Kickstarter Korner: Wrestling With Pixels

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The first wrestling video game I can ever remember playing was WCW Wrestling for the NES, one of two games released by the company that was essentially named "World Championship Wrestling Wrestling"  . I was comically young when I first played it and don't remember much about it, but Sting was involved and there were dudes that my probably pre-school brain could not handle, like the Road Warriors. And, ever since then, I've bought nearly every single wrestling video game ever created for a system I've owned. Seriously. I bought  WCW Nitro AND WCW Thunder each more than once. 

Which is why what video game writer Audun Sorlie and Maffew from Botchamania, and Junkboy (the graphic  designer of Minecraft) are doing, by writing a book  (entitled  Wrestling with Pixels) about every single wrestling video game ever created is, is so vitally important to -- mind you, this is just my opinion -- world peace.

Okay, so maybe world peace is a stretch, but, it'll boast my general happiness, and presumably the general happiness of video game and wrestling nerds the world over. At the very least it'll be beautifully illustrated and teach you a thing or two about game development and human psychology (which is actually its own chapter.) By writing about the history of these beautiful, and beautifully flawed, gifts to the pop culture world, they'll help us understand the very nature of our beings. Or, at least how to Beat the Streak in WWE2K14 before we go insane.

And because we love Kickstarter -- for those unaware, we began as a humble Kickstarter campaign before becoming  the sleek and charming digital magazine/blog hybrid we are now -- we figured it would be great to interview one of the authors of the book, video game journalist Audun Sorlie to tell us a bit about his video game interests and the roles these games play in the continued  success  of the industry. After you're done checking out the interview, hop on by their Kickstarter page, and follow Audun, Maffew and Junkboy on their various internet platforms for updaates. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself, Maffew and everyone involved with this.

I’m Audun Sorlie, I have been writing for video game magazines and websites for numerous years now. I have written in the US, Japan, Norway, Brazil, pretty much all over the place. People are most familiar with my long retrospectives on Hardcore Gaming 101.

Maffew is the man behind the Botchamania video series on youtube, which is a fantastic series combining wrestling bloopers and video game music to great results. He is also a good writer, as I hope people will realize with this project.

Junkboy is the graphic designer of Minecraft, but he is also one of the best illustration artists in the video game industry. He will be doing artwork throughout the book.

What inspired you to do this?

I did interviews with various people involved with either wrestling itself or wrestling video games over the years working for video game publications, and over time I realized that I was sitting on a lot of stories and information that hasn’t gotten out there, yet shows a side of both the video game industry and the wrestling business that few are aware of. So I decided to compile the entire history of how these 2 industries worked together over time.

What's your favorite wrestling game?

Tecmo World Wrestling on the NES remains my all-time favorite for numerous reasons, all of which will be shared in the book.

Along those same lines, what were some of your favorite games -- other than wrestling -- growing up?

I was (and still am) a huge video game fan, and as a kid I grew up playing a lot of NES, MSX, Amiga and Commodore 64. I had a really special spot for games like Turrican, Bionic Commando, Last Ninja, TMNT 2 and 3, even Bubsy.

What are the most important factors that contribute to a quality wrestling video game?

Capturing the essence of what makes wrestling so much fun, the color and creativity in characters, moves and presentation, combined with accessible controls and impactful sound effects.

What role -- if any -- do you think wrestling video games have with the sustained popularity of the medium: in other words, do you think it's something that only wrestling fans play or something that can be/is used to attract people who wouldn't normally be fans but like sports/fighting games?

I think during the late 90’s when we saw the emergence of games such as WCW/nWo Revenge and Smackdown!, what made those games so popular was the fact that the presentation and the controls were made as such that anyone could understand them. They were simple, and allowed for a lot of strategic timing as well as a sizeable moveset. Due to this, the games on the Nintendo 64 especially allowed pretty much anyone to pick up and play with 3 other friends, and I think this contributed a lot of new fans to the wrestling industry because they “got” what made wrestling fun, the motivation to win, the stench of betrayal in a Royal Rumble, and the thrill of those last moments where every move might be the end and all your energy goes into pumping life into the battle so it will not end.

Is there any way for wrestling games to bridge the gap between a "real" fighting/sports game aspects and the scripted nature of the medium?

Well when I look at sport games in general these days, as a video game fan I actually see them moving away from what I want out of a video game. What is important is really capturing the essence of the sport and bring it to life in your hands, and that isn’t always by having repetitive commentary or more stats on screen. I think for wrestling, what needs to be done is to dial it back and rethink what makes us love the “sport”. We saw a glimmer of this with a recent game called WWE All Stars, and while not every game needs to follow that particular path, its an example of reigniting the excitement we feel.

Do you find customization or gameplay more important to making a quality game?

Gameplay. You can customize all you want for hours and hours, but if the gameplay doesn’t allow you to have fun with your customization, it won’t matter.

Do you foresee any issues w/r/t licensing or anything of that ilk given how protective the WWE is over things like copyrights?

We aren’t using any footage or copyrighted materials on display in the book, which is one of the reasons why we got fantastic artists like orioto and junkboy to illustrate and bring some life into the book. So no.

Have wrestling video games changed the way we perceive/understand wrestling?

I think as I grew up, wrestling video games made me appreciate the sport even deeper by giving me the control of the match and allowing me be part of the story told, and feel the heat of being at the very top at the end of the game. With how technology is now, we can make use of dynamic camera angles, we can create ourselves almost 1:1 and enter the ring, and we can share them with our friends around the world, so with a great wrestling game you can learn to appreciate wrestling even deeper, I truly think so.

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