Super Mario Sociopath

Whoever designed this stage should be locked up in Arkham because it’s too sadistic to come from a sane mind.

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The Most Competitive Man Alive by Todd Levin

The Beats had Jack Kerouac. The counter-culture had Hunter S. Thompson. The Reaganites had William F. Buckley Jr. And now my generation, Generation-X or, more appropriately, The Video Game Generation, may have found it’s voice. It belongs to Todd Levin.

“The Most Competitive Man Alive” is from Levin’s “Consoles I Have Known” series of essays on The Morning News. This one is about the NES and one game in particular, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Here’s a taste:

“Punch-Out was an unmistakable product of the Reagan/Bush era, a boxing game where you, a tiny white person named Little Mac by his Catholic forebears, traveled around the world, meeting members of every major ethnicity, all who were two or three times your size—a fact that did nothing to discourage you from punching every last one of those foreigners in the face and belly until they surrendered or could no longer regain consciousness.”

Todd Levin may be my long-lost brother.

My favorite Punch-Out story. It was the morning of October 1st, 1987. I had just beaten Super Macho Man the night before and was trying to sneak in a round or two against Iron Mike before school. Then the Whittier Narrows earthquake hit. I remember sitting in the living room next to a large bay window, staring at the the glass as it buckled and bowed, completely oblivious that a potential shower of glass could rip my face to shreds. Once the shaking stopped, I returned to the game and was pummeled a couple more times before heading to school.

I finally beat Mike a week later.