At Last, You Can Feel Actual Pain While Playing 'Mike Tyson's Punch Out'
When Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! came out on the NES in 1987; it had everything an '80s kid could want in a video game: violence, a beloved sports star who could do no wrong, blatant racism, and excessive exclamation marks. Actually, make that almost everything. Due to the technological limitations of the era, the game lacked one important feature: it did not have the ability to inflict physical pain upon the player (discounting the carpal tunnel syndrome you'd develop from trying to beat Tyson for six straight hours).
Well, it took 34 years, but guess what, some genius on YouTube just added.
Yes, artist/engineer Ian Charnas figured out how to update the game to add a new feature called "legitimate pain." His full process for achieving this important innovation is genuinely fascinating. First, he modded an '80s NES console to add a working USB connection, allowing him to copy the game's ROM directly from a legitimate 1987 Punch-Out!! cartridge into his computer -- which means he avoided having to visit any shady piracy sites, and Nintendo (probably) won't sue him for $2 million bucks when they find out about this project.
Then, Charnas took an AI program that tracks body movements and wrote some code that lets him turn those movements into controller inputs on a Nintendo emulator. In other words, he made it so you can play this game via motion controls, which ... you could already do on the Wii remake. But this method is better because it doesn't require shaking a controller around and potentially breaking your TV and/or grandma's face when it inevitably flies off your hand.
But then, Charnas ran into a little hitch. It turns out that the people who made the NES game back in the '80s failed to foresee the possibility of someone adding motion controls to it in the future because it's unplayable this way -- the enemies move too fast, and it's physically impossible to beat them via actual movements unless you have super-speed. At this point, we kind of expected Charnas to engineer a Flash-type accident involving chemicals and a lightning bolt to give himself speed powers, but he went with an easier solution. Charnas spent months reverse-engineering the game's code and then hacking it to make the enemies slower. Kind of a lazy shortcut there, but we'll allow it.
While at it, he also modified the characters' dialogue to make them less racist and more enthusiastic about 2020s YouTube content creators.
Now, the enemies may be slower, but they are no less brutal. Charnas' friends found that out when he invited them to test his creation and strapped an internet-connected gizmo to their arms which zapped them with actual electricity with every in-game punch received by their character. At last, no more having to manually taser your friends when they have the audacity to suck at video games in your home: now there's a device that does the job for you.
Finally, Charnas also made a website where anyone can play the game via a webcam ... minus the masochistic part.
Maxwell Yezpitelok co-runs a Nintendo-centric YouTube channel, NintendoDuo.
Top image: Nintendo