Donkey Kong world record holder Billy Mitchell sues over cheat claim

An American gamer and former world-record holder suing an Australian YouTuber for claiming he was a cheat has been given days to explain why he is not available for a proposed trial date.

William “Billy” James Mitchell has launched legal action against Karl Jobst, a renowned video game YouTuber and speedrunner, over the allegations surrounding his top scores in the iconic 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong.

Mr Jobst is defending the claim, with a trial in the District Court in Brisbane imminent.

But on Friday the court was told there were difficulties securing a planned five-day trial listing in August due to Mr Mitchell being “unable to travel” to Australia that month.

The court was told Mr Mitchell had a “pre-existing commitment” that month.

District Court Judge Ken Barlow KC gave Mr Mitchell’s legal team until Monday to seek instructions from their client as to why he would not be available.

“I’m not minded to suit his personal convenience,” Judge Barlow said.

Mr Mitchell, who was inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame, formerly held world records for arcade games including Donkey Kong, Pac Man and Burger Time.

He is seeking $450,000 in damages, alleging Mr Jobst defamed him in YouTube videos where he detailed allegations Mr Mitchell cheated to achieve his high scores in Donkey Kong.

Mr Mitchell alleges five statements are untrue – including that he was “publicly exposed as having cheated” to achieve his scores, had planned to create a video he could “fraudulently use as evidence” he achieved a score of 1,062,800 in Donkey Kong, had “callously expressed joy” at the thought of another YouTuber’s death and that he used “litigation to force third parties to recognise his achievements in video gaming”.

The final statement he claims is untrue is that he was banned from submitting scores to the video game database Twin Galaxies – which officiates high scores for classic video games – “for cheating”.

Mr Jobst is relying on a statutory defence of contextual truth to the five statements.

On Friday, the court was told Mr Mitchell’s team would be calling up to four witnesses, including one expert.

Mr Jobst’s barrister Michael de Waard said they intended to call up to four witnesses and would be relying on a “significant” amount of documentary material.

Judge Barlow said ideal dates for the planned five-day trial – which would also include two extra days for addresses by the parties – were in August and September.

Mr Mitchell’s legal team said their client would not be able to travel to Australia in August, leading Judge Barlow to question why.

Attempts to contact Mr Mitchell were unsuccessful.

Judge Barlow set down a further review date on Monday to allow his legal team to seek updated instructions.

The parties were also ordered to prepare trial bundles to be delivered within several weeks of the proposed trial.

In separate proceedings in the US, Mr Mitchell sued Twin Galaxies for defamation after they suspended his scores and banned him from competing on their competitive leaderboards in 2018.

In a statement, the organisation said they had determined Mr Mitchell could not have achieved his Donkey Kong records on “original, unmodified arcade” hardware.

“The basis for this decision was an independent investigation by Twin Galaxies, supported by a series of detailed submissions, experiments, and analyses by Twin Galaxies and from the Twin Galaxies community, each with varying degrees of technical expertise and access to equipment,” the statement continued.

Both parties settled in January this year.

Mr Mitchell’s scores were reinstated but only on the “official historical database” of Twin Galaxies’ website.