donkey Kong” champion Hank Chien, 40. Lakeman, 27, who currently resides in Phoenix has been a fan of video games since his first console, the Super Nintendo.
“My parents got the Super Nintendo with ‘Super Mario World,’ Lakeman told International Business Times. “I still own the game to this day, and it is still one of my favorites.” Since then, the champ has owned a number of systems and enjoys many game genres, “from playing ‘Goldeneye’ for N64 to ‘Rock Band’ on PS3.”
Classic gaming still holds a special place in Lakeman’s heart, and he plays the 1981 platform arcade game almost every day.
“Whether it’s trying out new strategies or making world record attempts, I usually find time to play. I own my own machine, so it's convenient if I ever get the urge to play. Classic gaming is a hobby of mine and I try to be great at many games,” he said.
While he’s received massive amounts of attention for his recent victory with “Donkey Kong,” Lakeman is a player of many talents, and holds other video game records as well.
“I currently have world records on classic titles such as ‘Stratovox,’ ‘Death Race’ and ‘Buggy Challenge.’ ‘Super Pac Man’ is another game I own, so that may be the next game to master. Funspot hosts an International gaming tournament every year, and I would eventually like to be a contender to win one of these years.” Funspot is a 62-year-old arcade and “gaming museum” in New Hampshire.
Lakeman says he never expected to dethrone Chien, a New York plastic surgeon, who maintained his four-year record with a high score of 1,138,600. Lakeman surpassed Chien’s record by 3,200 points. Chien set the world record in 2010, then lost it to “Donkey Kong” rival Billy Mitchell. He took the record back in February 2011 and then beat his own record two more times, reaching his best score in 2012.
“When I first started playing the game, I never thought I would ever get up to Hank's level. I really just wanted to get into the top 20 and eventually reach the end of the game,” he said. “Once I got to the end, I decided I wanted to get a million points and my score kept improving from there. Eventually I had the potential to top Hank's score, so I decided to dedicate my time to raising the bar.”
Lakeman has a friendly relationship with Chien, and the two have discussed playing techniques at various points during Lakeman’s journey.
“Hank and I have talked strategies in the past. The great part about this game is that the basic strategies and point pressing techniques are the same, but everyone has their own playing style. There is a lot of randomness in the game, unlimited situations, and every player deals with them differently. No two players play exactly the same, and sharing strategies makes it fun.”
Beating a video game world record is no easy feat, and Lakeman wants future world record hopefuls to know it takes substantial amounts of practice and hard work.
“If anyone told me they wanted to beat my score, I would tell them it will take a lot of time and dedication,” he said. “Getting involved in the ‘Donkey Kong’ community has really helped me push myself to do my best. Join the ‘Donkey Kong Forum,’ ask questions and watch others play. Most of us stream our gameplay on Twitch and watching others is a great way to learn how to improve your score. We even have online tournaments every few months to keep it competitive and cash prizes are offered to all skill levels.”
Lakeman’s world record took nearly four hours to accomplish, and he streamed the entire process on Twitch. The stream was viewed by more than 20,000 fans who actively supported him.
“It has been crazy the past couple of days. The reaction from people all over the world has exceeded my expectations. Getting the recognition for the hard work I put into this has been an incredible feeling,” Lakeman added. “It will be interesting to see what happens with other competitors going after the score. The competition is at an all-time high with many players capable of taking the crown, but whatever happens I will be able to say I was at the top at one point.”