After 2007 film The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters became a cult classic, the original Donkey Kong arcade game has found a level of niche relevance again, with a long line of new contenders emerging to try and chase the world record and the elusive 'kill screen' that ends the game.
The connection with Donkey Kong began early for one of the up-and-coming contenders, Alberta's Jason Corey Brittain.
"I can remember the first time playing a Donkey Kong game for the ColecoVision that one of my friends had," he said. "I guess what really got me playing Donkey Kong like everybody else were the documentaries for King of Kong and Chasing Ghosts and everyone basically from the Donkey Kong community. I've learned so much about the game from everyone. I just keep on trying to do better."
While continuing his battle with the iconic pixel gorilla, Brittain has been fighting a battle outside of the arcade screen as well.
"I've had Type 1 diabetes for 23 years of my life and have been through different scenarios with this disease. Right now currently, I'm in a wheelchair," he revealed. "My right foot is swollen and I am trying to change over to a new gluten free diet while trying to get my blood sugars more under control. I've been keeping my foot up as much as possible with this happening now and been playing lots of Donkey Kong in competition. I've been off work for at least a couple months now."
While continuing to work to improve his health, Brittain has managed to push his personal best Donkey Kong score to more than 523,000 points. He recently went head-to-head with another DK contender as he took on Ohio arcade champ John Salter in a live streaming broadcast. Brittain came out on top as Kong fans watched from around the world.
"I was pretty nervous about playing against John at first since I knew how good of a video game player that he is at Tron and Armor Attack," he said. "I thought that it was a privilege for me to play against him. I would have to for sure say that this was a really an amazing highlight in my life so far and has brought my encouragement up to play Donkey Kong and do better at the game. Now he wants to play another fun competition again for a rematch sometime."
For now, Brittain continues his work to improve both on and off the video screen.
"Now I'm off work again for another two months because of my foot and its apparently not getting better," he noted. "I have to go to rehab at least likely once a week to figure things out. I have no idea what is going to happen next. I really want to go to the next Kong Off tournament to meet everyone in person and in order for me to go, I have to get better."
As Jason continues to work on improving both of his goals, a lifelong expert on the video game scene says she sees great things in the arcade champ.
"I think out of all the Donkey Kong players, Jason has faced more hurdles than anyone," said writer Catherine DeSpira. "There's those learning curves that all champions face, that throw up seemingly impossible levels to reach. But no matter what life or the game has thrown at him, no matter the impasse standing in his way, what has made him stand out is, in spite of all of that, he has surmounted every one, time and time again. There's a champion spirit in Jason Corey Brittain. And there's nothing that stands in his way for long, no matter what it is."