As tremendous an act in empathy as anything Werner Herzog has ever committed to the documentary screen, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters elevates a particular niche interest - that of the hardcore videogamer - to exquisitely existential heights, carving out the determination and passion exhibited by those who are drawn to the medium of classic arcade games for purposes beyond that of mere pastime enjoyment. The film's incredibly watchable aesthetic is due in part to the subject matter, as seemingly light and breezy a topic as one could imagine in the midst of so many Inconvenient Truths and No End in Sights dominating the circuit, but more important here is the manner in which the filmmakers explore these gamers' passions as an extension of their self-defined roles in a world full of judgment and confrontation, acting not only as an incredibly humane exercise in cinema but also as an antidote to the ridicule-laden representations such persons have generally suffered on the silver screen. A single competition forms the dramatic crux of the narrative, that between the official named Gamer of the Century Billy Mitchell, world record holder for the original Donkey Kong and fierce perfectionist wary of anyone encroaching on his high scores, and the reserved, somewhat insecure Steve Wiebe, a family man from Washington determined to prove himself the best at something after suffering so many undeserving letdowns over the course of his life. The look that follows at the gamer culture may as well be an offshoot of the Corleone family: questionable high score records, allegiances to particular gamers (and stances against others), and paranoid territoriality all play a role in the unfolding events that go beyond mere scores and enter the realm of personal integrity for all those involved. Though effectively streamlined for maximized entertainment, Seth Gordon's condensation of these months-long events never takes the route of simplicity, quickly summarizing videogame history and ideology (though I suspect many of the films viewers, myself included, will already be familiar enough with the territory as to be able to enjoy the recap purely for its aesthetic virtues) before dovetailing into the techno-infused insanity of it all. Despite the fact that the central Steve vs. Billy conflict is so well rendered as to make the minor subplots feel like excess fat by comparison, The King of Kong remains a breathless act of investigation, as admirable for its craft as for its objective consideration, and one of the finest documentaries in recent years.