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It’s about time I talked about some actual matches, not just any matches though. Anybody can do a written review or recap of the current product and a lot of people already are, in fact a lot of the matches I want to talk about have been reviewed and recapped at some point. The point of these articles, which I’ll be doing periodically between other articles that I’ll put out, is that when I want to tackle a match, it’s to try and understand why we loved it, or why we hated it if it sucked the big one (I’ll cover bad matches too) I don’t want to go into every hold or slam because it’s been done and that’s not the point of these articles, the point is to explain where I’m coming from as a fan and to hopefully convert a few non fans out there too.

Today I tackle a classic and a tough one to talk about, because everybody else already has, it’s the match that defined two men and their careers to this very day and it’s the match that stole the show of one of the greatest Wrestlemanias.

Randy Savage Vs. Ricky Steamboat

When I typed those words a few days ago, I immediately realized the task that I had voluntarily dropped myself into, I could have moved on to another topic, another match, sure…but I wanted to start with this match, this is the match that has many wrestling critics and fans alike either calling it the greatest match in wrestling history or a great match that has been overrated through the years. Savage vs. Steamboat is a hard one to talk about because, well almost everybody has put their own two cents on the matter anyway, we should ash our hands of it right? Say the match was good, it deserves to be remembered and call it a day? Well no, there’s a reason this match needs to be talked about, there’s a reason it needs to be remembered so fondly. In my opinion it set the bar for every wrestler with a chip on their shoulder, every guy that had to look out at a jam packed stadium, knowing that the company believed that every hard earned dollar they spent was because of whatever golden boy may have been in place at the time.

Let me explain briefly what I’m trying to get at here, today the idea of a match “stealing the show” is common place, it’s usually a match somewhere in the midcard region, ranging from the lower to upper levels that manages to outshine and outperform the rest of the matches on the card, it’s the sleeper, the underdog…the unexpected surprise. In the modern day fan’s mind, we thrive for the show stealer, we hope there’s a match that’s going to blow our expectations out of the water and we hope we’ll be there to see it…but where did the show stealer really start?

Well, that’s honestly a good question, there’s really no way to pinpoint the first match people saw that was the gem of the night, as long as there has been wrestling, there’s been some element of surprise in it all, but for me…the idea, the popularity and the adoration of a show stealer, the true definition of a show stealer wasn’t in our minds until Wrestlemania 3.

Understand the time period here and the wrestling fan at the time, the mainstream wrestling fan at that. Probably never seen a match from Japan or Mexico in their life, are used to either the slow, traditional style of the NWA or the new Entertaining flashy presentation of the WWF that’s giving us larger than life athletes with larger than life personalities Let’s not pretend here OK? WWE has ALWAYS been about the entertainment factor from the day Vince Junior walked into the office. It’s worked for over thirty years so can’t really criticize it that much I guess, sure athleticism was there, but it wasn’t the focus…not by a long shot. There’s a reason Hulk Hogan is the top guy and it sure wasn’t his wrestling ability.

Vince had bet everything on Wrestlemania being a success and it was, albeit a bit of a shaky start, while the first Wrestlemania hasn’t aged well, you can see why it was such a success, nothing like that had ever been seen before on such a large scale. Wrestlemania 2? Still a success but poorly booked and one of the orse Wrestlemanias out there.

Then comes Wrestlemania 3, the one that cemented the future of wrestling dominance, NWA had a chance, a slim chance but a chance to take back the crown…and it was thrown out of the window after Wrestlemania 3. There’s no mistaking why those people bought their ticket, it was Hogan Vs. Andre no questions asked, Andre The Giant had a kayfabe fifteen year undefeated streak, Hogan was champion for three years and good friends with Andre before Andre joined up with Bobby Heenan, making him the biggest heel in the company at the time. This was perfectly booked perfectly timed and perfectly scheduled, everybody was paying to see it and everybody in the locker room knew it.

Meanwhile…

Randy Savage is the Intercontinental Champion, a belt that at the time was extremely prestigious, one that would go on to be held on the same level as the world title, it was considered the “Wrestler’s title” if you held the Intercontinental Championship, you weren’t the top draw…but it was the company acknowledging you were the most athletic wrestle,r or that’s at least the mindset some of the guys had in the back anyway. Randy at this time is a heel and WHAT A HEEL! He had won the title from George “The Animal Steele” at the previous Wrestlemania and due to a surprisingly “beauty and the beast” stroyline where George had an infatuation with Miss Elizabeth, the storyline ran a lot longer than expected and because of that, he appeared in the match to aid Ricky Steamboat in Wrestlemania 3, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Build Up

I believe the build up was three months (going by the words from Ricky Steamboat on the latest Macho Man DVD, go pick that up by the way.) though it could have been longer, the final three months was where it all started to really heat up though.

During a free TV match between the two, Randy unceremoniously dumps Ricky outside of the ring, where Ricky leans against the barricade to catch his breath, while he is doing this, Randy climbs up to the top turnbuckle, clutches his fists together and dives them straight into Ricky’s back, causing Ricky to grab at his throat and shoot back. Too add to the injury (ah ring psychology, how I miss you…) Randy goes out, grabs the time keepers bell, climbs BACK to the top turnbuckle and drives it straight into the Dragon’s throat. We’re shown Ricky getting taken out on a stretcher and their road to Wrestlemania begins with a bang!

Watch The Moment Here!

What follows is just pure genius booking, the next few weeks we are treated to vignettes of Steamboat’s recovery, including speech therapy sessions, all the while swearing that he’ll get his revenge on Randy Savage for what he did to him as Randy gloats that he ended Ricky’s career.

The two are finally set to collide and they give some of the best promos in the build to this event and Macho Man goes on to give, what I think is his absolute BEST promo after the match, Ricky is still selling the throat even though he can speak again, he’s got a low, gutteral growl going on that just oozes intensity, meanwhile Randy provides us with his usual off the wall intensity that made him the character we know and love.

Ricky Steamboat Promo

Randy Savage Promo

Randy was a perfectionist, not just in the ring but on the microphone, here they were, Pontiac Silverdome, Wrestlemania 3, a supposed 90,000 plus fans packed in to the stadium and everybody is saying it’s for one reason and one reason only. Now while that may be true, they didn’t give in to that notion, they didn’t accept it, shrug their shoulders and just do the match. No, from the moment this match was announced these two worked together in preparing this match and doing everything in their power to steal the show, that included the microphone work.

The Preparation

Randy was a perfectionist, an obsessive one, on the mic, in the ring, it didn’t matter, he wanted to be the best and he wanted his matches to reflect that According to steamboat, Randy had over a hundred pages of notes, all bullet pointed of every detail that would happen in the match. It got to a point here both of them would be able to flip to a random page, say the spot that happened and then ask the other person to describe the rest of the match and both of them would be able to describe it off of the top of their heads. Ricky wasn’t a fan of scripted matches, as he believes the best matches are ones that come naturally in the ring, an idea that is shared between him and other veterans like Flair, however he had no problem with it as far as I can tell, he knew this was how Randy wanted to do and decided that if this was how they were going to put on a great match, he was going to do it and make sure he did it well.

As soon as everybody heard the numbers, both men wanted to take advantage of the situation and rightfully so, sure the numbers were there for Hogan’s match and rightfully so, the two were huge names, it was going to be a huge match…but to not have the idea planted in your head that you were going to go out there and steal it would have been a wasted opportunity.

The Match

I could sit here and tell you every move, every hold, everything from the first Irish whip to the final finishing move and it wouldn’t do the match justice, it wouldn’t do the atmosphere of that arena justice, the magic that match carries still lingers very much on my screen when I go back to see it and it astounds me that it was so heavily scripted. It comes off with such a natural flow to it all that for the longest time before I heard the story about how it was scripted I thought these two were just going off the cuff and making magic out of it. Does knowing it’s a scripted match ruin it? It might for some but for me it doesn’t, I could go and watch that match right now and just sit in stunned silence up until the final bell, it really is flawless.

Now does it deserve the moniker of greatest match of all time? That’s a difficult point to put forward, it was certainly the greatest match of that time, that’s for sure. You have to remember this audience, as large as it is, the majority of these people only know NWA or WWF and that’s it, that’s what they’r eused to, it’s what they grew up with. This style of match hadn’t been seen before, it was fast paced, it was intense, it did things people didn’t see at the time in such a large scale and it did it all extremely well. In today’s world, a match like that, while not common, may not be hard to come by…but I challenge you to find a match that has the same feel to it. It’s not just the large crowd, it’s not just the athletes in the ring. It’s this perfect ix of everything that went on in the story, the build, the promos, the in ring work, the atmosphere of the arena and the crowd…it all melded together to make this match and that’s why people clung to it It was something they hadn’t seen, it had excellent ring psychology, excellent storytelling. It just…it was unseen at the time and you can’t replicate that.

Honestly I still crack a smile at the start of the match, now if you didn’t know the story it’s an extremely trivial thing, but Ricky Steamboat has had his throat crushed here folks, you know this now if you didn’t before. In the story this man has had to have weeks of therapy, he’s had to deal with the man that stopped him from being able to speak properly gloating how his career was over His throat was crushed…and what is the first thing he does in the match? He grabs Randy Savage by the throat and lifts him up in the air…

It’s so simple and it happens in such a subtle fashion that you don’t realize it for a moment, that was Ricky giving Randy a taste of his own medicine.

Another moment of brilliant ring psychology comes at the end. This is where Savage begins to get fed up with Steamboat, the ref is down and out, the pin should have been his. He wants to make sure Steamboat is down and out for good, so he gives us a visit back to the past as he goes to get the bell. He begins to climb up to the top and then George Steel (who as I mentioned earlier, had his own beef with Savage) saves Ricky before the deadly blow can be dealt. Ricky surprises Randy with a sudden pin fall, 1-2-3…crowd goes wild!

Now this is the eighties, an ending like that is very common where the heel actually has right to complain that things didn’t go his way but honestly the only way that ending could have been better is if Steamboat hit Savage with a diving crossbody for the pin. What solidified Randy Savage for me when I was looking in to him and his matches was the promo after Wrestlemania 3. The man has just lost a match, any other heel might come across whining and complaining but Savage? There’s a little part of you that knows he’s right about what went down and god that makes you hate him even more as a bad guy.

Macho Man was, what he said he was…The Cream of The Crop!

So Why Do We Love It?

In today’s world, this really could have been thrown to the cynics and some cynical minded people have turned against it, others are just modern day fans who don’t understand what is so special about the match and that’s an understandable viewpoint honestly. So many years of people calling this the best match ever can really build up expectations for people that have never seen it before and that can end up disappointing people…especially if they have no idea what wrestling was like back then. I can’t see somebody trying to show this match to a modern day fan and have them truly understand why it is this match is so loved to this day. Yes it’s good, it’s better than good, it’s brilliant! Brilliantly performed, booked and prepared for every step of the way but for me? Why it is I love this match beyond all of that.

For me this is what set the bar, this is what every wrestler should look at when they go into a Pay-Per-View, this is what mid card talent should be watching to inspire them come Wrestlemania when Roman Reigns is facing Brock Lesnar in the main event. This is what every young star in NXT should be shown as they go through developmental Every star that feels like they have a place on that show needs to watch these to wrestle again and again until they get the message drilled into their head.

These two men were met with a situation where it was clear who would get all the praise and all the accolades, they didn’t complain, they didn’t moan, they went out, they put on an amazing match that stole the show…and the entire wrestling world has remembered that match more than any other match that ever stole the show because of it. It’s the one that made it popular, it’s the one that put it in our minds, it gave us a physical definition right on our screens of exactly what this thing called a show stealer was…it made wrestling history and I don’t think we’ll ever let it go away, because it’s too special. It’s special to those that got to see it either in the flesh or on Pay-Per-View, it’s special to those that got to see it on old VHS tapes that were probably handed down to them by family members, sharing memories together. It’s one of those matches that just showed you why you shouldn’t be ashamed to be a wrestling fan, they only come by every now and then. Sure if you had the time you could name hundreds of matches that stole the show and you could probably name the shows they were on too…but how many of them can you say had the affect on you or anybody else the way this match did? It’s the original show stealer…nobody could do it better. If you haven’t seen the watch, go watch it with an open mind…and if you have seen it, go watch it again, because it really is that good.

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Oh snap! Another Call of Dooty? Yep, just one more, but this is going to reach pretty much everything else about it.

This time around, we’re gonna look at the concept of custom classes introduced to the market by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and how the idea can benefit games.

Now, I’m not gonna go ahead and claim they invented picking what you went in with, as plenty of other games handled that, but this particular installment did get the ball rolling as a common concept.

Create That Class

So, here’s the general idea Modern Warfare put forward: Pick a gun, pick another gun (because more guns), pick some equipment, and pick some traits. Mix and match, throw a violence party.

Prior to that, the typical rundown on consoles was you either started with the same setup as everyone else, or you picked one of several pre-set classes. I’m not going to really dig into Call of Duty 3 or prior, as game wikis don’t seem to care about them.

The degree of freedom custom classes provided allowed you to adapt to both the enemy team and to the game itself. When dealing with the enemy team, you could react to their strategies with a loadout of your own that was custom tailored to beating them. If the enemy liked to run forward, you could start laying mines. If the enemy liked to hang back, you could equip yourself for clearing rooms with heartbeat sensors or shields.

And as for the game itself, I’ve always felt there was a core flaw to every Modern Warfare game: If two players of sufficient skill come face to face, neither one will walk away from the resulting fight happy. Two guys would see each other, pull the trigger, and one would just die. The kill time for Call of Duty is near instant and exposes itself to every little imperfection of the network and netcode. When two players go head to head, there’s very little room for individual skill to shine through.

Which is where the Create a Class system comes in…

Beating the System

Modern Warfare 2 was my favorite design, because it allowed the freedom needed to avoid the core flaw of Modern Warfare, while every game since was too restrictive to do so. You could use the game to fix the game, in a way.

Player behavior would typically gravitate towards similar builds, as per some sociological rule that one could probably expand upon elsewhere. An everyday player would probably grab an assault rifle, stick a silencer on it, and call it a day.

As for myself, I tried to keep my classes spread out with as much variety as possible to answer the same question in a different way each time: “How can I avoid directly fighting the enemy?”

Sapper

The first one I really went with was mostly in response to somebody’s claim that you could never have a positive kill/death ratio when using a riot shield. I call myself a “needler scientist” at times, in reference to the absolutely garbage needlers in Halo 2. I obsess over underpowered items in games, studying them intently to find their true use (incidentally, the use for Halo 2 needlers was point blank range and long range snipers that wouldn’t move – such garbage), so I took the riot shield weapon as a challenge.

The end result was a class that used the shield to get close and scout out rooms, then throw C4 at the enemy. Absurd, but it worked great. The Create a Class system back then wasn’t picky, so it let the Scavenger perk give you more explosives and every dead body would give you another C4 to throw, even if it wasn’t your kill.

Lowering the shield to take an offensive action being so lengthy was what discouraged shield use, but the class system let you adapt to that. Thrown explosives had no delay to lower the shield and handguns were granted a faster draw speed than any other weapon, so they could serve as a surprise cowboy quickdraw when facing down an enemy.

With the ability to customize what I took into the fight, the game gave me the opportunity to avoid what I hated most about it. I could see an enemy and they could see me, but we couldn’t instantly kill each other.

Smoker

The next unique one was an attempt to find an efficient use for One Man Army, which replaced your secondary weapon with the ability to switch classes. By itself, it wasn’t obviously useful, as you couldn’t switch again if you selected a class without One Man Army and even if you did, you would have to stop for a good two or three seconds to switch between the two gear sets.

Instead, I tried to exploit switching back to the same class. Doing so would completely refill your gear and ammo. Scavenger was quick for reloads, but some gear (like smoke grenades) would never be replenished and you needed to be in the front line to find reloads. One Man Army would give back smoke grenades (and other gear) from wherever you were standing.

The final result would throw infinitely available smoke grenades forward and use an assault rifle with a heartbeat sensor to spot oncoming targets. Claymore mines were also included, which could be planted ahead, under the cover of smoke.

Unlimited claymores was an interesting feature. They were limited to two at once, but unlike with Scavenger, you always had two to use. Claymores had a trigger distance double that of the kill range and it was a frustration when you planted one claymore just to wound the enemy and gain nothing for it, but having two claymores at your disposal would let you plant the both of them in the exact same spot. Your kill range would effectively double, because two would kill anyone within the trigger radius. The increased range also added more viable trap spots, allowing for kills from locations nobody expected.

In the best of situations, that class would get kills without being seen at all, meaning I would never be stuck in that awful face-to-face situation.

Streetsweeper

The last MW2 loadout I ever really experimented with was an attempt to counter a problem specific to Modern Warfare 2: Overly aggressive players.

I’ve mentioned before how some people would just use a knife and actually get kills, but there were several common, annoying loadouts people would use that all featured the same premise of going fast and getting dumb kills.

One of the absolute worst ones actually featured a glitched setup; using two Model 1887 lever-action shotguns, akimbo. With the right attachments, they would end up doing more damage than they were supposed to, making for a class that could kill most anyone from a medium range with one shot. It was stupid and effective, so naturally it was used frequently.

I actually looked up gun stats for this one. I wanted to find the SMG that had the highest damage and firing rate so I could dual-wield them. That turned out to be the underutilized MP5k, which people ignored primarily for its heavy recoil.

Two SMGs, kitted out to fire as fast, accurate, and damaging as possible. Rather than join in with the running-about team, all the movement traits were eschewed for more precision and damage. The result was a walking death machine. When it fired, it wasn’t a question of hit or miss, but of how long you could survive in the metal storm. Considering it only took two hits to die, it usually wasn’t very.

The fully-automatic damage output was more efficient than aggressive classes and having them directly in your face would result in instant death on their part. In fact, the key weakness was for somebody to take cover. Since precision was impossible, a small target surface area would avoid significant amounts of damage, while the aggressive players would run into the open and be cut down.

When encountering aggressive players, the class would immediately take them out of the equation. There would be no head to head fight, they would just be dead, solving the core problem once again. Anyone smart enough to take cover would, by their actions, avoid an instant end to the fight.

The Followups

All the games following MW2 seemed to almost intentionally restrict indirect combat. I’ve played them all, except for Ghosts (buyer beware), and I could not create one indirect class where Modern Warfare 2 gave me several.

However, they did experiment with altering the streak system. Modern Warfare 2 gave you a range of killstreaks to choose from to suit your playstyle and expected survivability. Modern Warfare 3 introduced alternative streak systems on a class by class basis, allowing you to set a class to gain credit for streaks through death or a class that instead added perks to your character like it was leveling up or something.

Advanced Warfare might have hit the right note with the new scorestreak system. You don’t have to count kills, as just assisting and hitting the objective counts towards your progress. Additionally, the streaks can be customized by class. A streak you might not like can be augmented into something you do like.

Scouting drones, for example, are unappealing to me. Why would you manually fly a UAV to mark targets when you can call in an automated UAV to handle it for you while you shoot? Well, you can augment it to have additional effects. Highlighting an enemy position is nice, but even nicer is to highlight them and hit them with a flashbang.

This customization lets you take something that you feel is bad and make it good, once again opening up the game to positive experiences.

Other Games

The idea of player customization has become more popular since CoD4. Gears of War, Battlefield, even Halo have adapted the custom loadouts concept. Team Fortress 2 started out with static gear, yet now there’s a many different weapons for each class to choose from.

It seems to be a tried and true strategy on the market: Give the player personal choices to work with and they’ll enjoy themselves more.

And all you have to do is experience the nightmare of balancing all those potential choices!

If you’re looking to find me outside of this realm, I’m @ALIENwolve on Twitter.

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Welcome back to the Road to Wrestling and today we go over the final part of the road up to where we are today, it’s a more disappointing time for wrestling fans, the high numbers of the Attitude Era disappear, WWF becomes WWE and changes it’s product to a more family friendly environment. A long running feud becomes the epitomy of wrestling fans disappointments and modern day booking leaves us all gasping for something new. Join me for the final part of our trip along the road to Wrestling, before we venture out into further topics.

Road To Wrestling: Final Part

We start out our journey into one of the more mixed reviewed times of the WWE…an Era that some love, some hate..and some don’t know what to think about it. Two words given by Vince McMahon to the entire roster and later repeated by the man that would become the face of the company…

Ruthless Aggression

This is where wrestling took a deep dive in popularity and this particular era in the WWF is one of debate for wrestling fans, some look at it fondly, others lampoon it and cite it as a terrible time in the industry. I’ve tried to understand why it was that the Ruthless Aggression Era is the wrestling equivalent of Marmite…you either loved it or you hated it.

Well at this time WWF was undergoing a lot of changes both on and off the camera, for one thing there was the need to change their name looming over their heads, for a lot of people the Monday Night Wars were long over, sure WCW was still around up until 2001 but let’s not fool ourselves, from late 98 onwards? WCW was a dying, struggling product and wasn’t up to par with what the WWF was going, 1999 and 2000 are cited as two of the best years for the WWF by fans of the Attitude Era, it was sort of like the last triumphant blow of the war trumpet before the armies involved signed the peace treaty and ended the war, yet only two years later we would see a tremendous dip in popularity, an mixed reaction from the fanbase and the Attitude Era officially dead and buried, so what spurred it on?

Well for one WCW was bought out in 2001, it had struggled, it had tried albeit very poorly to stay afloat but when Ted Turner lost control after a company merger, the writing really was on the wall..there were a lot of reasons WCW died and I mean a lot of reasons! Poor booking decisions, unorganized management, backstage politics, the misuse of celebrities in order to try and further mainstream attention, all the while disregarding the loyal fans that had made you popular in the first place, company executives demanding that the edgy attitude that WCW was once known for be toned down and everything they got away with before, now suddenly taken away from them. Guaranteed contracts granted to multiple people that would gladly take days off when they didn’t feel like wrestling….the list goes on. Vince McMahon bought his competition, the reasoning for that can be disputed, whether it was to stick it to billionaire Ted one last time and take pride in the knowledge he’d crushed the one company that actually managed to compete, or whether it was just a simple business acquisition, personally I just think it was a business venture, Vince had things in mind for WCW at the time, it all went terribly wrong within a very short amount of time, but still…they were plans and if it weren’t for terrible booking and plain bad luck, who knows where it would have gone, if it would have gone anywhere at all.

Then you had the other company, the outcast, the rogue, the rebel…ECW was stuck in a rut, financial troubles, Pay-Per-View carriers refusing to give them their money, stars had been poached and they were left with a very thin roster because of it, it claimed for bankruptcy and went out of business the same year as WCW had been bought out, 2001.

On top of all that in 2002, only a year after these two companies go out of the picture, WWF has to change it’s name because it gets hit with a copyright violation claim from the World Wildlife Fund over the use of the letters WWF and the branding of it all, now how exactly the Wildlife Fund had any actual claim to all of this is beyond me, the legal jargon behind all that is sort of confusing to me, I highly doubt there was much confusion between a wrestling company and a charity for wildlife, let alone the fact both organizations had been in existence for quite some time at this point and as far as I’m aware their were no legal disputes before this point. It really just seems like the Wildlife Fund got annoyed that wrestling got popular and this company with the same initials was all people talked about when the letters WWF came into the conversation.

So your competition is gone, you’ve been hit with a legal dispute and have to change your branding because of it, meanwhile you’re seeing the stars from the nineties slowly go away like Mick Foley who was heading into retirement, The Rock who everybody had called a sell out for venturing into Hollywood and Stone Cold who at this time walked out on his contract with the company, that’s a lot to deal with in a two year stint, you’ve got to create new stars and very much like “The New Generation” some people decided to give wrestling a break after their favorites up and left.

Another reason given is poor booking decisions, there was some weird booking going on during the early 2000’s that’s for sure, as much as people would love to point the finger at Vince Russo for things like Katie Vick and the Invasion angle, that rests on the writer’s and Vince McMahon’s shoulders and those weren’t the only “crimes” during Ruthless aggression we saw the return of The Undertaker in the strangely debated American Badass gimmick, he was a biker…that’s really all there was to the gimmick, he was just a guy who loved bikes…I thought it was weird but I didn’t exactly think it was terrible. I guess that’s the reaction a lot of people had to the changes going on, changes in character, changes in attitude, changes in product…it was all just sort of…Okay. Not good, not great, just…okay, it just sort of existed to a lot of people at the time…I think a lot of people were numb to it all after the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars.

None of that is the real reason in my mind though, they’re contributing factors, seeing characters you know and love change in strange ways or just outright go away, on top of all these changes being made to the product and storylines did drive some people away without a doubt but the main reason those huge numbers disappeared? The thing that has made wrestling promoter’s scratch their head in confusion as to where those millions of viewers went? Popularity, it really does come down to that, for the longest time wrestling had been seen as this hokey, family friendly fun show. People were genuinely ashamed to admit if they were wrestling fans back in the day because you’d get mocked for it, not because it was “fake” but simply because it was just seen as this silly little thing that was below so many of these “Intelligent” minds choosing to ignore it. Then comes the 90’s with this shift in attitude across the country, a war has sparked between two wrestling companies and both of them are providing this edgy entertainment aimed at teenagers and adults, rather than kids and families…as soon as just one person was willing to say wrestling was “cool” then believe me, at least ten others would tune in just to see if they were right. That’s where those millions of views came from, college kids, frat parties, young adults looking to fit in with the rest of the crowd…there was still the loyal viewers who had been through the best and the worst of the business but this new influx had never been seen before, the more mainstream it became, the cooler it seemed and the cooler it seemed? The more people felt the need to view it, otherwise they would become the outcasts that wrestling fans used to be back in the old days. Simple peer pressure to get in on the new cool thing, it’s what has spurred so many things in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I hate to say it to all of those that look back on that time in such a fond way, but The Attitude Era? It was just a fad and in the early 2000’s, other than the loyal fanbase that decided to stay and keep watching, the world had gotten over it.

Going PG

It does make everybody grit their teeth, some for legitimate reasons, some for not so legitimate reasons, but really the only highlight after Ruthless Aggression was when the company changed back to it’s family friendly fun attitude that it originally had in the first place, it went PG. Now I will play Devil’s advocate right away, it’s not as cartoony as it was in the 80’s (thank god for that…don’t get me wrong I love the 80’s wrestling but if they were to do that today? It would not work at all) and the reasoning for it all, in my mind anyway isn’t as cynical as people would like to make it out to be. The reasoning for toning down the product for Ruthless Agression was because the WWE had angered too many of their sponsors, product providers and the network…so they toned it down before they got kicked off the air and lost their agreements. For what is dubbed the “PG Era” a lot of people point to Linda McMahon running for senate as the reasoning behind it all, I won’t argue that it might have had some influence…look in a system where people will actively try to dig up dirt on you and you are associated with a man that runs a company that has had steroid scandals, wrestlers die young, the sadness of the Chris Benoit Incident which need not be brought up any further in this article and the company in general is just sort of seen as this sort of circus by the media…playing it safe is the smartest thing you can do. I don’t know why but the media loves it when something goes wrong in wrestling. You can say that about any subject really but when it happens to wrestling in particular? They are almost ready to take that dog around the back of the shed and put an end to it’s like like it was Ol’ Yeller…It’s bad, it’s real bad and with how cut throat they can be with people running for political positions, I don’t blame the WWE a bit for playing it safe

There had to be more than that though, this is after all a business at the end of the day and a business needs to make money, this family friendly attitude, it was the best thing keeping the best relations with everybody to ensure WWE stayed on top, WWE wanted the best merchandise, the best toys, the best options for sponsors…you don’t get those options when you run a risky program, you still get options, but thy don’t pay as well and the risk isn’t always worth the reward. What need was there to be edgy? None…developing an Attitude over night after they had dropped it during Ruthless Aggression? Was that really going to get those mythical numbers of the 90’s back now? No, we can all pretend it will but not really, not in today’s society it wouldn’t. Too many people getting far too offended, playing it safe just meant you could capture more eyes, offend less people, get the most profit out of the situation. The best answer, was the most obvious one…that’s all there was to it.

That being said the main problem that smarter fans had that weren’t just begging for the attitude era to come back for over ten years was that the booking had taken a big nose dive in the WWE and I mean a big nose dive, it’s not as bad as it is today but this is really where it all started. This is where I have to talk about the elephant in the room that is John Cena. I’m going to try and give a new and original insight into this, I don’t hate John, I don’t hate him as a wrestler, but I can understand people’s gripes with the man and this era was when people started getting really sick of John Cena. Where people started wanting that change, not an Attitude Era, heck not even a Ruthless Aggression, all people wanted was something new, something different. PG Era was where the company just started selling you the same product and telling you it was something different. You can put up with that for a while, wrestling logic even dictates you should.

This is where I need to talk about the Cena and Orton feud, trust me I don’t want to, it’s been talked about already…so much so I even hear people in my circle of friends groan when yet another debate about this feud is brought up, but for this time period, it needs to be mentioned and explained in my own personal opinion as to why it has failed so badly. See back in the day a feud of that length was not rare by any means…what made people dislike it so much was how quickly they had shown us everything we could have possibly seen within a very short time frame. The story was done in such a way where people either didn’t care or didn’t believe in it, they weren’t willing to believe in it because it came across in a way where the wrestlers themselves didn’t believe in it and when that happens, regardless how long you want to go and what matches you have in mind, you have lost your audience.

Here’s an example I like to compare it to and I can imagine getting hate mail for doing it but here we go I compare Cena and Orton to Bret and Shawn. Now hear me out on this one ok? Bret Hart vs Shawn Michaels, two totally different wrestlers from Cena and Orton I agree, but their situation is not so different when you look at it in terms of the storyline. Forget the legitimate hatred Bret and Shawn had, that’s not what this is about, it’s about the matches, the story, the pacing and the booking. Both sets of wrestlers start out with this subtle respect for each other, one is usually the top dog or is at least at a position to claim to be the top dog, the other is one that stays close by and is always part of the chase, when they face, regardless of the stipulation you’re supposed to feel that this is a big match, that both of these guys are willing to put everything on the line because they want to be the best. As time develops, what started as a sporting rivalry develops into what the crowd sees as genuine dislike and hatred towards each other the more they face each other, the rivalry becomes personal through jabs at one another both on the microphone and through their actions towards one another and we’re supposed to see that play out throughout the matches they have. What makes that story become special and intriguing is how well it’s done, it’s pacing the story in such a way where that story becomes believable, where that question of “Do they really hate each other?” is asked. That’s the point, whether we know it’s real or not…we’re supposed to be made to ask, to scratch our heads a little and wonder how much of it is art imitating life. If Bret and Shawn was a two year feud where within six months we’d have seen everything we could have possibly seen and Shawn was beating the heck out of Hart family members to get at Bret, we’d have been tired of it, probably even poking fun at it! That sixty minute Iron Man match would have meant nothing in terms of story. The fact both of those guys were great wrestlers helped that story so much and you believe every single minute of it because the way it was booked and the way it was paced made it look and feel as real as we would later find their dislike for one another to be. When those two fought it was a special occasion, fans would get on the edge of their seat because ok here we go these two are going at it again, what’s going to happen? Is one of them finally going to flip out? Then when you saw the personal attacks both on the mic and in the ring that just added to it, you felt it, you believed it, heck the smarter fans probably knew there was something legitimate to it all but even if there wasn’t? Even if Bret and Shawn were hugging it out in the back after every match they had we still would have bought into everything they sold us because of how well that was booked.

Back to Cena and Orton, it’s a similar situation, two guys battling each other for the top position, they may have respect for one another at the start, that’s arguable and up in the air but how soon did that feud become personal? I can’t even remember a point any more where those two didn’t hate each other…it’s perfectly fine to make a feud personal quickly, but if you’re going to have it be a long running feud, you’ve got to do it smartly, the way they paced it just made it chaos, I can understand if you want to make it seem like an all out war…but if you’ve got a two year plan for this and everybody is worn out from it all before you’ve even reached the halfway mark you’ve gone way too hard, way too fast. We saw every possible way this story could go and every possible match they could have before we should have done, it didn’t seem special when these two fought because, they did it every month, with bigger stakes and bigger stipulations until they had ran through every stipulation, then what do you do? You try telling the story again but this time you up the stakes in terms of story, let’s have Randy attack Cena’s dad. Ok, that is brilliant for a heel to do, you want to make a feud personal? That is the outright best way to do that if it’s done smartly, how do you that smartly? Well for one you need to make the build up immense and you need to make the pay off seem like there’s more than just a title match at stake here…and they didn’t! That’s what this story was lacking, you had the big matches, you had the narrative, but you didn’t have the pacing and you didn’t have the emotion that went into Shawn and Bret….what was supposed to be a slow Spaghetti Western where the big hero and villain have one big duel to end it all at the end turned into a Michael Bay movie and everything was thrown in our faces month after month after month, for two years or more! Eventually you just get sick of the explosive nature of it all…we should have been begging the WWE for more but instead we were begging for something else to come along and grace our television screens. That sort of is the image that you can use to capture the disappointment a lot of loyal wrestling fans like myself have felt for quite some time now, there’s so many chances this company has and yet…they never seem to do well with them in the long run.

WWE Today

I want to like Raw and Smackdown, I really do..there are things here and there that have opportunities for greatness but it just never feels like they can capture it. It’s sort of sad, they’ve lost sight of what it was that made them great, they forgot that in order to make us care about these stories that I admit, mostly tell interesting narratives, needs to rely on the matches…and WWE doesn’t really care about that any more at least in my view, there are plenty of good matches out there that they show today…but how many of them do you see the company using to forward their top stories? One or two we can name off the top of our heads right now are people I have big hopes for. Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan if his injury trouble goes away…there are a lot of people I like, many who have become my modern day favorites, but does the company really believe in them? Maybe, Vince doesn’t and right now that’s the only man that matters…it doesn’t matter if every guy in the back believes in you, if Vince doesn’t, you’re stuck until he does and the man himself said on his interview with Stone Cold that the only person he sees grabbing at his brass rings, is Cena…which rightfully angered a lot of people. Some think Vince has lost touch over the years, some think he’s fallen into the trap of going back to things that worked in the past but doing very little to change it. I don’t know myself, Vince is a very complicated character, one I have immense respect for but to me, he’s always had that mindset of relying on one guy. In the 80’s it was Hogan, in the 90’s it was Stone Cold and now it’s Cena…so why does it feel so different today? Because somewhere along the way it just seems like they forgot about everybody else…like everybody else is just a face in the halls until they do something that puts them in the good books. Even the superstars are having enough of the booking, there’s word people are complaining, there’s apparently been silent protests, wrestlers losing faith in the product…it may not be as dire as thee reporters and dirt sheets like to make it out to be but regardless that isn’t a healthy situation to be in when it comes to those locker rooms and it certainly doesn’t help when they look over to NXT and see that world of difference.

NXT is amazing, trust me when I say it is worth the price of the Network alone, I’m so annoyed when people say they’ve cancelled their subscription and feel like they’ve stuck it to the man by doing so, you haven’t, you really haven’t. While true that when you want to send a message to a company, you do it with your wallet, there’s one thing that has remained true and tested that everything can be measured, they measure Raw and Smackdown in ratings, you think they can’t go to the Network and see how many clicks something has gotten? Now Vince may not care very much about what the internet likes, I imagine he rarely uses it as it is, but somebody must have to report to him about this right? I’m an optimistic person, I’d like to think if instead of cancelling the subscriptions we all just tuned into the things we liked and maybe they’d change their strategy because right now, their strategy for the Network? Total Divas and Legends House and while I for one like seeing Roddy Piper howl at the moon like a wolf as much as the next guy, that’s not what I’m paying my monthly subscription for. I’ve got every PPV I ever wanted, I got archives of shows to look through but most important of all to me and most worth it all to me is NXT because that product is one that has got it right and it is so nice to see.

It’s weird seeing NXT, a show that once had people playing musical chairs and doing promos about facial hair decide who was good at wrestling turn into what it is today…if you told me a couple years ago that NXT would be the best thing this company had to offer, I would have laughed in your face and don’t lie. You would have too, just look at this and tell me otherwise.

Triple H got put in charge of developing new talent and NXT just became the perfect storm really, it’s full of people wanting to prove themselves, including the man running it. You don’t think Trips wants to prove he’s going to be good at what he is eventually going to be doing for the whole company? He learned from Vince which some cynics may shrug their shoulders at but if there is one thing Vince loves, it’s being competitive and I’m sure whether he’s seen the numbers or not, he’s heard what people think of NXT, he has had to have heard that and that crazy old man is smiling at the fact his son in law is sticking it to the big dog right now because that’s the kind of guy Vince is, he likes competing so much he competed with himself! That’s what Smackdown was originally for! You have Trips wanting to prove the old man he can do a good job as well as every smart fan on the internet that has dubbed him the evil overlord of wrestling, you got young up and coming talent with chips on their shoulders wanting to show they can be on the main roster and you’ve got a back to basics style of booking that is so refreshing to see back in the spotlight that this very simple, very old school style show…that’s what wrestling fans are talking about, that and New Japan. Am I happy with the current product? No not really, there’s some bad decisions being made, the whole CM Punk situation definitely didn’t help my perception of their health care system or the way they do business with people they don’t like…and the effort they put into Pay-Per-Views is starting to become a little lackluster, but I’m not cancelling my subscription and I’m not going to stop watching. I’m a fan and being a fan of it means sticking through it, think of it like a football team…everybody has been through a down period…it happens and you just hope they get better. That’s sort of where we are today, just hope somebody steps up to wake this company up. As good as NXT is, its developmental…it’ll probably stay developmental and as long as it is, what threat does that really pose to Vince McMahon who owns it and can call any one of these wrestlers to the roster when he feels good and ready? Then there’s New Japan, which is starting it’s own project similar to the Network, which I honestly suggest people look into, sure it’s not in English but Japan isn’t big on promos like the WWE is, they’re more focused on the matches, it’s sort of like if NXT was on a much bigger scale.

Either way, right now things are bad yeah…but no need to cancel subscriptions and turn off the televisions, because who are we fooling? Every wrestling fan at one point or another says they’ll never watch again and they come back and that’s not a bad thing. More sarcastic minded people mock you for doing that but it’s natural for something that you love, you want to tune back in to see if it’s gotten better, to see if all you needed was that short break so you can get back into it. Me personally, I’ll keep paying my monthly fee, watch NXT, watch the Pay-Per-Views and the occasional Raw or Smackdown, just to see if the product is improving, times are tough for wrestling fans in terms of quality…but it could be worse. I mean, what if we didn’t have wrestling at all. I like to look back at what has been and gone that we all loved so fondly but I still have to watch what’s going on right now and so should all of you, because if you don’t, who knows what kind of future wrestling’s going to have? Sometimes tuning out, it does more harm then good…

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Hello and welcome back to About Gaming with redscores (that’s me).

In About Gaming we will talk about all things gaming-related, topics can be anything from “Multiplayer” to “Psychology in Gaming” everything can happen.

About Gaming will probably appear once a week, and I hope you have a great time… now onto our great Topic for today:

Choose your own Adventure

What is “Choose-your-own-Adventure”?

This episode of About Gaming goes back to the roots of gaming, long before any console existed and tabletop games were just introduced into the world.

At that time there was a different way to delve into a deep fantasy world, through books.

But those were not necessarily novels, they were interactive in a way.

Those books were called “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books.

But how does that work? Interactive books?

Well, the basic idea is that you do not read this book page for page, but each page will force you to make a choice and dependant on the choice you get to read a different page.

For example:

You walk through an forest and see a troll at a crossroads, one of the roads going to the north with a bridge on the path. The other road leads deeper into the forest but seems to suffer from heavy overgrowth, nearly concealing the path ahead.

What will you do?

1) Talk with the Troll
2) Take the Road leading over the Bridge to the north
3) Take the overgrown Road into the Forest

Depending on the choice, the book would tell you to go to a different page.

This basic idea coupled with good writing and interesting stories made these books extremely appealing to kids and young adults.

These “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books came in all kinds. From fantasy adventures to science fiction or even drama everything was made.

Why are “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books important for gaming?

Well, the obvious answer is that these books were the first medium where you could make your own decisions.

This laid the groundwork for the video games that were to come in the future.

These Books were very involving and had a much higher re-read “value” than other books and were very popular with kids and young adults, catapulting those books to be pretty much culture hits from the start.

As you may already guessed, the “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Books were the prototypes of games like:

The Elder Scrolls Series,
Gothic Series

and so on.

It is a safe guess that pretty much the idea of interactive mediums was grandfathered by these books.

So, I think it is safe to say that without those books, gaming today would not be as it is now, and the idea of “Choose-your-own-Adventure” is not even lost yet, these still exist in form of games and books.

A few examples:

Heroes Rise Series,
The original Choose your own Adventure Series

and many more.

The Heroes Rise Series is a game series on Steam published by Choice of Games and written by Zachary Sergi, which made other great “Choose-your-own-Adventure”-Games. (Choice of Games)

These Games are text-only games with a input interface, emulating the book variation.

They sport an intense story and meaningful choices you can make to shape your own story.

Give them a shot, this nichê of gaming is still sprawling and offers great entertainment in addition to forming the gaming we know today.

I hope you enjoyed our little retrospective and play some Choose-your-own-Adventure.

Because YOU decide!

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This time, let’s look at the idea of focusing on e-sports for a game.

Competitive gaming has evolved somewhere within the last decade to be a big enough thing to throw money at with flashy stadiums filled with spectators, so let’s have a little comparison between three games that made it and three that didn’t.

Dead Games

Plenty of games have been produced in the past that declared themselves “geared for e-sports.” Most of them are dead these days.

Shadowrun the FPS comes to mind. The game wasn’t all that bad, really; a Counter Strike with magic and sci-fi tech. But at the end of it all, the game felt lacking. It felt as though there wasn’t much to it and you were just going through the same motions every time. Fairly quickly after launch, Microsoft did what they do best and shut down the studio involved.

ShootMania Storm was a thing that came up a while back that I never got around to playing. It was frequently announced to be made for competitive players and had a sort of simplistic laser tag aesthetic. Reviews for the game on Steam tend to all be “Cool game, but nobody’s playing and the developer isn’t fixing anything.”

Firefall ain’t dead yet, but they dropped player versus player like a rock. They wanted adversarial gameplay to be like a tournament where players brought their hard earned gear to the arena and would duke it out. They couldn’t mesh a satisfactory balance between individuality and consistency, so it tended to be boring, resulting in the entire gameplay segment being removed. Nobody wanted to shoot each other!

Successful Games

DOTA 2 and League of Legends are still going strong, despite being remakes of Warcraft III maps. They actually seem to be the most popular competitive games right now. From what I can see, they framed the original Warcraft design and expanded from there. New characters were added, persistent elements like ranking and collectibles came in, and stats were tweaked constantly for balance. It seems that the games have been evolving to suit their market (although DOTA 2 might have been the competitive League of Legends market).

Halo has always been a popular choice for e-sports. I remember how much of the Xbox Live community idolized the idea of MLG and would play competitive custom matches together. In the case of Halo, competition always centered around restrictions. Players would always start with the most dynamically effective weapon and weaker, alternative choices were often outright removed from the map. Halo games have the option to adjust the game rules to something consistent and competitive, but that’s only a small subset of a much more complex game with plenty of “random” content like vehicles flying around, which has kept the series alive for years.

Hearthstone wasn’t even remotely built for competition (possibly even downright casual in its design) and yet there is a competitive scene to it – enough that they’ve added a spectator mode to the game in order to properly broadcast it. The game simply evolved into competition.

Takeaway

My interpretation over the previous years in terms of what product lives or dies with competitive gaming is that you can’t just make a tournament game and expect it to sell.

The games that do try seem to fail because they lack interesting content. Your game needs a consistent community or nobody is going to give money to pros for playing them. Successful competitive games focus on being an entertaining game first and give e-sports the tools needed to make a tournament show out of it.

E-sports is definitely growing, so we’ll see if it becomes a viable primary target demographic in the future, but I still think the key is to just make a fun game.

If you’re looking to find me outside of this realm, I’m @ALIENwolve on Twitter.

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