Guinness World Records has reinstated a number of classic video game world records held by Billy Mitchell.
The move comes just over two years after Mitchell's records were expunged following an investigation by Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard, which partners with Guinness to adjudicate video game records.
That investigation found that recordings of some of Mitchell's record performances on Donkey Kong were not achieved on legitimate arcade hardware, based on extensive video analysis that showed signs of emulator use. Twin Galaxies has not changed its position on Mitchell's records, resulting in a split between the two record-tracking organizations.
Guinness now once again recognizes Mitchell as the first player to achieve a perfect Pac-Man score of 3,333,360 points in 1999 and the first player to reach 1 million points in Donkey Kong in 2005.
"It's been a long time coming," Mitchell said in an interview with Ars Technica.
In a video announcing the decision, Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday said the organization "review[ed] both the existing evidence and newly sourced eyewitness testimony, plus some new expert gameplay analyses and hardware verification. In the end, we found that there just wasn't sufficient evidence to support the disqualification across the board."
"In cases such as this where there is debate, we would typically defer to the original contemporaneous adjudication, and this is the case here," Glenday continued.
Speaking to Ars Technica, Mitchell said Guinness relied on the expert analysis of Robbie Lakeman, who currently holds the Donkey Kong record of 1,260,070 points. Lakeman's analysis was also included in a massive evidentiary package Mitchell released publicly last year.
"After reviewing Billys gameplay and reproducing similar games myself, I can honestly say that this is legitimate gameplay," Lakeman said in a statement. "I do not see a reason why Billy would need to even use MAME or save states to film both games with this style of play."
Mitchell added to Ars that his scores "occurred in live public venues under the observation of numerous referees and third-party eyewitnesses. In the 1,050,200 world record, I played on hardware verified by the senior engineer at Nintendo.
"To this day, I still possess the box used to ship the hardware, with his name and Nintendos UPS account number. Those are the facts."
Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day said in Guinness' video that he is "very pleased to see this happen, and I had faith it would turn out this way. All of those people who were part of the old days who played the old games and saw Billy Mitchell play—they knew that he was completely capable of getting these records, and they also knew that there was no MAME capable of being played on back in the golden age."
In a written statement, Day also cites "industry veteran Todd Tuckey," in saying that "what Twin Galaxies' [new owners] assert about Billy Mitchells score is simply not possible. There has never and will never be an emulsion [sic] board that plugs into a Donkey Kong machine. It is simply impossible for anything but legitimate hardware to have been inside Billy Mitchells machine."[Update: Putting emulation hardware inside cabinets that look standard from the outside has been relatively common for years. Ars regrets not including this context in the original piece.]
"Everybody's really going to embrace this situation because they know Billy Mitchell is a tremendous player and his scores are legitimate," Day added, perhaps underestimating the controversy that has surrounded Mitchell throughout his game playing career.
Mitchell told Ars he has known about the results of Guinness' investigation since December but that today's announcement was delayed because "we had to wrap up the legal agreement." Mitchell wouldn't comment any further on that, saying he was bound by a confidentiality agreement.