It's All About the Game
Note: Throughout this review I will frequently use wrestling jargon. So as not to interrupt the flow of piece, time will not be taken to explain each term. Instead, linked here is a glossary of terms.
First, a little about me: my name is Michael David Sims and I hold both a BA and MFA in Creative Writing. I’m the editor of two literary websites (Bluelit.com and Rewrites.net), two literary journals (Blue and Hair Trigger 25), as well as the Multimedia section of this very site. Lastly, I’m an Adjunct Professor in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago, and a wrestling fan.
That’s right, I watch wrestling. Because there’s this ill-conceived notion that everyone who watches “sports entertainment” is either a child or a fat schlub, jaws drop when people learn how much I love to watch my weekly doses of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).
I tell you this because I want you to understand where I’m coming from. As a teacher I’m obviously educated, but, to most, admitting I’m a wrestling fan casts a long, dark shadow over any degree I hold, doesn’t it? But never mind that.
Saying I’m a “wrestling fan” is a bit misleading. More accurately, I’m a fan of the WWE, if only because I can’t afford the weekly Pay-Per-View produced by NWA-TNA. Spending each and every weekend traveling around to support IWA Mid-South isn’t feasible. Ring of Honor (ROH) hardly ever come this far west, so, again, catching a live show is next to impossible. So even though I want to watch other wrestling promotions, I want to see them survive and grow and bring true competition to the stale WWE, it’s not fiscally viable. This is a real shame, because some of these regional promotions have true talent that, given the chance, could rival the WWE’s top guys in not only ring skills but popularity.
And this is where Extreme Warfare Revenge (EWR) comes in. A simple text-based wrestling simulation that puts you in control of whatever company (fictional or reality-based) you chose. With you as the head booker, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), or even American Wrestling Association (AWA) can rise from the ashes and regain their former glory. Or maybe you want to take NWA-TNA, IWA Mid-South, or ROH all the way to the top and do what no company has been able to do—destroy Vince McMahon’s WWE. Then again, maybe you want to be at the helm of the WWE, and crush every promotion, not matter how big or small, under your thumb.
It’s all too easy to take control of the WWE, with established stars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Chris Jericho, and keep them at the top. Because of their popularity, fans (virtual or not) will shell out the cash to watch these men compete, thus keeping the McMahon empire afloat and your virtual job as head booker stable.
Where the fun, skill, and challenge lies is not only in increasing your company’s popularity, but getting your workers over and keeping the fans happy. That means booking angles and feuds between men (or women, no need to be sexist here) of similar in-ring styles.
For instance, one wouldn’t necessarily place the lumbering brawler Kevin Nash into a feud with the technically sound Chris Benoit, if only because their styles clash. (No pun intended… and how many people actually got that?) Then again, maybe Benoit will use the in-game e-mail system to let you know that he wants to work with Nash. Maybe the (virtual) Benoit sees something, some potential chemistry that will benefit both men by the time you chose to end the feud. If booked properly, hopefully both men will get over and rise from the upper midcard to the main event. If booked poorly, with one man getting victory after victory or ended too quickly, one or both of the workers will suffer and their morale will drop. The lower their moral, the worse their matches get. The worse their matches get, the fewer fans who tune in. The fewer fans who tune it, the lower the ratings. The lower the ratings, the unhappier the network. The unhappier the network, and your show gets cancelled. Without a show, the workers can’t get over and the unhappier they’ll become. It’s a nasty downward spiral if I ever saw one, ultimately leading to your termination and the end of the game.
Which, as far as I can tell, is the only way this game can end. There is no end goal installed by the designer, Adam Ryland. (However, I almost wish Ryland would have made it so that you could not control the WWE; that the ultimate goal was to cripple the global empire. But if that were the case, this wouldn’t be a simulation.) The only goals are the ones you set. With me, I’ve created my own company and thrown myself into the deep end—doing my damnedest to keep my head above water. My goals are simple, but extremely difficult to execute: 1) take charismatic jobbers all the way to the main event; 2) make the fans care about female workers without resorting to the tasteless Bra & Panties Match or the crass Buck Naked Match; 3) take a woman all the way to the main event, and have her successfully hold/defend the Heavyweight Championship against male competitors; 4) to not rely on 1980’s WWE Superstars (especially Hulk Hogan) to gain in popularity; 5) to steal away the WWE’s top draws and use them to put over my up-and-coming talent; 6) to bankrupt the WWE; 7) to remain at the top.
If there are any drawbacks to EWR, they’re minor but nagging ones. Such as, I wish your workers could shoot, that real life relationships came into play more, that there was an option for a squash, that heel and face turns could happen during a match, that the fans could pop for a heel and slowly turn him face or vice versa, that Zack Gowen’s handicap (he’s one-legged) was taken into account, that the in-game websites hosted fan feedback on mock chat forums. These additions would further immerse one into the world that is professional wrestling/sports entertainment. But that would just be icing on an already tasty cake.
What one has to remember is that wrestling is and always has been entertainment, but what the owners, bookers, and stars never took into account was the way in which many fans would eventually wrap their lives around the very business. Recently I was so impressed by IWA Mid-South that I would travel to every one of their weekend shows if I could, but driving up and down Indiana (from Highland to Salem) isn’t going to happen. But there are others who do devote their lives to such tasks, appearing as regular faces in the small crowds. Cheering beacons to light the faces and spirits of the Indy stars as they scratch and claw their way to the big show. (Again, no pun intended.)
While wrestling was marked towards children in the 1980s (with simple black and white/good guy v bad guy angles), the wrestling boom of the 1990s (and it’s often profane language) shifted the attention away from children and to adults—and this is where the lifestyle of following promotions from event to event really took off. Slowly the WWE (then WWF) and WCW realized this, and even went so far as to alter their video games to incorporate more adult themes and violence. (What could be better than taking a steel chair to the head of Triple H… over and over and over again?) With this, fans were able to live out their dreams of in-ring competition by controlling the wrestlers. And though that’s all well and good, smarks wanted something more—something different. We wanted to control the situations, not necessarily the workers. We wanted to prove to ourselves, our friends, and online buddies that we, indeed, could produce a better show than the McMahons, and, short of coming into millions of dollars, here’s our chance.