Exiting the Tomodachi Life

Though I’m an online creature, I don’t think that the online version of me is radically different than the meatspace version of me that occupies the physical world. The same brain directs both versions of me, even though the brain has to adjust to how each version of me interacts with and receives feedback from its respective world. The same soul is reflected in how the digital and physical me interacts with the people who inhabit each world.

Since I never made a distinction between the digital and the physical me, I never saw the point of playing social simulations like The Sims, Animal Crossing, or Harvest Moon. Furthermore, the physical act of playing social simulations like The Sims or Animal Crossing seemed particularly tedious; there didn’t seem to be the type of feedback that more active games like character action-adventure games or sports simulation games or first person shooters can provide.

So, I was surprised at my own reaction to what I saw of Tomodachi Life, specifically when the Giant Bomb crew played it on an episode of their weekly show, Unprofessional Fridays. The game’s quirkiness appealed to me, and for a while, it kept me glued to the game on my commute to work every morning. One morning, I found that Jesus of Nazareth, whom I had invited to live on island, named Tummy Isle Island, had been arrested for adding hot mustard to foods around the island. No explanation was given for why Jesus had made this his mission, and the other residents of Tummy Isle Island had muted reactions to this news. Another morning, Jesus attempted to break the world record of facial distortion by stretching his face but failed by an inch. Did Jesus go on his hot mustard mission because he failed to break this world record, or was it because I fed him something that he didn’t like the day before? Another morning, one resident dreamed an ill-fated romance between a brownie and a stack of pancakes. On a different morning, another resident dreamed that he was a bobblehead on a dashboard of a car that was racing through a dark forest. One night, my own avatar dreamed that he was a snail crawling along a blank white floor. These snippets sound like gibberish when I recount them to anyone else.

Though quirky and kooky stuff have a fairly limited lifespan (I’ve seen the dashboard bobblehead dream multiple times from different residents, so it seems like something with which the game likes to populate its characters’ dreams), that wasn’t what ultimately caused me to  finally put Tomodachi Life aside. Instead, it’s something that should seem impossible for a game that’s as theoretically personalized as Tomodachi Life: the feeling of homogeneity.

For a while, my game felt personalized enough that I wasn’t left wondering about the game’s nuts and bolts. The goal is to keep the avatars I’ve populated Tummy Isle Island with as happy as possible by meeting their essential needs (food, clothes, shelter, companionship). I populated my world with a mix of celebrities (Shaq, the Giant Bomb crew), my family members (my wife, son, brother, and sister-in-law), my friends, and fictional characters (Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Rei Ayanami, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Geordi LaForge, Yotsuba&!‘s Yotsuba Koiwai, and Left4Dead‘s Zoey and Louis). Though I inserted my wife and me into the game, but there’s no obvious guarantee that they would become sweethearts and eventually husband and wife. (Except, if you think about the game’s logic, there is, but we’ll explore that later.) As in real life, my wife’s avatar proposed to me, and I felt awful when I botched my wife’s avatar’s proposal to my avatar by tapping the screen at the wrong time.

As time passes and I continue to solve the avatars’ problems, the avatars’ levels rise. I think my avatar is at level 14; Shaq’s probably at level 13. The game’s simulacrum breaks not from the fact that the avatars’ measure their growth in levels, but from the homogeneity that this mechanic forces upon the avatar. At each level, the player is forced to give the character a gift from a limited selection, a catchphrase for when the character is angry, happy, or sad, an apartment design again from a limited selection, a song from a limited selection of styles, or some pocket money from the player’s own in-game funds. In the physical world, I can’t rap or sing opera. But, my avatar in Tomodachi Life does because I simply ran out of things I could give him as he gained levels. The player is limited in the number and type of gifts we can give the avatars; almost all of the avatars, including Jesus of Nazareth, on Tummy Isle Island have cell phones I had to give them something, and Jesus didn’t seem like the type to have a punching bag. Similarly, my wife and I both rap, sing opera, have cell phones, and have the same apartment designs. The distinctions between characters gets filed down by the limited variety of things we can do when the characters level up. In order to keep the avatars unique, I can either give them pocket change that they won’t use from a pool I need to use to buy things to keep the avatars happy or homogenize them.

Once the game’s own obstacle to avatar growth became clear, I was given the mental space to wonder how and why my avatars formed their connections. It was fairly obvious why my wife’s avatar formed a relationship with my own avatar: we were the only avatars on Tummy Isle Island for a while. Oddly enough, neither avatar ever formed a connection with my son’s avatar, even though I had designated in the Mii Creator that he was our son. This left me in a weird position of wondering what happens when our avatars have a baby in Tomodachi Life when our actual kid’s avatar is already in the game and seemingly estranged from our avatars. And this doubt led me to where social simulation games die: GameFAQs.

The moment I’m tempted to open a guide to understand the game’s nuts and bolts, the game’s illusions are dispelled. And because the mini-games in Tomodachi Life are shallow, the mechanics of clothing and feeding the avatars shallow, and the lifespan of quirkiness fairly limited, I took the cartridge out of the 3DS XL that I ostensibly bought so I could play Tomodachi Life with a small sense of relief.

365 Days of Rocksmithing: Day 1

In 2012, I bought a copy of Rocksmith and a pretty kickass electric guitar. I also bought all the accouterments for the guitar, including a set of picks, a guitar tuner, and a nice strap bag. I even bought an adapter so I could connect the guitar to my iPad so I could use the iPad as a substitute amp. I had high ambitions: I would finally learn to play the guitar after on-and-off efforts since junior high school.

As before, I failed to keep at consistently practicing, and what little I learned over a couple of weeks of playing Rocksmith faded away fairly quickly.

This year, I’m forging ahead once again on my quest to learn how to play at least one song on the guitar. My wife kindly bought me an actual guitar instruction book, but I know that I learn more efficiently by actually applying theory to practice. So, the goal is to play the guitar for at least 30 minutes a day, which will equal at least 10,950 minutes played over the course of a year. If I can’t learn something after spending 10,000 minutes practicing it, I might never learn, even if popular wisdom says that we need to practice a skill for at least 10,000 hours to achieve mastery.

To hold myself accountable, I’m also documenting my progress every day, even if the post is just a simple paragraph. So, here we go.

Day 1
I wish the living room were a little warmer in the morning, but I suppose the cold will wake me up better than anything else. I thought the blank screen before me was an inauspicious start to this quest; I checked the connections, which seemed fine, so I restarted the Xbox and hoped for the best. Thankfully, everything seemed to boot and connect correctly this time.

I had forgotten how long and how many loading in Rocksmith took. Not for the first time, I thought about trading in this copy of Rocksmith for a copy of Rocksmith 2014. I wonder if the loading times are any better in that version.

I had also forgotten that I had to tune the guitar every time I loaded a song. This is the kind of thing that saps my enthusiasm.

I first tried the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version of “Higher Ground,” and the game remembered my previous progress, so it tried to throw me into the deep end with chord switches. The program interpreted my flailing along the guitar neck as a plea for help and took the difficulty back down to simple one-string notes with a minimum of chord changes. I felt humbled.

I then tried to play my favorite song on Rocksmith’s soundtrack, the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This was probably the song I practiced most the first time I tried to learn to play the guitar with Rocksmith, and the note placement is so distinctive that I could hear when my fingers weren’t in the right place. I played through the song twice, and my brain and fingers still struggled to remember where my fingers needed to go. This is going to take longer than I had thought.


Gaming Stories: A Travelogue of Gransys

Gransys is a large and fascinating duchy, and I had the pleasure of traveling through it several months ago. Unfortunately, the State Department neglected to issue the proper travel advisories for it; while I was aware that Gransys had some troubles with banditry on its roads, some aggressive wild animals, such as wolves and snakes, roaming the countryside, and the poor maintenance of certain roads, I was not prepared for the extent of the poor maintenance, the sheer number of bandits and dangerous wild animals, or the near complete social breakdown caused by the sudden appearances of mythological creatures such as dragons, griffins, hydras, harpies, goblins, chimeras, cyclops, cockatrices, golems, ogres, animated skeletons, wyverns, phantoms, or hellhounds in Gransys. I demand that the State Department be held accountable for its inability to sufficiently warn travelers like me of the dangers we could face before we traveled to Gransys.

I present the journal that I kept during my travels in Gransys as evidence of the State Department’s gross negligence.

Day 1
I arrived at the beachside town of Cassardis, a quieting fishing town, this morning. The rates at Pablos’ Inn were fair, and Chief Adaro, the ostensible mayor of Gransys, welcomed me warmly. He warned me to stay away from a strange stone near the town’s entrance that the villagers called a “Rift Stone” and the village well, which they said led to a place called the Dripstone Cave, which was infested by subterranean lizard people. I agreed to stay away from both, though I will admit that I felt a chill whenever I passed the “Rift Stone.”

Day 2
To continue my travels, I joined a band of merchants who were headed to the Encampment along Seabreeze Trail. We passed bands of goblins and saw traces of wolfpacks, but they generally stayed away from our bands, as they seemed more scared of humans than we were of them. The journey along the dirt path that was Seabreeze Trail took longer than we expected because one of the carts lost a wheel. Fortunately, a patrol from the Encampment saw our breakdown and were able to assist us.

Day 3
I awoke to a frightful sight: it seemed as though a hole opened in the pre-dawn sky, out of which a giant dragon and an aerie of harpies emerged. Multiple merchants began to pack up quickly to move to the Gransys capital city, Gran Soren, which they explained was protected by the Duke’s men and by impenetrable city walls. I declined to ask them how impenetrable city walls would fare against creatures that could simply fly above them. Instead, I watched as the dragon descended upon Cassardis, and I wondered about the people who charmed me so when I was there. I’m no warrior, but I grabbed a heavy stick and some rocks and made my way to the Encampment gate that led back to Cassardis. A guard saw the intent in my eyes and knocked me to the dirt to bring me back to my senses. I joined one of the merchant caravans that were headed to Gran Soren.

We fought off bandits on the way to the Mountain Waycastle; they seemed emboldened by the appearance of the dragon, as though they no longer cared about their lives now that their definitions of reality had been rewritten. One bandit attempted to restrain me; we fell to the dirt; his knife found its way to my hand; my hand guided it to the bandit’s belly. Those of us in the caravan who were able to escape ran as hard as we could to escape the bandits. I don’t even know the names of those who were unable to make it.

We ran until we reached the Mountain Waycastle. The guards there seemed overwhelmed by the number of travelers headed to Gran Soren. One guard shouted to warn us of goblins and harpies along the mountain trail to the Estan Plains. My companions forged ahead; I needed time to gather my strength and my thoughts.

Day 5
I regretted staying at the Mountain Waycastle for an extra day because the stream of merchant caravans to Gran Soren had slowed to a trickle. However, luck shone upon me when I saw a military caravan protected by Captain Mercedes of the House of Marten, her guard, and Manus, a familiar face from Cassardis who had clearly taken up arms in response to the dragon attack. I had thought that Manus was a mere fisherman, but she seemed adept at wielding his sword and shield, and Captain Mercedes expressed her confidence in her.

I was even more surprised by the contents of their caravan: a giant snake head that Captain Mercedes’s escorts claimed were the head of a hydra. I scoffed; there were no such things as hydras. But then again, I saw a dragon, so maybe nothing was impossible anymore. I also learned from Captain Mercedes’s escorts that a hydra had attacked the Encampment, where it was fought off by Manus and her companions. They agreed to allow me to join their caravan as they were headed to Gran Soren to deliver the hydra head to Duke Edmun Dragonsbane.

Day 6
We have finally arrived in Gran Soren. As we had been warned, we indeed had to fend with aeries of harpies and bands of goblins, but Captain Mercedes and Manus’s group dispatched them with little trouble. We parted at the Urban Quarter; I made my way to the Union Inn, while Manus and her companions headed to the Pawn Guild. I tried to investigate what a Pawn Guild would have served, but I was refused entry.

Day 8
I attempted to find escorts to visit some of the other landmarks of Gransys, such as the Prayer Falls, the legendary Watergod’s Altar, The Abbey, the Windbluff Tower, any of the Healing Springs, or even the Blighted Manse, but no one was interested in leaving the protection that Gran Soren’s walls provided. In idle conversation at Arsmith’s Alehouse, I asked other patrons how the walls would protect us from airborne menaces like a dragon or harpies, but no one wanted to hear it. I had to buy many drinks to calm nerves that my speculations had rubbed raw.

I began to notice whisperings about something called “Salvation.” At first, I thought that it was speculation about the Duke’s solution to the dragon problem. However, no one would admit to knowing anything related to Salvation. I learned to stop asking about Salvation.

I was thrilled to hear rumors about the adventures of Manus and her companions. I once saw them run around Gran Soren, from Arsmith’s Alehouse to their Pawn Guild house to some of the more disreputable parts of Venery. I thought I spotted them on the Gran Sore battlements at one point. I heard that they acted on behalf of a wealthy merchant named Fournival to evict some tenants, but the tenants were not bitter about leaving their home. I heard that Manus was able to revive the blacksmith’s boy, who had passed away. They seemed to be everywhere at once and capable of anything.

Day 12
I was growing bored with Gran Soren until I learned to stop wishing for exciting or interesting times. A cockatrice, of all things, flew over the capital’s walls and attacked the Craftsman’s Quarters. Seemingly out of nowhere, Manus and her companions attacked the cockatrice and drove it away. Farmers who worked in the Craftsman’s Quarters were killed by the cockatrice, but the entire city may have fallen if not for Manus and her companions.

They call her the “Arisen” now. I implored Manus and her companions to allow me to join them on their journey. Manus declined me as quickly and gently as she could; I noticed then how odd her companions were. They seemed wholly dedicated to Manus’s well-being, but they seemed limited in speech, as they repeated their speech over and over. Manus did not seem to notice or mind their repetition. I also thought that Manus’s party seemed different than when I saw them last; I could have sworn that there were two women with her when I last saw them. Now, there was only one woman. I suppose one of them may have left or even died. But they seem more bothered by my questions than anything else.

Day 14
Today, in Fountain Square, Aldous announced to the town that Fournival, the noted merchant, had been found innocent of an accusation that he was conspiring to overthrow the Duke. This is a serious charge, yet no one in the crowd seemed aware of the charges against Fournival, much less that a trial had even taken place. Between the charges against Fournival and the whispers about Salvation that have faded away, I wonder if the dragon’s attack had unsettled the Duke’s rule or simply exposed the rotten foundations under the Duke’s administration. I kept these thoughts to myself.

I ran into Manus and her companions at Devyn’s Barber Shop today. Her party had changed once again; now she had no male companions. I tried to ask her if she knew anything about the charges against Fournival, but he simply excused himself and claimed that he needed to save someone at the Windbluff Tower.

Day 16
In Fountain Square, Aldous announced today that Manus and her companions were now enemies of the state. First, it was Fournival, now Manus. Something is rotten in this kingdom.

Day 18
I caught sight of the Duke today for the first time during my stay in Gran Soren. He cuts a striking figure, but he seemed to be muttering angrily to himself. His inexhausitble youth and health have led to Gransys’s stability, but I wonder if he may have simply been in office for too long.

Day 20
This land is cursed. Monsters roam the land, and the Duke’s men seem unable to drive them away for long. Cassardis was attacked by a dragon. The Encampment was attacked by a hydra. Gran Soren itself was attacked by a cockatrice. Now, the unthinkable has happened: the ground has swallowed half of Gran Soren itself, and harpies pour of this wound at an inexorable pace. I prayed for Manus and her companions to return, since they seem to be the only effective force in Gransys, and my prayers were answered. But rather than delivering Salvat…hope, they instead were chased into the chasm by the Duke’s men. If I squint, I think that I can see them fall from the sky, but that’s impossible since they fell into the earth below.

I don’t know what I can do. I cannot leave Gran Soren; the roads are too dangerous. I might not be able to even leave Gransys if I could even make it back to Cassardis.

Day 24
The land is cursed, but the curse seems to be lifted. No more harpies have emerged from the Gran Soren wound, and a caravan has been organized to deliver relief to the refugees in the Encampment and survivors in Cassardis. No one has seen or heard from the Duke; this caravan was arranged by Fournival and other Gran Soren merchants. Captain Mercedes and Lord Julien, the Knight of Voldoa, also seem to have disappeared. Who will defend Gransys now?

Day 27
I have reached Cassardis. There is great suffering in Gransys, and it’s unclear who can help the duchy recover. Aldous is the nominal leader of Gransys now that the Duke has disappeared. I have had enough of traveling and Gransys, and I will be returning to Meloire soon and hope that the troubles have not affected my home.

Do not travel to Gransys. There are supposedly beautiful and wondrous places like the Healing Springs or the Prayer Falls, but Gransys is simply too dangerous. I hope that our neighbor will recover soon.


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.


Gaming Stories: Video Game Championship Wrestling IV

Tonight is not the night, but that shouldn’t stop us from checking in on what is happening in the world of Video Game Championship Wrestling. 
When we last checked in on Video Game Championship Wrestling, Phoenix Wright, Nappa, and Solid Snake had exposed Baz McMahon’s involvement in covering up the vehicular assault on Little Mac. Baz McMahon had kidnapped Luigi, a witness to the vehicular assault, and brainwashed him to believe that he was Mr. L, a violent and vicious fighter who created havoc on the January 28, 2013 show by attacking Locke Cole and Sabin Rene Figaro after they won the Co-Op Championship, Shinya Arino after he won a first blood match against Dante, and Ganondorf before his VGCW Championship match against Raphael. Mr. L’s rampage continued on the February 1, 2013 show by attacking Gabe Newell, Segata Sanshiro, Vegeta, and Zangief backstage. Fortunately, Mario returned from his leave of absence from Video Game Championship Wrestling to break his brother from Baz McMahon’s mental conditioning and become the heroic Luigi once more. In a touching but surreal moment, Mario, Phoenix Wright, and Nappa were able to cast the Mr. L identity to the depths of hell.
This was an unusual moment even for Video Game Championship Wrestling, which considers real people like Gabe Newell, fictional characters like Donkey Kong, and personalities portrayed by real people like the Angry Video Game Nerd as all real. However, in the context of professional wrestling, the occasional foray into the supernatural world isn’t that strange. Putting aside companies like Kaiju Big Battel, which accept the supernatural and the outlandish as common, professional wrestling has had a long and extensive history of using the supernatural to spice up its masculine soap opera. 
The most prominent and famous example would be WWE’s The Undertaker. The Undertaker first appeared in the WWE (then called WWF) in 1990 as a walking undead man who was impervious to pain. He was famously managed by Paul Bearer, a pale and portly man whose voice sounded like a ghost’s wails. Paul Bearer carried an urn that he would use to revive The Undertaker’s strength whenever The Undertaker fell victim to his enemies. The Undertaker would place his defeated opponents in bodybags and carry them backstage; it was never made clear what The Undertaker and Paul Bearer did to these opponents, but the intimation was always menacing. When The Undertaker was seemingly defeated decisively at the 1994 Royal Rumble after some villainous wrestlers sealed The Undertaker in a casket, the announcers acted as though The Undertaker was dead and were shocked when The Undertaker appeared on the arena’s video screen to warn them that his spirit would return.
This was only the beginning of The Undertaker’s infusion of the supernatural into professional wrestling as presented by the WWE. Over time, The Undertaker would found the Ministry of Darkness, a professional wrestling stable that was dedicated to unleashing evil on the WWE. In The Undertaker’s pursuit of his unspecified but evil agenda, he kidnapped Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWE’s owner Vince McMahon, crucified wrestler Steve Austin, kidnapped and converted various wrestlers using incantations and magical rituals to join his cult, and fight his brother, a wrestler named Kane, who demonstrated an ability to control pyrotechnics, had an affinity for fire, and was sometimes portrayed as a monster rising from a hellish inferno from beneath the wrestling ring. Meanwhile, The Undertaker demonstrated that he was a ghostly figure who was able to command lightning and fog. Around this time, The Undertaker was featured in a comic book published by Chaos! Comics, where he was portrayed as a ruler of an infernal dimension known as the Hell’s Prison Realm. 
The Undertaker and Kane, supernatural wrestling brothers.
The resolution to the Mr. L storyline was reminiscent of a storyline that featured Kane from 2011 and 2012, when he returned from a leave of absence in a costume seemingly inspired by the incisions of a portmortem human body after an autopsy. Kane attacked another wrestler named Zach Ryder by dragging him through a hole in the ring to “hell.” These similarities are not coincidental; Video Game Championship Wrestling is, after all, performed in WWE ’13, so it would naturally use storytelling elements that WWE wrestlers like Kane and The Undertaker would use. 
Video Game Championship Wrestling has entered its third season, and the overarching storyline so far has involved a league-wide tournament to determine whom the new General Manager of VGCW will be after Baz McMahon’s departure. Of course, unnecessarily confusing and complex organizational hierarchies and almost meaningless authority figures is another common professional wrestling trope, so it brings a smile to my face to see Bazza87 embrace it in Video Game Championship Wrestling too. The current tournament favorite seems to be Ganondorf, who along with Zangief forms the team of Gerudo Skies, the current Co-Op Champions. Ganondorf’s next opponent in the tournament is Adam Jensen; if Charles Barkley defeats Gabe Newell to advance to the finals, he will be all that stands between Video Game Championship Wrestling and Ganondorf’s second 1000 years of darkness.
The Chaos Dunk vs. The Triforce of Power. 
Indeed, Barkley might be all that stands between Video Game Championship Wrestling and Ganondorf’s second 1000 years of darkness.
A possible dark future for Video Game Championship Wrestling?

Tournaments are another common trope in professional wrestling, and almost wrestling promotion has held a tournament at one time or another. From WWE’s King of the Ring to WCW’s Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament to TNA’s World X-Cup among the major wrestling companies to Chikara Pro’s King of Trios, East Coast Wrestling Association’s famed Super 8 tournament to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament, companies have used tournaments to introduce new wrestlers, highlight the talents of wrestlers already on contract, create new rivalries, reignite old rivalries, and introduce high stakes into what could be an otherwise dull period.

Tournaments have been held in Video Game Championship Wrestling the past, but they didn’t have the stakes involved in this tournament, which started on the February 18, 2013 show and has been featured in each show’s main event or semi-main event since. Rivalries have been renewed, such as the simmering feud between Charles Barkley and Vegeta, and great moments were revisited, such as when Gabe Newell repaid Nappa for the time Nappa suplexed Newell from the top rope and collapsed the ring.

The field has been pared down to its final four, all crowd favorites: Adam Jensen, Ganondorf, Gabe Newell, and Charles Barkley. Newell has seemed unstoppable; his patented Wallet Squeeze bear hug has devastated   his opponents. Similarly, Ganondorf has dispatched Wailuigi, a former Casual Champion, and the Angry Video Game Nerd, a tournament dark horse. Jensen defeated M. Bison and Mike Haggar in tough bouts, while Barkley triumphed over his nemesis Vegeta and countered Dr. Wily’s dastardly designs on his path.

The tournament field as of March 21, 2013.

With all the focus on this tournament, it would be easy to overlook some of the changes to the roster that have taken place. Since we last checked in on Video Game Championship Wrestling, Phoenix Wright, one of the heroes of the Baz McMahon/Mr. L saga, has hinted that he is considering retirement from fighting. Simon Belmont was dispatched by Dracula; he hasn’t been since that match. Woody and Ash Ketchum have been repackaged as Voody and Red, respectively, while Tingle, Geno, Ryo Hazuki, and Groose have joined the roster. While Groose had a divisive debut, I believe that his adorably clumsy entrance, if nothing else, will win fans over to his side.

Groose will represent the Zelda franchise in VGCW about as well as Link did.

Independent wrestling companies like Ring of Honor or the now defunct IWA-Mid South often faced the problem of audience burnout because their shows would run almost four hours, which is a lot to ask of an audience. The shows’ run times, combined with the time commuting to and from the venue, often meant that I would need to dedicate five to six hours to professional wrestling, which isn’t sustainable in the long run. I had similar concerns about Video Game Championship Wrestling because its shows would sometimes run for four hours because of the long matches and the loading times in WWE ’13. Combined with the frequency with which Bazza87 held shows, audience burnout was a strong possibility. Bazza87 addressed this problem directly on his Twitter feed, and he has held firm to the commitment to limit shows to two to three hours long, which has made it easier for fans like me to keep watching.

Shortening the shows has also allowed me to pay more attention to the undercard matches, where sometimes the most entertaining moments of Video Game Championship Wrestling happen. For instance, take Dan Hibiki’s super taunt of Barrett Wallace from the March 19, 2013 show:

On the March 7, 2013 episode of Giant Bomb’s Thursday Night Throwdown (subscriber access only), TwitchTV’s Jared Rea and Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann spoke enthusiastically about Video Game Championship Wrestling; Gerstmann followed it up with a brief article on why he finds Video Game Championship Wrestling so entertaining. Hopefully, Gerstmann and Rea directed even more viewers to Bazza87’s Video Game Championship Wrestling feed; something this delightful should be experienced by as many people as possible.


Gaming Stories: Why I Couldn’t Emotionally Invest in Fire Emblem

It’s been almost a month since I last loaded Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon on my Nintendo DS. When my warriors last saw me, Marth had just received the Fire Emblem, and they were in the middle of a pitched battle against a band of pirates who really should have known better. My army was growing, and we had avoided casualties so far. Perhaps I was heart sick and heavy with worry about my warriors falling through the course of our righteous war to gather allies and reclaim my birthright. Perhaps I despaired at how selfish this quest was; we only had anecdotal evidence that the people lived in fear and despair the last time the Shadow Dragon Medeus conquered Archanea. Perhaps I just couldn’t muster the energy to invest in this army when I had already fought so many other wars in other lands and other times. No matter the reason, I turned to my troops and said, “Go now; you are forgiven.”

I tried to avoid the accusing reflective glare that emanated from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon‘s box’s shiny plastic wrap when I swapped that game’s cartridge for Radiant Historia‘s cartridge. “I’m a game from a storied franchise and one of the best games on the DS. Why wouldn’t you finish me?” Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon asked me. After playing more than 40 hours of Radiant Historia, I avoided the same glare from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon‘s box when I swapped Radiant Historia for Picross 3D and again when I swapped Picross 3D after 2 weeks for Tetris DS. Thankfully, I was able to avoid the glare from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Picross 3D, and Tetris DS when I brought Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia out of storage and into my DS.

I’m a good game! Why won’t you play me?

Still, the accusatory question remained. Picross 3D, Tetris DS, and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon are all good games that are frequently on lists of the best games on the DS. Radiant Historia is a good game that is rarely on those same lists, but I invested more time into Radiant Historia than my time with Picross 3DTetris DS, and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon combined. Why did this happen?

The answers are parts of the the root reason why I have such difficulty finding games to play on the DS.

Let’s start with Tetris DS first. It’s a great version of Tetris, and it has a number of interesting modes. I spent countless hours playing Tetris on my Windows 95 PC in my youth, and Tetris is almost built for the pick-up and play philosophy behind mobile gaming devices like the DS. But Tetris DS lasted barely 2 hours in my DS before I was bored with it and moved on to a different game. The problem was familiarity; despite the new game modes in Tetris DS, it was still Tetris, and my quick trigger to pull Tetris DS proved that I may have played enough Tetris in my youth to last me a lifetime. I thought I could recapture at least the same level of satisfaction that I had gotten from Tetris in the past. I knew how well I could play Tetris, at least in the past. There didn’t seem to be a point to revisiting this challenge anymore. In this case, familiarity was the enemy of emotional investment.

Six different game modes, 84 on Metacritic, barely 2 weeks in my DS.

Familiarity shouldn’t have been a problem with Picross 3D. I was never a fan of Minesweeper, and I hadn’t played any other Picross games in the past. Picross 3D seemed like the perfect puzzle game for me. It barely lasted two weeks in my DS. Like Tetris DS, it was built for mobile gaming’s central design philosophy of pick-up and play. The problem here was lack of sustainable challenge. The puzzles become more complicated; the time limit can grow shorter; the number of mistakes allowed by the game could decrease. The fact remained that there were no serious punishments for failure since I could blunder through brute trial and error my way to each puzzle’s ideal solution. To me, there was almost no risk in the game; without risk, there are no stakes by which I could plant emotional investment. In this case, the problem was not familiarity, but how casual the experience felt.

Fun puzzles, but lack of risk led to lack of emotional investment.

Risk should not have been a problem with Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. One of the game’s main selling points is character permadeath, which in reality we would probably just call “death.” I resolved to not reset the game if one of my characters died, which ran against my tendency to play along a game’s critical path design. Permadeath should have created heightened emotional investment in the characters I controlled; if nothing else, the idea that I would lose the character’s enhanced abilities and skills if they died after gaining a few levels would force me to play more carefully, and time and exposure would mean that I would invest emotionally on at least some of the characters. I didn’t expect to invest emotionally in all of the characters, but there were characters who were my army’s backbone, and I expected to care about at least the main characters’ stories.

Six chapters and about five hours into the game, I found that I didn’t care about any of it. I didn’t care if my characters lived to fight another battle. I didn’t care about progressing the game’s plot. I didn’t care about the stats that my characters accrued as they gained levels. Oddly enough, permadeath was at the heart of this inability to invest.

Combat and character growth in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon are ruled by the game’s Random Number Generator; there are video tutorials on how to abuse the Random Number Generator in Fire Emblem games and tales of improbable successes and unbelievable failures because of the Random Number Generator. I think the Random Number Generator is meant to replicate uncertainty on the battlefield; after all, it is said that no battle plans ever survives first contact with the enemy. But the Random Number Generator also limits my control over the game, which lowers my ability to invest emotionally in the characters and my actions. After all, even if I played the game perfectly, I could still lose because the Random Number Generator will determine that the odds are not in my favor for that battle. In that case, I would feel like the outcome was not my fault. And if it’s not my fault, why wouldn’t I be justified to reload that battle and try again? But if I reloaded the battle, I’ve broken my pledge to play the game as it was and not to reset the game if any characters died. I was stuck, and there was no way out of this problem. So I stopped caring about the game, which meant that I stopped playing the game.

I hadn’t expected one of the game’s core features to play against my enthusiasm to play the game. But Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon still sits unloved in its box at home while I cruise eBay and Gamestops for other games to play on my DS. And I feel fine about this.


Gaming Stories: Magic: The Gathering

I was surprised to see that my opponent was a married, bearded man my age from Williamsburg. I had prepared myself for the worst kind of loud, know-it-all teenager who had too much time but too little patience for an old guy like me. Instead, my opponent was a friendly guy who was seated to my left when I constructed my deck. We both asked for the same colored deck from the tournament organizer, so I knew that this would be almost a mirror match. We shook hands, and he was patient when he pointed out that the card I just played would come into the battlefield tapped, which meant that I had to turn it sideways on that turn and that I couldn’t use the resource it contained to do what I was trying to do. When he beat me two games to none and eliminated me from the tournament, we shook hands again and talked about how our respective wives would react to our tentative re-entries into this addiction called Magic: The Gathering. He said that she was fine as long as he didn’t play more than once a week; I said that I have to get rid of my cards at the end of the tournament because there was no way I could bring them home. We shared a laugh, played a friendly match (he beat me again), and we moved on, him to his next match, me to my wife and kid at home. And that was the summation of my very brief return to Magic: The Gathering, except it wasn’t.

Games on my iPad tend to have very short life spans. I haven’t loaded Civilization Revolution after a torrid three-month affair; even the promise of new buildings and units for various civilizations has not enticed me to return. 10000000 was a beloved game for the month it took me to escape the castle; I loaded it recently and could not find the emotional investment to play it with any seriousness. Puzzles and Dragons kept me up for hours past a decent bedtime and had my iPad glued to my hand for weeks until I decided that I was sick of grinding out money and experience points for my creatures and deleted the game. The only game that has had any success in keeping my attention has been the one with the most unwieldy title, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. 
Thinking about Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering brings me back to my days in junior high school when my friends and I would go to a nearby comic book store, head to a windowless and starkly lit second story room, and try out our latest decks. I was not a serious Magic: The Gathering player; instead, my game of choice was Decipher’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game, which is now known by a slightly less cumbersome and more accurate name, Star Trek Customizable Card Game (and which I’m going to call Star Trek CCG from here). I drifted away from Star Trek CCG for the same reason I was never willing to invest myself into Magic: The Gathering: the barrier to entry to being “good” was too high. Unlike some of my friends who also played Star Trek CCG, I was not able or willing to pay $125 for a copy of the Future Enterprise card or even more than that for the rare collection of deluxe cards, The Fajo Collection. So my interest tapered off as Decipher released more expansion card collections to Star Trek CCG and I eventually boxed my cards up or gave them to friends.
The object of my intense adolescent desire.
If I were unwilling or unable to pay what was to an adolescent a significant amount of money for some playing cards in a game that I was emotionally invested in, I certainly wasn’t going to invest a lot of money in order to play Magic: The Gathering with my friends. So I tried my best to create decks with their cast-off cards; I settled on a deck that utilized white and black knights as my creatures. I had some moderate success with it against other surface level players, but there was no way I could compete against players who were willing to spend thousands of dollars to obtain powerful cards like the infamous Black Lotus or Demonic Tutor. So, there was no reason to invest myself emotionally in Magic: The Gathering, and the interest faded away almost completely by the time I moved on to college.
Black Lotus: the world’s most expensive Magic: The Gathering card.
Except, as a recent article in New York pointed out, no one ever really leaves adolescence. This isn’t a case of arrested development, of “man-babies” or “man-children” who have been the subject of articles and posts in male-oriented magazines and Websites for years. Instead, we’re all traumatized on some level by our experiences in high school. While I wouldn’t say that my brief teenage forays into competitive Magic: The Gathering traumatized me, they certainly left their mark. Thanks to running head first against the financial barriers to entry in Magic: The Gathering and Star Trek CCG, I was (and continue to be) skeptical about paying to play massive multiplayer online role-playing games, to start collecting anything, or to even play free to play games, such as Puzzles and Dragons or Kingdom Rush, on my iPad that have In App Purchases. In those cases, I can see the appeal directly conflict with the need to pay more to either keep having fun or to have more fun. The process of learning to leave Magic: The Gathering and Star Trek CCG taught me that fun is a disposable commodity.
Years later, I thought that the original Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers on Xbox Live Arcade would be a good compromise between that ember of desire to play Magic: The Gathering and my unwillingness to significantly invest my money, time, or emotion into the game. For a while, it was a fine substitute; I even got all the achievements in the main version and one of the expansion packs. But the announcement that there would be a sequel with minor improvements a year after the original game’s release soured me again. It was a stark reminder that Wizards of the Coast was more than happy to make an annualized product that wouldn’t address some of my concerns about the player’s inability to modify the decks much, the slow pace of the game, and the game’s general instability. So I bailed on Magic: The Gathering a second time.
By the time I got an iPad and saw that Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (which I’m going to refer to as DotP 2013) was available, I could price my willingness to even try the game at about $10. I downloaded the free version, and since the price to upgrade to a full version was less than $10, the satisfaction to investment ratio seemed to be in my favor. And it did pay itself off when I was able to spawn a gigantic creature to crush my opponents.
A Primordial Hydra grown to 128 power and 128 health splattered my opponents across the battlefield.
The satisfaction of growing a creature that large was almost primal.
Since my interest in Magic: The Gathering was rekindled by by DotP 2013, I wondered if there was a way I could dabble in the actual card game again. The recent release of the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion, Gatecrash, meant that there would be special events catered to old players like me who would come back to the game, even if it was for only a little while. A sealed deck tournament, where every player gets an unopened box of cards with which he or she could construct a deck, seemed like the friendliest format for a player who has been away from the game for almost a decade. 
While we were constructing our decks, some of the other players at the table asked me how long I had been away. When they heard that I had stopped playing after the fourth edition of Magic: The Gathering was released, they asked me why I came back. I’m still not quite sure. Perhaps I was inspired by Steve Heisler‘s article about his own brief return to Magic: The Gathering for The AV Club. Perhaps I was tired of playing against the AI in DotP 2013. Perhaps I wanted to recapture that little piece of my adolescence that I never had, of winning an actual Magic: The Gathering tournament, just so I could say that I had done such a thing. 
Unfortunately, my bearded, also married opponent put a quick end to that idea. I’ll admit that the ease by which he dispatched me was a little demoralizing, but he at least told me that I could take comfort in the fact that the last match would have been more competitive if I had one more turn to play one of the cards in my hand. I was treated well by all of the other players; while the crowd was predominantly male, it wasn’t aggressively macho. I wish I had an opportunity to speak with some of the women who also played in that tournament, but it seemed like everyone was at least cordial and well-behaved. At the very least, the experience was pleasant enough that I would consider going back to play one more tournament at some point.
Yesterday, my wife asked me what I was doing on my iPad, so I showed her DotP 2013. She was interested in playing, so I walked her through a match against the computer and tried to explain concepts like mana cost and creature abilities. She seemed interested in playing some more, and I mentioned offhand that I still have some physical cards somewhere if she ever wanted to play an actual game of Magic: The Gathering. (I never did manage to get rid of those cards from that sealed deck tournament.) In the meantime, I can still play DotP 2013, where I can create absurd scenarios that lead to my opponent’s defeat like this:
That’s a lot of very powerful creatures on my side.

Gaming Stories: Cook, Serve, Delicious! Restaurant Check-In

Well, I thought keeping a diary while running a restaurant would be easier, but it turns out that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to write a daily diary entry after cooking and serving delicious food all day, dealing with suppliers, handling the chores of running a restaurant, and making connections with my customers so I can create repeat, sustainable business. As it turns out, there aren’t enough hours for love either.

The business is running well at this point. For the first month or so, I was earning about $500 a day. Since my expenses are fairly stable, this wasn’t an issue. Things picked up when I earned a 2-star review in this year’s Michelin Guide; with the extra business, I started earning about $700 a day.

A two-star restaurant!

That review was informative, and I used the data from that review to drive some changes in my menu. I had focused on serving wine and beer, but the review pointed out that this was hardly appropriate in a mixed use building like SherriSoda Tower. I took that feedback and focused more on serving hearty foods, such as burgers, my grilled chicken plate, and salads. I experimented with serving lasagna, ice cream, French fries, and sopapillas, but they couldn’t stick to my menu. There were too many complaints about the smell produced by French fries and sopapillas; ice cream just wouldn’t sell enough, even on rainy days; lasagnas didn’t have the returns on investment I wanted from such a complicated dish. Furthermore, the likelihood of messing up a lasagna was too high.

Speaking of lasagna, I’m still astonished by the dietary habits of my customers. When I still served wine, I would regularly sell entire bottles of our cheapest house wine and the more expensive Cazu Marzu aged cheese wine to customers, and they would drink the entire bottle in one sitting. When I served lasagna, customers would order a full sized tray of lasagna and finish that in one sitting too. I hate to think that I’m contributing to health problems in SherriSoda tower, so I feel better about taking lasagna off my menu. Of course, people still ask for the Ryan Davis Special and the Heartstopper on days when I serve burgers, so I won’t be able to claim that I’m offering a completely healthy menu.

Thankfully, no one’s had a heart attack as a result of eating one of these yet.
One of my favorite burgers to make.

I’m not sure who this Crazy Dave fellow is, but I enjoy taking his money whenever he approaches me via e-mail with another of his asinine bets. He bets against my success, and I have proven to him time and again that he should not underestimate my talents. He can challenge me to put items on my menu that I would normally never serve and maintain my standard of excellent service, and I will answer the call. More importantly, I will continue to take his money.

A lot of my food preparation relies on sound. I can tell how many burger patties I put on the grill based on the sound of patties hitting the grill. I can tell if a chicken breast has been properly prepared based on the sound of mallet hitting meat. That’s another reason I don’t like serving lasagna; it doesn’t sound right from dish to dish when I prepare a lasagna tray.

Since my last entry, I’ve celebrated my 1000th and my 2000th customers. I can remember vividly what the 1000th customer ordered (a salad with thousand island dressing, cheese, carrots, and greens), but I can’t remember what my 2000th customer ordered. Time just flies by.

Like all new businesses, my restaurant faces peculiar challenges, but I have determined that I have a significant competitive advantage that defies economic theory. Simply stated, my customers are very insensitive to pricing. When I upgraded my chicken plate to use a higher quality meat, I raised the price of my plate. However, demand does not seem to have suffered as a result of this price increase. Instead, the clientele that I had when my restaurant was unrated in the Michelin Guide and paid for a lower quality but cheaper chicken dish continue to come to my renovated and Michelin-rated restaurant to buy a more expensive chicken dish. Even stranger, my customers are willing to pay as much for a small cup of water with ice as they will for a jumbo-sized cup of grape soda with a flavor blast. I’m not complaining about this unusual customer behavior, and I’m afraid of jinxing it by even thinking about it.

Frank, an old regular, rubbing elbows with Dwyght, one of my new regulars.  I enjoy my diverse clientele.

I received another review recently, and I was promoted to a 3-star restaurant, which was very exciting.

A three-star restaurant!

I now make about $1000 a day thanks to my slightly revamped menu, which offers a high quality chicken breast plate, coffee, soda, burgers, salad, and steak. I also started to cater parties in SherriSoda tower, which has provided another source of revenue.

I get the burgers, but who eats whole trays of lasagna at a party?

This improved review also brought me back to my mentor’s attention, and he surprised me with an invitation to appear on a test episode of Iron Cook at the Iron Cook Studio. Walking into that battlefield was a dream come true; I hope to make it back as a full-fledged competitor soon.

I completed the Iron Cook burger and ice cream challenge without a hitch.

Unfortunately, though I have found some measure of professional success, I have been unable to find romantic success. I recently signed on with an online dating service at the behest of my friends, and I’ve been set up on a couple of dates. Because running this restaurant is so demanding, I’ve had to hold my dates at my own restaurant. Though I try to schedule these dates on days where I don’t have to run the business by myself, I inevitably have to help cook, serve, and clean, which makes these dates rather tense. It’s especially annoying when I get the sense that these women are only dating me because I can make a certain dish; one woman would only agree to a date at my restaurant if I served lasagna. I tried to explain that I had very good reasons for taking lasagna off my menu, but she insisted. So I indulged her and invited her to sample my restaurant’s lasagna. Word must have gotten out because almost everyone ordered lasagna that day, which made the whole experience much more stressful than it should have been. The worst part was her insistence on texting me after the so-called date. While I was answering her texts, I couldn’t run my restaurant. We went on a couple more of these so-called dates, and then she e-mailed me that she was leaving the country.

At that point, I decided that I have to focus on the restaurant for now and have to stop dating.

Bad romance.

I continue to work to improve my restaurant. I’m facing another restaurant review soon, and I hope to at least maintain my 3-star rating, if not increase it to a 4-star rating. We have a pretty good rotation of dishes now to keep my menu fresh, and I’ve started exploring a third revenue stream by investing in some products that any restaurateur would appreciate, such as improved toilets and dish washers. Hopefully, things continue to hold. I’m really enjoying the experience of running this restaurant.


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. 


Gaming Stories: Cook, Serve, Delicious! Week 1

When I first opened my restaurant, I set my definition of “success” to mean survival. After more than a week in the restaurant game, I think that I can redefine “success” to mean more than just mere survival.

Customers Served
Perfect Orders
Average Orders
Poor Orders
$ Earned
$ Tips Earned
Positive Buzz % Earned
Most Popular Item
Grilled Chicken Breast
Wine and beer

I started with a menu of beer, wine, salad, and grilled chicken breast, but I’ve expanded my menu in the past week. The menu expansion took place a little faster than I would like, but I hadn’t expected that my clients in SherriSoda Tower would grow tired of the chicken so quickly. I have to cycle it out of my menu every couple of days. At first, I introduced a soda fountain, which I eventually upgraded to include flavor blasts. That has been a big hit, and it remains a staple of my little restaurant. I then added lasagna to my menu, and it  too was fairly successful. But it was a time intensive plate, and more importantly, it’s a labor intensive dish, since it requires creating three layers and adds more dishes to be cleaned. Even worse, it suffers menu rot just like my grilled chicken breast. I’ve since cycled in ice cream, a staple menu item, as my occasional replacement for chicken.

Since my business has been steady, I’ve begun to invest in the quality of my menu offerings. I first upgraded the quality of my beer from the cheapest beer my distributor would sell me to a more pleasant and expensive microbrew. Incidentally, I was able to increase the price of my beer from $5 to $8. As I mentioned, I’ve also introduced flavor blasts to my soda fountain, and I’ve also added thousand island salad dressing as an alternative to ranch dressing for my salads. Ranch dressing remains the more popular choice though.

I am beginning to have concerns about my clients. I love them because they pay me for my goods, but I am beginning to wonder if I am feeding their alcohol addictions. Frequently, I have customers who come in at 9 a.m. for a beer or a bottle of wine. I understand that SherriSoda Tower has workers in the night shift who may come in at 9 a.m. at the end of their shifts for a drink, but I don’t vet my customers. I am becoming very uneasy about this. The law of unintended consequences is hitting my conscience.

I’m also uneasy about how simply unhappy many of my customers look when they enter my restaurant. They are all satisfied by my food and my service; the positive buzz I’m accruing and the occasional praising e-mail from customers I receive can attest to this. However, there are no smiling customers, no customers dining in groups. My only customers are lonely, possibly depressed.

A typical customer. Note the stained clothing. He dines alone, like all my other customers.

That said, one of my customers won the lottery and gave me a $250 tip, so not all of my customers are in dire straits.

I’ve also increased my restaurant’s efficiency by investing in table foods and a better air conditioner to increase my customers’ patience, a dishwasher to cut down on the amount of time I spend washing dishes, and a garbage disposal to decrease the amount of time I dedicate to hauling trash to the dumpster. In a different time, I probably would have just more staff. Instead, I invested in technology. So much for the idea that a small business owner is the country’s job creation engine.

I’ve also passed two safety inspections. I’m grateful, but I’m not exactly sure what the inspectors are using for criteria. Thankfully, I don’t have a rodent infestation, unlike some other parts of SherriSoda Tower, and I have yet to fail to clean my toilets, take out my garbage, or wash the dishes in a timely manner.

Finally, I’ve discovered some alternate revenue streams. When all my orders are executed perfectly, my mentor rewards me with $200, which seems to me right now like a sizable amount of money. I’ve also taken bets from an eccentric fellow named Crazy Dave about my performance. I’m not sure if he’s rooting for me to fail or to succeed; he’s certainly gambling that I won’t succeed. This is why I gladly took his money on his bets that I would not be able to serve 15 consecutive customers perfectly or that I would be able to serve 20 consecutive customers perfectly while I had salads and ice cream on my menu.

I still lack a grill, a stove, or a deep fryer, so my hot food options are limited to grilled chicken and lasagna. My strategy for now is to concentrate on raising funds so I can upgrade the quality of my wine and ice cream. They’ll generate revenue so I can begin to buy meat that I can then add to my lasagna or buy toilets that flush automatically.