Jeff Wolfe, a rural postal carrier from Cedaredge, joined the ranks of elite Donkey Kong players by winning the highly competitive Kong Off 7 earlier this month.
Donkey Kong was one of the most popular arcade games when Wolfe was a teen in Washington state. He often walked to the bowling alley to hang out with his buddies and play games. As he grew older, got a car and then a girlfriend, he spent less time pouring quarters into arcade games. But whenever he spotted a Donkey Kong game in the airport, he'd stop and make sure he could still get past the third elevator.
Then Donkey Kong the movie came out in 2011, and all of a sudden the game was hot again. "Everyone started playing this 30-year-old game," Wolfe said, and Kong Off, a world champion event, was born.
Wolfe was elated when he heard about the competition in New Jersey, but his hopes were dashed just as quickly when he learned the event had already taken place.
"Then lo and behold, they announced Kong Off 2 would be held in Denver," Wolfe said. He learned that if he garnered a million points, he could have his own machine for competition. He bought a free-standing secondhand arcade machine, had it shipped to his home and began piling up the points. Unfortunately, he "died" a level too soon but still qualified for the wild card division. That meant sharing a machine with four other very talented guys. When Wolfe wound up with a kill screen that eliminated him from competition, he vowed he'd have his own machine for Kong Off 3.
Since then, he's been to two events in Denver, two in Pittsburgh and two in Banning, Calif.
After the first two days of competition in March 2019, Wolfe had the highest qualifying score and was seeded number one. The final eight players then went head-to-head on one credit with no restarts. Wolfe was able to make it through all the brackets and win it all -- a feat celebrated with the ringing of cowbells, yelling and screaming, and lots of photos as Wolfe jumped up on his stool with his trophy, as befitting a Donkey Kong champion.
"It was a lot of fun!" he said.
Upon his return to work, his colleagues presented him with a Donkey Kong cake commemorating his championship. Many had followed the competition on Twitch, a video platform for gamers. The competition is still online for anyone who wants to check it out at twitch.tv/thekongoff.
Previous Donkey Kong champions include a plastic surgeon and a Google engineer, but this is the first year the title went to a guy like Wolfe who actually grew up playing Donkey Kong as a kid, and who has never lost his love for the game.