Features and Columns

Fund This Film: ‘Man vs. Snake’ Is Like ‘The King of Kong, Too’

By  · Published on September 14th, 2013

Do we need another documentary involving an arcade game rivalry from the 1980s? Yes, especially if it actually ends up being better than The King of Kong. That way, we can forget that Seth Gordon ever got our hopes up about his career. Also, the competitive nature of a later, potentially greater film of this kind fits perfectly with the subject matter. This new project is called Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler, and I’ve been told directly that it began before anyone had heard about Kong. That means it’s been in the works for at least six or seven years*. Which makes sense, because directors Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy were still working as editors on Battlestar Galactica when they first discovered the game Nibbler.

What is Nibbler, you ask? Yeah, I didn’t know either. And according to the Man vs. Snake trailer, not a lot of people do. It’s a game that looks like Pac-Man but there’s a snake instead of ghosts. More importantly, it’s the first game on which a player could reach 1 billion points. And in 1984, a young man named Timothy McVey (yeah the joke has been made, a lot) achieved that incredible milestone on one quarter – of course, it took him 44.5 hours! For the next 25 years, it was thought that he had the highest score on any video game ever. Turns out, an Italian kickboxer named Enrico Zanetti had beaten his record (cue Rocky IV music). And when McVey decides to regain his throne, another video game champ from Canada, Dwayne Richard, challenges him for a Nibbler contest.


As if this wasn’t already sounding like a bigger, badder sequel to The King of Kong (only without a universally familiar game at its center), Man vs. Snake also features Kong adversary Billy Mitchell and Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day. “We think our story, although similar in comedic tones, is quite different than KOK,” the directors told me via email. “But one can’t deny the comparison, especially with Billy (and Walter Day) making an appearance in both. It’s a pretty small world of classic arcade gaming, and it turned out that Billy Mitchell was actually there at Twin Galaxies, cheering Tim McVey on during his billion point video game in 1984.” Maybe we should just retitle this thing King of Kong, Too? Never mind that we’ve already had a pseudo sequel called Doctor Kong or that there’s also Gordon’s never-gonna-happen narrative remake/sequel always being talked about.

Anyway, to finally get to the point of this column, Man vs. Snake is on Kickstarter raising funds from the crowds of video game fanatics and anyone else interested in pledging. With less than a week to go, they’ll probably reach the very specific goal amount of $53,470. But that’s not a certainty, and your dollar or two sure wouldn’t hurt. Give a bit more and you can have a signed movie poster by designer Don Bluth (the poster is signed by the filmmakers, though – but you can also get some original artwork drawn and signed by Bluth!). There’s also a Walter Day bobble head. And for the BSG fans: a beer stein featured on the show inscribed with a message from Katee Sackoff and an original Cylon War painting from the show signed by Edward James Olmos, Michael Hogan and other cast members. That’ll only cost you $10k, by the way.

Watch the Kickstarter campaign video below.

*The Kickstarter page says it’s been in the works for five years, but I assume that means from the start of shooting, not planning. To quote the filmmakers from an email: “We had discovered our story of Tim McVey before King of Kong was even released. There was only a rumor of a doc coming out called Chasing Ghosts which didn’t come out until over a year later.”

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?

Related Topics: ,

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.