The treatment is our way of taking licenses that we love and putting our spin on what a great game would look like for them. Typically, we use franchises whose appearance in the video game world is either limited or non-existent. Today, I’ll be going in a different direction though. While the WWE has had a vast amount of games, I’ve never played a wrestling game that met the criteria for what I was looking for, so here’s my idea (listen up Vince).
I have a long history with wrestling. I was in high school during the WWF Attitude era and as an angry high school boy, figures like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Degeneration X were all right in my wheel house. As I grew up however, I watched less and less until I finally just gave it up. Years have passed though, and probably due to some sense of nostalgia, I have an itch to start paying attention again. I tune in now and again and maybe someday I’ll become a faithful WWE fan once more. But regardless of my stance on the live action product, I still get excited for the games. Every time a new WWE game comes out, it’s all I can do not to run out and buy it. Sure, I don’t know the stars anymore, but you can’t deny that wrestling games just have a certain gameplay that feels very satisfying. There has always been something missing though…
BREAK DOWN THE (FOURTH) WALL!
I’ve always wanted to play a wrestling game that exposed wrestling for what it truly is; well crafted, story based choreography. In my WWE game, I would be some type of creative director / god figure. I’d set up the stories, control the in ring mic work, and control the in ring action as well. Instead of playing as one wrestler, I’d play as the organization.
So how would all of that work? Well first off, I would have the player control the entire roster at once and set up each week’s events. The player would be able to see all the typical stats on a wrestler but in addition to that, they’d see things like popularity, status as a face or a heel, and whether or not their rising or falling in terms of popularity. There would also be a meter measuring a wrestler’s chemistry with another wrestler. So your first job as the player would be to match up wrestlers in storylines that play up increase their popularity, they’re standing as face or heel, and the chemistry with their opponent.
Once you’ve set up your feuds, it would then be your job as the god of WWE to execute the show. First off would be the mic work. Wrestlers would enter the ring and you’d be given a contextual list of things that they could choose to say. Do they pander to the crowd, insult them, call out their opponent, simply spout catch phrases? Your choices here will help affect a wrestler’s popularity, so choose wisely. You can choose to have a wrestler’s opponent come out and trade insults, but be careful because whoever you allow to get the better of that verbal exchange will get more popular, while the loser will become less so.
Once the chatting is done and the action starts you’ll be able to switch which wrestler you’re controlling so that you can control the flow of the match. Fans want to see great back and forth, with the underdog constantly kicking out and making a comeback. The match has to be exciting, but the excitement has to build to a crescendo. The fans will chant for you to help indicate what they think. From “this is awesome” to “boring”, you’ll be able to tell how their reacting. Your goal here is to create the best, most exciting product for them.
This is easier said than done, though. Sure you can have John Cena kick out of everything that an opponent throws at him, but sometimes that becomes too much. What good is Stone Cold deliverying a stunner if every time he does so, the opponent kicks out. Things like kick outs, use of tables, chairs, and other weapons, and interference are useful to make a match more exciting but only when you choose to use them in moderation. Use tables in every match and they’ll become stale and boring.
The building of excitement also goes beyond the ring. Perhaps a feud starts with a typical one on one match. The feud escalates after that match and the next encounter is a ladder match. Finally, the feud concludes with a hell in a cell match at Wrestlemania. Your job is to build that hype and then to release it at just the right moment.
Of course all of this excitement also comes with some risk. You’ll have to manage each wrestler’s health. After all, you can’t have the same wrestler get thrown off a balcony every single week. At some point their going to get seriously injured. If that happens their out of the action of a time, and their popularity is reset.
So what would the point of a game like this be? How about introducing a fictional organization that wants to de-throne the WWE as the king of the wrestling world. Your job is to keep the WWE on top. To do that you have to keep your wrestlers happy, healthy, and popular. You have to keep your brand healthy, and you have to make money in order to hire more talent, make the events more spectacular, etc…
I kind of miss wrestling, and if I had a game like that, I would love it. I’d love to take control of the WWE and see if I could manage it as well (or not so well) as it is in the real world. Unfortunately I don’t think the WWE will ever go that far in breaking the illusion that wrestling is real, so I don’t think we’ll ever see a game like this, at least not a licensed one.