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The Year of B-Games–Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

What is It?
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a stand-alone expansion of the first-person shooter Far Cry 3. It’s completely unrelated to the original game, and can be played on its own. The game is a $15 download for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an homage to the sci-fi and action movies that dominated the 80s and early 90s. Starring Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, Planet Terror) as Sgt. Rex Power Colt, Blood Dragon takes place in the post-apocalyptic future of 2007. Rex travels to an isolated island to track down a rogue super soldier and uncovers a plot to infect the world with a plague that will turn regular humans into Cro-Magnon savages. Aided by scientist Dr. Elizabeth Darling (the always excellent Grey DeLisle), Rex has to thwart the plan and save the world.

Why Does it Make the B-Game List?
This game was invented for the B-list. Not for its mechanics or production value mind you, but because every single pixel of this game is oozing 80s B-movie awesomeness.

Watch this trailer and tell me this isn’t the greatest thing you’ve ever seen:

It’s a love letter to every B-movie ever made. It’s also a $15 download that offers anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of campaign play, although you could easily spend upwards of 20 hours doing everything. I’ve got 11 hours clocked in now and I just finished the campaign but have tons of side missions left.

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Why It’s Worth Playing
The presentation alone makes this gem worth playing. There are so many fantastic references to the movies I grew up with that it’s like someone took images from my unconscious brain and made a game out of them. Terminator, Big Trouble in Little China, Transformers, He-Man, Aliens, Predator, Universal Soldier, American Ninja, Krull, Die Hard, Rambo, Robocop, Army of Darkness, Commando, and many more serve as the inspiration for the world, characters, weapons and dialogue of Blood Dragon.

The soundtrack is amazing as well. Power Glove must have locked themselves in room with John Carpenter and Harold Faltermeyer (Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun), because their score is pitch perfect.

But let’s not forget that the game is built on the Far Cry 3 engine, which is top-notch. The open-world nature of the game means you can roam all over the island and surrounding waters (be careful for cyber sharks–seriously), and you can take the story missions at your own pace for the most part. There is a “point of no return” where you have to complete the final missions, but after you finish the main campaign, you can still go back to the game and do all the side stuff.

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Where Does it Stumble?
My only real frustration with the game came in the second to last mission, where you have to battle through different sections of a temple against waves of enemies, and you have one specific weapon for each level. The mission itself is a parody, but it did become frustrating, as the enemies swarm you constantly and it was the only place in the game where I died several times in a row before finally beating it.

You could also make the case that the side missions are repetitive and add nothing to the story, but because the mechanics are so good, I didn’t mind at all.

Closing Thoughts
I can honestly say I have not had this much fun with a game since Saints Row: The Third. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an absolute blast from start to finish, and it’s scary how well they captured the tropes of 80s sci-fi/action movies.

This game really makes me happy for another reason too–it proves that there is a place for lower-priced, shorter experiences when they’re done well. I hope the game does well so we can see more devs taking chances on smaller games like this. And I like the notion of the big-budget, triple A games being the foundation that these stand-alone experiences are built on. Imagine if we got Mass Effect games like this that featured whole new storylines in the same universe. We’ve seen Alan Wake, GTA IV and even Call of Juarez do similar things, but I want more.

This game is totally worth your $15. If you have any love for the 80s at all, you’ll have a ton of fun with it–and that’s a Rex Colt guarantee.

You can check out a pretty funny interview with Biehn himself about the game below.

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It’s Not You, PS4 and Xbox One–It’s Me

So, Microsoft had their Xbox Reveal event today and announced the XBox One. Similar in specs to the PS4, XBox One seems to be differentiating itself in terms of it’s commitment to being your one media box, with a focus on TV, web and Skype integration. There are a million articles about the new box, and Game Informer has a nice hub of info here.

Right now, I own an XBox 360, PS3, WiiU and 3DS in terms of gaming-centric devices. I also own a smartphone, an iPad 2 and a Kindle Fire HD. Yes, I have a bit of a tech-buying problem. Here’s the crazy thing, though–with all those devices, I currently spend less than five total hours a week playing games.

And that is really the big difference between now and when the last console generation started. When I first picked up an XBox 360, I had one less child, and a lot more free time. I spent an average of 15-20 hours a week gaming, sometimes more. Every weekend I was up until the wee hours on XBox Live with friends. I put hundreds of hours into Modern Warfare and the Left 4 Dead series, among others. I also spent a hefty amount of time with the PS3, much of it on RPGs that I pumped countless hours into as well. I’ve spent over 300 hours on the Souls series alone.

Over the past two years though, my gaming has decreased dramatically. Picking up the WiiU was probably a mistake–not because there’s not enough games for it, but because I have little time to actually play it. Don’t get me wrong, ZombiU was amazing and I’ve had a blast playing Lego City with my son, but the lesson I’ve learned here is that I just don’t have the time to be the gamer I used to be anymore.

Not to mention, as the “Year of B-Games” has reminded me, there are a ton of XBox 360, PS3 and Wii games that I still want to play. At my current gaming rate, these could last me years–literally.

Which may ultimately mean that I don’t end up grabbing either the Xbox One or the PS4 come this fall. My compulsion to buy new tech will surely be eating away at me, and I’m sure I’ll cave at some point. But I think there’s a very good chance that for me, the next console generation will be a one console generation. I’m going to have to pick one and go all-in, as I simply don’t have the time (or money) to justify being a multiple console owner anymore.

I’m still looking forward to E3, and I’m still excited about the future when it comes to games. But much like the other hobbies that have been marginalized over the years, my days of 24/7 gaming are over. I may be spectating for much of the next generation, as I’ll still be playing catch up on the games I have yet to experience from current consoles.

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I Love Standalone Expansions

After hearing a lot of positive buzz about Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I was really interested in checking it out. I was pleasantly surprised when I did a little research and saw that I did not need Far Cry 3 in order to play Blood Dragon. And that got me to thinking about the idea of standalone expansions when it comes to console games.

The last dev I can remember really embracing the standalone expansions was Rockstar, both with GTA IV (Lost and the Damned, Ballad of Gay Tony) and Red Dead Redemption (Undead Nightmare). There’s got to be more out there, but my point is that this approach is not very common when it comes to console games.

But it should be. Because I had no intention of picking up Far Cry 3–I really didn’t enjoy Far Cry 2 that much. BUT, if I really dig Blood Dragon, there’s a good chance that I’ll go back and pick up the main game. At the end of the day, I might end up spending $75 on a game series I wasn’t planning on picking up at all.

It’s the low-risk investment in the expansion pack that is my gateway into Far Cry 3. I’m guessing that I’m not alone, and I’d like to see more devs and publishers approach DLC this way. I know that seems counter intuitive, as most games are being designed to discourage trade ins, but I wonder if in the long run, Ubi makes more money on Blood Dragon sales to non-Far Cry 3 players than people who kept the game.

What other franchises have done the standalone expansion thing for consoles?

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The Nintendo 3DS Is Enjoying An Embarrassment of Riches Right Now

After a rough launch two years ago, the Nintendo 3DS has emerged as one of the strongest consoles of this generation and right now, it may be the best console on the market. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but for a console that just launched in 2011, the 3DS had an amazing software lineup, and the next year is looking fantastic as well. In the US alone, the 3DS has sold over 8 million units, which is a better pace than the original DS set in its first two years.

In the past two months, Fire Emblem Awakening (240,000 units in US), Monster Hunter 3D Ultimate and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (415,000 units) have all had strong launches. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is coming in June and will likely be a huge hit on the 3DS as well.

In yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, a slew of new 3DS games, as well as upcoming virtual console releases were announced. Mario Golf: World Tour, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, a new Mario Party, a new Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, the latest Professor Layton, and a sequel to Zelda: Link to the Past, are all planned for release this year.

On the virtual console and eShop front, two Zelda GameBoy games (Oracle of Ages /Oracle of Seasons) are coming in May, three new Level-5 games are on the way and the acclaimed Bravely Default: Flying Fairy from Square Enix is coming later this year. It’s already been a great year for the eShop, with games like Crimson Shroud, Cave Story, Crashmo, and Tokyo Crash Mobs, to name a few. The virtual console offerings are robust as well, especially if you were part of the Ambassador Program. Even in just the last few months, NES gems like Ninja Gaiden and Zelda II have arrived, adding to a huge collection of classics that are already available.

It’s really an amazing time to be a 3DS owner. There is a great balance of classic and new games available for the console, and with gems like Liberation Maiden and Crimson Shroud, well-known developers are flexing their creative muscle with downloadable titles that are a perfect fit for the handheld.

If there’s one negative about how awesome the 3DS is doing right now, it’s that the WiiU’s struggles seem even greater by comparison. If there’s one thing Nintendo proved with the 3DS though, it’s how to recover from a poor start. Let’s hope they learn some lessons from the 3DS soon.

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Will Saints Row IV be the Greatest Game of All Time?

Perhaps not, but the folks at Volition and Deep Silver have certainly put together one hell of an announce trailer.

I unabashedly love the Saints Row series, and would name both Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third among my favorite games of this generation. For me, Saints Row began with the template set forth by GTA, but then took all the boring parts out, and allowed players to have chaotic fun within the sandbox they created. With each entry, the story has gotten crazier, and this time around, it seems the Third Street Saints have made their way to the White House, which is a perfectly logical extension of the series storyline if you ask me.

I am beyond excited for Saints Row IV, especially since it looks like the game has a little bit of Crackdown infused into it, which is another of my favorite games this generation. Either way, I’ll be watching this new trailer once a day until the game arrives in August. I’m also considering labeling Saints Row 2 and 3  “B-Games” just so I can write a bunch about them in my “Year of B-Games” series.

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Let the Year of “B-Games” Begin!!

A couple weeks ago I posted about how I just don’t have the time in my life anymore to play games as much as I’d like to. As a result, I’m buying fewer games, but spending more time with those games, trying to get as much out of the experience as I can. One of the byproducts of this approach is that it has largely freed me from the “new release” cycle of gaming, where I needed to play all the new games when everyone else was playing them, just to feel connected to the conversations of the moment. Now I pick and choose, buying games that I am really interested in, and often buying them months after release, when the price has dropped, or picking them up during digital sales on Steam, PSN or XBox Live.

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that my gaming tastes have changed over the past few years as well, and they now resemble my taste in movies more than ever. Specifically, I find myself more interested in low-budget and overlooked games than in big budget, AAA releases. And I’m not necessarily talking about indie games. I’m talking about console games that, if they were movies, would be put in the “B-Movie” category. They could fall into this category for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is that they were made on a small budget compared to their more high-profile brethren. But, they also could have had a rocky development cycle, or a really short development cycle (as a lot of licensed games have). Or maybe they’re a port of a game that was put out on another platform. Whatever the reason, I want to play these games.

But wait, you might say, you don’t even have time to play all the “good” games. Why would you spend time with games that are, in many cases, not very good at all?

I will answer that by going back to my movie analogy. My favorite genre is low-budget horror movies. The reason I love these movies so much is that I’m always fascinated to see what the director, the cast, and the special effects team do with the limitations they have. Do they set the movie in one location? Do they overly rely on digital effects, or do they invest in practical effects at the cost of something else? What things does the movie prioritize, and what does it compromise? Does the story rely on a bunch of tropes, or really try to do something different? And if it does use tropes, how well does it execute on them?

I think the same way about low-budget or “B-category” games. What did the devs decide to prioritize versus compromise? Does the game have some really interesting systems but really bad visuals? Is the story the strong point, but the mechanics are bad? What’s the game’s strongest quality? What did the developer decide to build around? What are the interesting qualities of this game, despite the fact that it might not be very good overall?

In many ways, as someone who enjoys thinking about the process behind the product, “B-games” are so much more interesting to play than most big-budget games.

Don’t get me wrong, I still play a lot of big-budget games, and many of them are awesome and very interesting. But there is something about those mid to lower-tier games that fascinates me. And the reasons I’ve been thinking about this issue now are twofold. First, I am fascinated by the discussion around Aliens: Colonial Marines, and I will be grabbing it as soon as it drops in price. Second, since we are entering the end of this console generation, there is a whole library of games that are available on the cheap. Games you would never think of paying $60 for can be gotten for under $10 in most cases.

So, over the next year I’m going to revisit some of the “B-games” I’ve played, trying to finish the ones I can and figure out why I left the ones I didn’t finish. I’m looking forward to writing about them.

I’m sure everyone out there has their own definition of a “B-game,” but here’s a list of some that I’ve played that fit my definition:

Velvet Assassin                                                          The Saboteur
Legendary                                                                   Alone in the Dark
Alpha Protocol                                                            Dark Sector
Binary Domain                                                            Brink
Clive Barker’s Jericho                                                 Damnation
Deadly Premonition                                                    Far Cry Vengeance (Wii)
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra                                          Hellboy: The Science of Evil
X-Blades                                                                     Rise of Nightmares
Section 8: Prejudice                                                   Shadowrun
Two Worlds I & II                                                        The Conduit
Wanted: Weapons of Fate                                         Wet
Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger                   The Club

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What 1UP Meant to Me

I was very saddened this week to hear that one of my all-time favorite gaming sites, 1UP, was shut down by it’s parent company, Ziff Davis. As I mentioned in some recent blogs, 1UP was one of the few sites out there that was providing unique discussions on gaming, as opposed to the press-release driven news cycle that a lot of other sites are stuck in. I feared that they wouldn’t be able to sustain their approach, and sadly I was right.

But rather than dwell on the fact that 1UP has come to end, I want to focus on their legacy. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that this blog, the Secret Identity podcast, and my own time as a gaming journalist would never have happened if it weren’t for 1UP. Allow me to explain.

I started Secret Identity with my podcast co-host Matt Herring in March of 2006. At that point in time, there were two podcasts that I listened to religiously–1UP Yours and This Week in Tech (TWiT). It was because of these two shows that I had been thinking for some time about starting a podcast of my own, and I eventually convinced Matt, who didn’t even know what a podcast was at the time) that we could start our own show focused around comics and other areas of our geeky hobbies. The driving factor for me was that I enjoyed listening to discussion about things I was passionate about. These kinds of discussion reminded me of the way I used to talk about games and comics with my friends at the arcade, the comic shop, the game store, etc. I wanted to create a podcast that felt to our listeners like they were hanging out with us every week at the comic shop. And so, Secret Identity was born. We will be recording our 500th episode next week, and we’ve been going strong for seven years.

In 2008, my love of 1UP had been at a fever pitch for years. In addition to the stellar 1UP Yours podcast, I was listening to CGW/GFW weekly as well, and devouring the 1UP Show videos that are still today considered the standard for visual discussions on gaming. I wanted to try my hand at being a game journalist, as I was exploring different avenues to take with my writing. Through a friend I had made through Secret Identity (Dan Evans), I reached out to Jonah Weiland at Comic Book Resources, arguably the most respected comic news site on the web, and pitched the idea of covering comic-related games to him. He accepted, and what followed was a two-year stint as the coordinator and primary content creator of gaming coverage for CBR. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity, as I was given freedoms at CBR in terms of our approach that I never would have had as a freelancer for a gaming-centirc site. Getting to cover some of today’s major franchises like Dead Space and Batman: Arkham Asylum from both gaming and comic perspectives was exactly the kind of coverage I wanted to be a part of. When I left in 2010, it was for no other reason than I simply could no longer keep working for CBR in addition to some of the other commitments in my life. I still hope to return someday.

Which brings us to Co-Op Critics. It’s no secret (no pun intended) that I would love to do more gaming coverage on Secret Identity, but our audience is largely comic readers, and a good portion of them aren’t gamers. So, I decided to start doing “special episodes” of the podcast dedicated to gaming, where those who were interested could enjoy them, but those who just wanted comics could listen to the regular weekly shows. Because the Co-Op Critics podcasts are infrequent though, I was still itching for more games discussion, and so the blog was born. And although it’s taken a good year to really get up and running, I am loving where Co-Op Critics is at right now. The discussions are exactly what I hoped they would be–about our experiences with the games we put so much time into. Old games, new games, console games, mobile games–it doesn’t matter. Whatever we’re playing, if we have something to share about it, we can do that here. This approach is both in response to what I don’t like about a lot of current games coverage, as well as inspiration I took from the recent incarnation of 1UP, and their wonderful Cover Stories series.

Which is why it’s such a bummer that 1UP is closing its doors. I fear for the direction that game journalism and gaming sites are heading right now, and every time we lose a unique voice, it makes me a little more afraid. However, all I have to do is look at the legacy and the years worth of content that 1UP leaves behind to be reminded of what great games discussion looks and sounds like. I hope that in the wake of 1UP’s closure, people start going back and revisiting what came out of that site, and that what they learn helps shape what we see moving forward.

It may be cliche, but it fits–1UP, you are gone, but not forgotten. Thanks for the memories, the inspiration, and the countless hours of enjoyment you’ve provided me over the past several years.

NOTE: I’m not sure how much longer the content on the 1UP site will be available, so you might want to download whatever content you plan on checking out ASAP.

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I’m Not the Gamer I Used to Be

I will preface this entire post by admitting that I am about to state the obvious.

This past weekend, I came to a realization. Quite simply, I no longer have the money or the time in my life to be the gamer I used to be. In my head, I want to keep up with the hobby that I love–the new game releases, the industry news, the reviews, and all of the discussion of games that is constantly happening on Twitter and other places on the internet. But my life no longer allows for that kind of dedication.

In some ways, I am still that gamer in my mind, as I do spend an awful lot of time thinking about games throughout the course of any given day. Games I’m playing, games I want to play, things I want to write about games–these thoughts are constantly swimming around in my head.

But when it comes down to it, I’m lucky if I have a few hours a week to dedicate to actually playing games. Sure, there are some rare occasions when I get a free weekend day to myself and put several hours into a game (that happened recently with ZombiU), but most of my gaming time is spent in one-hour long increments, after my kids go to bed, or in a two-hour chunk of time on a Friday night. For the past six months, I would say I’ve spent less than five hours a week gaming on average. I don’t see that number increasing dramatically in the near future, either.

Even though I just had my epiphany the other day, the more I thought about it, the more I realized my approach to gaming as a hobby has been profoundly changing over the last year or so. Gone are the days when I pick up every major release on the day it comes out. In the past year, I believe Halo 4 was the only one I picked up on day one (although I could be wrong–I’m getting old). Not only do I not have the funds to keep up with new releases, but my biggest challenge is finding the time to spend on them.

Nowadays, I pick up one game at a time, and I try to squeeze every bit of the experience out of it. I’ve spent more time with Halo 4 than any of the previous Halo games. I just finished ZombiU and wrote twelve blog posts about it. I’m still playing Left 4 Dead 2 as my go-to multiplayer game. And Super Mario 3D World has been stuck in my 3DS for ages, getting completed one level at a time.

And here’s the thing–I am actually enjoying playing games more than I have in a long time. By spending more time on each game, I’m having a deeper experience with each one. I’m writing more about the games I play, because I’m spending more time with them.

But there’s still a part of me that thinks like the gamer I used to be, the one that had the time and money to play almost everything that came out, when it came out. I miss that guy sometimes, and those days are pretty much gone forever. But, in some ways my relationship with gaming is better than ever, and I need to remind myself about that, as it’s one of the reasons I started this blog–to keep connected to the hobby I love.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day With an Extra-Large Episode of Co-Op Critics!

In this marathon episode of Co-Op Critics, Brian and Dan are joined by Christina Grenhart and Erik Haltson to talk about the current culture of gaming, from online interactions to how games are covered by the enthusiast press.

You can either listen to the episode here on the enbedded player to the right, or download it here.

You can follow Brian on Twitter @BrianLeTendre and check out his blog at www.seebrianwrite.com.

Dan Evans can be found on Twitter @Sk8j

You can find Christina’s amazing blog “Bioware According to Mom” at biowareaccordingtomom.tumblr.com, and you can follow her on twitter at @clgrenhart

You can find Erik Haltson on Twitter @Erik_Haltson, and he will also be posting on Co-Op Critics blog in the future.

For more gaming discussion, head over to www.co-opcritics.com!

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Gaming Stories: Video Game Championship Wrestling III

WWE’s Royal Rumble 2013 will take place this weekend, so it’s as good a time as any to check on one of my favorite online video gaming streams, Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling.

Several developments have taken place since when we last checked in with Video Game Championship Wrestling. The most significant development has been Bazza87’s agreement to a partnership deal with Twitch, which caused a number of fans to raise their concerns about how the stream would theoretically need to change in order to maintain the partnership. In many ways, Bazza87’s partnership with Twitch, which would generate revenue for Bazza87 for the work he puts into making the stream one of the most interesting views on the Web, reminded me of when independent wrestling companies sign deals with television stations and must change. 

When Extreme Championship Wrestling, at the time the third largest wrestling promotion in the United States, signed a national television distribution deal in 1999 with TNN, which was then known as The Nashville Network and transformed into The National Network and is today known as Spike, Extreme Championship Wrestling fans balanced their hope for the company’s survival because of the revenue that this deal brought and the concerns that the company would have to tone down its content in order to satisfy TNN’s advertisers. In many ways, Extreme Championship Wrestling fans’ fears were ultimately confirmed. Recently, when Ring of Honor, the largest independent wrestling company currently in operation and in many ways Extreme Championship Wrestling’s successor, signed a national television distribution deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group, the same concerns about how Ring of Honor would have to change its content in order to satisfy Sinclair Broadcast Group and its advertisers arose among Ring of Honor fans. The fear boils down to the effect money has on art.

Extreme Championship Wrestling, the cautionary example for all independent wrestling companies that followed.

Modern professional wrestling tradition dictates that a wrestler who is perceived to prioritize money over the fans must be taunted with chants of “You sold out!” I can’t say that the chant originated in Extreme Championship Wrestling when its wrestlers would leave the company for more lucrative contracts with World Championship Wrestling or World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment), but its use in Extreme Championship Wrestling certainly popularized it. So, when Bazza87, through “Baz McMahon,” his avatar in Video Game Championship Wrestling show, announced his deal with Twitch during the January 22, 2013 Video Game Championship Wrestling show, he piped in the “You sold out” chant into his show to tie his show to professional wrestling tropes once again. He then addressed his fans’ concerns that the partnership would cause Bazza87 to stop using certain songs during the show by stating unequivocally, “If I play certain music that I don’t have permission to use…this channel could get shut down. Well, what stops me from making a new channel if that happens? I’d lose my partnership sure, but VGCW will live on. So let’s answer the question. Will I stop using certain music? No chance in hell.” And of course the scene ended with “No Chance in Hell,” the theme song for both Baz McMahon in Video Game Championship Wrestling and Mr. McMahon in World Wrestling Entertainment. 

Bazza87’s broadcasting pace has not slowed; since our last post, Bazza87 has held shows on December 23, January 1, January 5, January 13, January 16, January 17, and January 22. The regular scheduling has also continued, but it does not seem to have negatively affected Video Game Championship Wrestling’s popularity. Each show continues to be viewed live by 2000-3000 viewers, and the Twitch chat and the NeoGAF thread remain active during shows.
The Video Game Championship Wrestling championship churn that I discussed last time seems to have stabilized a little. The VGCW Championship bounced from Proto Man to Donkey Kong on the December 19 show and to Solid Snake on the December 23 show, but it has since remained with Raphael, who defeated Solid Snake on the January 1 show. Raphael has defended against Dr. Eggman’s master plan twice and Dan Hibiki. Meanwhile, the team of Dr. Eggman and Dr. Wily, collectively known as The Practice, defeated GameCenter FU, the team of the Angry Video Game Nerd and GameCenter CX’s host Shinya Arino, for the Co-Op Championship on the December 19 show. The Practice defended their titles against Ganondorf and Zangief’s Gerudo Skies before losing them to Mr. Satan and Dan Hibiki’s Raw Power, who have so far successfully defended their titles against Mega Man and Proto Man’s Team Light. 
F.K. In the coffee!

Bazza87 has also tried to refresh the roster by introducing new characters, such as Capcom’s Mike Haggar, Gary Oak, Locke Cole and Sabin Rene Figaro from Final Fantasy VI, and Ron Burgundy while also removing characters like Wreck-It Ralph. Every viewer probably has characters whom he or she thinks should be eliminated or added, and the Video Game Championship Wrestling Wikia now has a character suggestion page to accommodate the fans’ desires. As always, Bazza87’s ability to meet fan requests for characters depends on the availability of the Create-a-Wrestler model in the PS3’s WWE ’13 online community, the need to balance introducing too many new characters and eliminating old favorites, consideration of whether the character would appeal to enough viewers, and whether the character was imbued with enough personality in his or her home game to make him or her worthwhile in a freeform meme melting pot like Video Game Championship Wrestling. For example, Francis York Morgan from Deadly Premonition might be a great character to introduce because of Deadly Premonition‘s cult status, the notoriety of “Life Is Beautiful” from the Deadly Premonition soundtrack, the sheer number of remixes available for “Life Is Beautiful,” and the memes that originated from Deadly Premonition, but he wouldn’t be a good character to add because he’s visually similar to Phoenix Wright, who’s already in the game.

The intersection between the information that viewers bring with them and what happens in the game’s simulation continues to be a primary source of Video Game Championship Wrestling’s entertainment. In the Pokemon cartoon, Ash Ketchum toiled in Gary Oak’s shadow. On the January 6, 2013 show, Gary Oak debuted in Video Game Championship Wrestling to challenge Ash Ketchum and remind him that Gary Oak is better than Ash Ketchum. To the viewers’ surprise, Ash Ketchum beat Gary Oak, as the game’s AI decided that Ash Ketchum was better than Gary Oak on that day.  

Ash was no loser on the January 6, 2013 show.

Furthermore, Bazza87 has addressed the difficulty of creating compelling professional wrestling storylines caused by his inability to directly control the matches’ outcomes by relying more heavily on WWE ’13‘s story creation tools. The current storyline concerns Phoenix Wright’s quest to uncover who ran down Little Mac with a sedan. Nappa joined Phoenix Wright in this investigation, while Baz McMahon continued to hinder their attempts to uncover the culprit by pitting them against his stooges, Ezio, Raphael, and Gary Oak. On the January 22, 2013 show, Phoenix Wright, Nappa, and Solid Snake were able to defeat Ezio, Raphael, and Gary Oak in a tag team match, which then allowed Phoenix Wright to arrest Baz McMahon. However, Bazza87 was able to use another tool available to him, direct text insertion into the Twitch video player, to create a cutscene to show that Baz McMahon was only a red herring and that there is someone else responsible for Little Mac’s accident.

If Baz McMahon wasn’t the real culprit, who is?

While Phoenix Wright’s investigation continues to be the central storyline running through Video Game Championship Wrestling, my favorite has been the rise and fall of Vegeta, jobber extraordinaire. Vegeta had earned his reputation for futility by losing almost every singles match in which he’s participated until he faced fan favorite Charles Barkley. While Charles Barkley has one of the best theme songs in Video Game Championship Wrestling, he’s had middling success in matches. He reached his lowest point when he lost to Vegeta on the January 16, 2013 show; this loss started a small feud between Vegeta and Charles Barkley and between Vegeta’s fans and Charles Barkley’s supporters. While Charles Barkley was able to win a Best Out of 3 Falls match against Vegeta, Vegeta has actually won 2 matches against Charles Barkley, to Barkley’s eternal shame. Everyone enjoys stories of redemption, and Vegeta’s little redemption at Barkley’s expense was particularly entertaining.

Finally, the community’s involvement with Video Game Championship Wrestling expanded when the Video Game Championship Wikia opened. Fans sprang to action to create entries detailing each wrestler, the stream’s history, and documenting the universe that Bazza87 and the fans have created, such as the sordid history of Table-san. This type of community involvement is key to Video Game Championship Wrestling’s sustainability.

Time passes and things change, but Video Game Championship Wrestling continues to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the gaming community that I’ve experienced. There was a rumor that the organizers of the Evo Championship Series were willing to exhibit Video Game Championship Wrestling at Evo 2013, but nothing seems to have come out of that rumor so far. Bazza87 has addressed some of the major concerns about the stream’s sustainability that I outlined in my previous posts about Video Game Championship Wrestling, and I look forward to how Video Game Championship Wrestling will continue to evolve in the future.