The Weird, Sort Of Broken, Yet Oddly Compelling World Of Video Game Championship Wrestling
In the ring, an oversized abomination of a man wrapped in a brown carpet squares off against Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z. After a few moments it dawns on me that the larger man is supposed to be Donkey Kong. Now the situation makes much more sense.
Vegeta gains the upper hand, slamming Donkey Kong to the mat with a devastating maneuver. Donkey Kong's furry bulk clips through the ring as a virtual fan in the crowd excitedly holds up a sign that simply declares "YOLO".
"I just can't get over the physicality of this match!" shouts an excited Jerry Lawler.
Donkey Kong pulls off a clean pinfall victory. As the 1,000+ members of the chat room go wild, an injured and exhausted Donkey Kong stumbles to his feet, the ref congratulating as the DK Rap blares.
This is Video Game Championship Wrestling, and it gets better - and stupider - as the night goes on.
VGCW is a livestream in which user-created wrestlers face off against one another in WWE '13. Specifically, wrestlers that have some loose connection to video games, fighting in CPU vs. CPU matches. The results of each matchup determine what's going to happen in the next event. There are even cinematic storylines that occasionally pop up, put together in the WWE '13 editor.
Sitting in a chat room with thousands of people watching a computer play against itself seems odd. Somehow, though, I get the feeling that human competition would detract from the madness. This is a jarring combination of wrestling's silly showmanship and gaming's most nonsensical characters. This is Mike Haggar raising a Kendo bamboo sword into the air and thumping his impossibly large chest as a geyser of phosphorous sparks erupt behind him. This is Dr. Wiley pulling up in a luxury car, stepping out, then slapping his championship belt with a cocky swagger. It's only fitting to let the computer run wild in all its awkward, occasionally glitchy glory.
And there are plenty of technical oddities on display. Characters clear the announcer table as if preparing for an incredible move, then walk away and forget what they were about to do. One wrestler will attempt to wrap another up, only to find that his opponent has teleported behind him. When two dudes team up on one guy they bump against one another and walk in place as if they were both trying to walk through a small doorway at the same time.
Linked together by a suitably bizarre continuity, VGCW has more going for it than the average livestream. The results of each show feed into the next event, with in-game vignettes setting up storylines that equal anything currently on the WWE. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but it works.
By the end of the stream that I caught, there were nearly 2,000 simultaneous viewers going nuts. Zangief was driven through the announcer's table, spasming, the camera zooming in on his shocked face as a grisly wound on his forehead bled out. Flowing mane met majestic mullet as Liquid Snake faced off against Solid Snake. Phoenix Wright got on the mic to call out WWE commissioner Vince McMahon, hoping to get to the bottom of a compelling mystery. The referee awkwardly stumbled into the path of pretty much everyone.
This probably seems like a big fat waste of time. Well, everything in life that doesn't involve bettering yourself or having fun is a waste of time. You probably won't become a better person by tuning in to VGCW. If you're able to enjoy entertainment that wears its absurdity as a badge of honor, you'll probably have a blast.
Half business sim and half depressing portrait of real life, this is one of the best games that I couldn't stand to play for more than half an hour. 8/10
DMC: Devil May Cry
This isn't a complete disaster, but I'm not a fan of the sneering main character or the fact that this is a twitchy action-focused game that only runs at 30fps. 6/10
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They told us to stop playing videogames on a school night. If only we'd ignored them.
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