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.

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Praystation by Todd Levin

I ran across this great essay on The Morning News written by Todd Levin. It’s about the seedy underworld of video game modding in the mid-90’s. As a former game-modder and a bootlegger by heritage, I could definitely relate. Here’s an excerpt:

“Practically overnight I went from video game agnostic to lowlife junkie—creeping around Chinatown with a wad of cash and a Sony PlayStation hidden inside a backpack, looking for someone to perform back-alley surgery on my console. Steve, ever the enabler, furnished me with a hand-drawn map of clandestine bootlegging storefronts, denoting things like “walk up three flights, past the Chinese-language driving school,” “Gundam action figure window display,” and “if you see a guy selling dried eel, you’ve gone too far.”

While reading this I had a revelation: there is going to be an entire generation of kids raised by guys just like Todd Levin and myself…

“So your saying there’s a chance. Yes!”