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Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's On Like Donkey Kong: New York Doc Sets World Record

All hail the new king


Getty Images

He's the new king of Kong.

New York City's own Hank Chien, a 35-year-old plastic surgeon based in Queens has just been crowned the Lord of the Barrels -- having just set a new world record in the classic arcade game Donkey Kong.

Chien's score, 1,061,700 points racked up in just 2 hours and 35 minutes was verified by Twin Galaxies, the official keepers of DK records since 1981.

Chien surpassed the men who inspired him: rabid gamers Steve Wiebe and Billy, whose rivalry was chronicled in the 2007 documentary "The King of Kong."

Donkey Kong champ Doctor Hank Chien

Hank Chien plays Donkey Kong at his home.

"Well basically, after I saw the documentary, started playing just for fun," Chien told from his offices at Vogue Plastic Surgery in Flushing. "For a little over a year, maybe a year and three or four months."

Chien, a native of Forest Hills who know lives on the East Side of Manhattan said he started practicing in Barcade, Brooklyn's finest arcade-bar, sometimes playing three hours at a time.

"I improved very quickly," said Chien. "I collaborated with a lot of very good players -- now with the Internet you can talk to good players and share tips."

Eventually though, he had to move beyond Barcade's machine -- which isn't "official" because it plays both Donkey Kong and the less-popular Donkey Kong Jr.

"When things started getting serious I said enough is enough, I gotta buy my own machine."

After scouring eBay and Craigslist for about two months Chien found a DK machine in good quality for only about $400 (the surgeon said had to put in another $200 worth of "cosmetic" improvements after buying).

For his official run the dexterous doctor played on his own machine and ended the game on the famed "kill screen" glitch that does not allow play to continue. Officials from Twin Galaxies came to his house to make sure everything was on the up and up.

Chien's new scoring mark beats the 1,050,200 point record score set by Mitchell at the live event in Florida in July 2007 that was featured in the "King of Kong" movie.

The good doctor believes that there is a correlation between surgeons and video game players -- and was even part of a study in 2004 proving it.

"[But] I don't think that practicing video games will make you a good surgeon," he said. "It's more likely that people who have good hand eye coordination are good at both."