Video Power began its television life in 1989 as a
simple cartoon show with some video game tips spliced between
toy commercials and badly-drawn animation. In 1990,
someone at Astoria Studios made the poor decision of saying
"Hey! Let's put little kids playing video games (poorly) on TV
and keep the exact same name for the show!" This is
where my life changed forever.
In June 1991, I read an ad in a local paper about tryouts
for a video game TV show. Being twelve and having very
little in the way of a redeeming social life, I thought to
myself that this was the coolest thing that ever happened to
me. My rationale was that if I could win big prizes on a
TV show, not only would I have cool stuff to play with but I
would get popular fast! All the boys would pick me for
their teams in gym. And what girl could possibly resist
a video game champion? Screw Tom Cruise, I was gonna be
the 6th grader every girl wanted to ask to the Sadie Hawkins
dance. I was very jaded, as by this time I had already
seen The Wizard three or four times.
attended a 'regional contestant tryouts'. After filling
out a short video game test and sitting in front of a mock
camera set-up, I left the arcade sure that I was gonna be
Sure enough, two weeks later I got a letter. I was
going to Queens to start my 12-year-old destiny. The
taping was to be in late July and I got a plastic "all-access"
pass to tour the studios before the show. Little did I
know then that you could tour the whole studio for like $5,
but I wasn't a sharp kid. The tour was cool, Video Power
was filmed in the same studio as both The Cosby Show and
Arthur. In other words, three of the biggest comedies
ever on filmstrip were shot in the same building.
After meeting other contestants for the show, I
realized something. They weren't going for the
good-looking or interesting contestants; most of us were the
freaks. Muscles and charm were replaces with zits and
personality disorders. We were all the social outcasts
from a Papa Roach video. The four of us were shown the
video game terminals that we would use for the game
show. We had all been chosen to play sports games, as
the 15 question tryout exam had become some sort of
Myers-Briggs personality test. There was myself and
Jack, the two quasi-normal contestants. Then there was
some other boy who seemed to be more wooed by being on TV than
actually noticing anything (Mike TeeVee syndrome a la
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The fourth
contestant was a girl who seemed to possess no video game
A very sad part about Video Power was the lack
of good female contestants. It seemed that girls who
were good at video games well were weeded out, so as to not
have little boys through temper-tantrums after losing to
them. Because of this, virtually all female VP
contestants were lousy, the Los Angeles Clippers of the gaming
I remember being scared right before the show
started. It wasn't nerves at all. It was that some
kid has just pissed in the 'audience pit,' a weird roped off
area for kids who were the cheering section. The urine
went everywhere, some of it nearly landed on the host of the
show, Johnny Arcade (Stivi Paskoski). My twin sister was
standing near this kid, and I feared that I would have to
smell piss for the car ride home. Urine would also be a
good way to describe the hideous color of the stage set up...
neon lights must have been real cheap when they built the
The four of us got on stage and we told to get all
psyched up for the big challenge that was to come. The
first game I played was Tecmo Bowl, a popular enough game to
where I had already owned a copy of it. I won easily
because Video Power employees were fucking dumb. There
was no parity on the consoles. There was no picking of
teams or the computer teams each person played. I got to
be the Super Bowl Champion NY Giants versus the hapless
Cleveland Browns. Nobody else had an even remotely
favorable match-up against the computer. Each player had
1:41 to score as many points as possible. I scored 10
points, no one else scored at all. Jack joined me in the
next round by default, he was the only one not turn the ball
over on downs.
Round two of the game was also rather
stupid. Unless someone swept the entire category of
trivia questions (worth 30 points for all three questions), it
had no basis on the final round (also 30 points). Since
no one ever swept a round as the questions were very confusing
(What jellybean do you feed the blob to become a bridge on Boy
and His Blob?), it was just a good time-filler to
commercials for video games around.
The final round was the toughest. It was a
head-to-head game of Bases Loaded baseball against the
computer (why didn't I just play the other kid at
something?) 101 seconds was only enough for about two
at-bats in a baseball game, I hit a double, he didn't and I
won. Again, no parity (I was matched against the worst
team in the game, Minnesota I think).
crowned Video Power champion for the day, I got to run around
the prize maze. The prize maze consisted of hundreds of
worthless video games velcroed to Dilbert cubicle walls.
It was a library of the truly lousy video games, housing
copies of Bad Dudes interspersed with Super Glove Ball, Ninja
Gaiden II and Little Ninja Brothers (which itself must have
had 30 copies in the maze, impossible not to win at least
one). LNB was also the secret prize game; getting one
often won the contestant a cheesy prize (I won a remote
control car worth about $100). There was no parity to
the prizes either, ranging from a $35 Game Boy to a $1,000
complete Neo-Geo system.
Anyways, I donned a Velcro, Lazer
Tag-esque suit and had thirty seconds to grab as many video
games as I could. The problem was that for me and most
contestants, no one ever told us we had to actually GET TO A
FINISH LINE in the maze. I didn't, so I cried like a
twelve year old in a stupid Velcro suit only could. The
producers assured me I'd keep my prizes and then had me
re-tape the run by grabbing other games and finishing the
maze. For winning, I was given another plastic
'all-access' pass and told to return for the
weekly-championship taping the next day.
weekly-champions prize was a Sega Genesis package with Genesis
games put into the maze. How I wanted a Genesis.
My Nintendo blinked like a Christmas light and my controller
was wrecked from lots of
I was determined to win, but my gaming prowess was no match
for parity. I whooped up on the first round, again the
Giants in Tecmo Bowl compared to everyone else's New England
Patriots caliber teams. However, the final round of the
new, never before played Bases Loaded II was a cruel blow, I
was Hawaii. As any video game-crazed kid at the time
knew that teams in sports games that didn't come from real
sports cities always sucked ass. I struck out three
times and gave up two runs in under two minutes seconds.
Some other kid got the Genesis but I still had my celebrity
status, I thought.
The episode aired on the second day of school.
This was gonna make me the man, I was sure of it. I
walked onto campus waiting for the 'oh-my-gods' and 'you're so
cool' laurels to be rested upon me. This was not to
happen. Other kids gave me awkward looks and I got a lot
of 'you were the queer on that game show this morning' type
remarks directed towards me. I probably had to avoid
getting the shit kicked out of me a few times that week by
older kids who saw the show. And my appearance on that
show only further insured that I would go date-free for many
years to come.
Nine years later, I learned alot from
Video Power. That cool game show hosts like Johnny
Arcade work all over the supermarkets and fast-food chains of
America (ironically, his sidekick Michael Donovan has made
himself rich through cartoon voice overs such as the ones in
Ranma 1/2.) I learned that video game controller skills
and shoulder massage techniques go hand-in-hand, much to my
finacee's enjoyment. I also learned that even the
crappiest cartoon (ie Maxi's World) is still ten times more
interesting than watching stupid kids play video games, and
most importantly, that playing video games was far cooler than
any of the crap 'cool' kids did anyways.
For jading me on this, I blame
Fred Savage. His role in The Wizard showed me
that you could be a video game geek and be a 'cool' kid.
He lied, playing video games wasn't going to get you the fame
or the girl from Brooklyn Bridge. It got me far
more. The ability to not give a shit about what is or is
So, If I ever see Wonder Years boy in my
life, I'm gonna take my video game strengthened fist and pop
him one right in the eye. Not for just myself, but for
every kid who made an ass out of him or herself in one of the
biggest debacles of modern television, Video Power.
POWER UP... AND DOWN!
Here's a surprise.
Not only are people still reading The Gameroom Blitz, a few of
them seem to be fans of Video Power. Reader John
Martynski felt compelled to offer a second opinion of the
oddball game show... I just hope he isn't this fond of the
Video Power cartoon!
just read your guest writer's article about Video Power.
I also just watched that same guest writer compete on Video
Power... via video tape, of course. Only one conclusion
He's got it all
There's nothing wrong with Video Power. Every kid
that I knew loved the show. While most weekday
morning kid's shows don't hold the highest production
values, and even though Video Power most certainly met
that classification, it is indeed a true
classic. Sorry Mickey, those kids were right.
You are a
good to see that you put something about Video Power up on
your site, though. I read Mickey's article a while
back, and believe it or not, I saw the guy on VP and
figured he was the author. As you already know...
he is. Social outcasts? Maybe a few, but
most seemed like pretty normal kids. Maybe that's
why Mickey stood out in my mind as a highly probable,
beleaguered contestant? Have a pleasant
P.S. If you keep in touch with the guy, feel more
than free to forward this email to him.
Oh, he got the message,
all right. Here's Mickey's somewhat agitated
Dear Jess Ragan:
Hi, this is Mickey Tveter. I
wrote an article about Video Power a couple of years back.
Thank you for keeping it up there, I appreciate that.
am sorry that I hadn't noticed there was a reply/rebuttal to
my article. I've been up to a bunch lately and had kinda
forgotten about it until recently.
Now, while I'm
thinking about it, here's my reply to Mr. Martynski's
Thanks for the reply to my article. Your
opinion is appreciated. I still like mine better though.
Here's a few thoughts:
1) You've got tapes of Video
Power? If I may be so bold... why? It's not exactly a show
with a cult following. I could see having a tape or two 'for
old times sake' but you were able to find one that I was
in? That's just a little creepy.
2) I am a dork,
someone is shocked by this? I love all things Star Trek and
still play RPG's regularly. I was saying that many of us were
'freaks.' It's part of the rationale; if you play 4-6 hours of
video games a day (therefore excelling at them), you're
probably not going to be the most extroverted
3) It's a beautiful world out there. Go out
for a walk, hang out with some friends or see the world.
There's no need to be watching 15-year-old tapes of little
kids on a video game show.
Thank you for your
So, what has become of Johnny Arcade?
Surprisingly, he hasn't become a bitter alcoholic, although he
plays one on TV. After Video Power was canceled,
Paskoski made cameo appearances on Homicide: Life on the
Street (that's him next to Hulk Hogan practice
dummy Richard Belzer) and Law and Order as the smug,
slightly sleazy Danny Blythe. More recently, he's
appeared as Pete McGonagle, a cop with a drinking problem on
the drama Brotherhood. There's a sex scene from the show
that was posted on YouTube about a year ago... to put it
bluntly, that's more of Johnny's joystick than anyone needed
On a completely unrelated (thank goodness) note,
Stivi appeared on a show called Frannie's Turn, from the
creators of Roseanne and The Cosby Show. That's not much
of a surprise, but what is a bit of a shocker is that
the man who played Stivi's father in that
short-lived sitcom looked startlingly like Paskoski does
right now, give or take a little hair. Is it just a wild
coincidence, or a case of really good casting? Like
the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie
Roll pop, the world may never know. Unlike that age-old
mystery, however, the world may never give a