QOTD 141: Here’s to Absent Friends

The videogame I’ve played most this past year is a little iOS CCG called Shadow Era. It’s a lot like Magic: The Gathering, but has a couple of neat nuances – the least of which being a relatively small number of cards, to endear it to the casual player.

For all the Grand Theft Autos, Thiefs, Assassin’s Creeds, that I’ve got to play for free due to my not-quite-really-a-gaming-journalism job, Shadow Era gets at least 45 minutes of my time daily.

Until today. Until the release of Hearthstone. Hearthstone is a CCG by Blizzard, the folks who made World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft. They are masters of the art. Within ten minutes I knew I would not be going back to Shadow Era. Hearthstone is simply objectively better in every.single.sense.of.the.word.

What generally….minor thing do you find yourself missing more than you should? It could be a TV series, author, wrestler, movie franchise – whatever.  Do you miss the piledrivers, boobs, blood, and insanity of the attitude era, or do you find you only miss it when you think about it? 

Worse, what thing have you abandoned, or stopped paying attention too simply because you fell out of it? When you try to go back to it, what prevents you from diving all the way back in?

And it makes me a little sad – all that time invested, and some money too – I think I’ve dropped…12 dollars over the last year and a half on booster packs, etc. And I feel a bit like an asshole – leaving a game I really like for the hotter, sexier, far better put together game that wows me with fancy graphics and cool gameplay modes.

Especially because the last CCG I loved, WWE With Authority, was taken away from me riighhhhtttttttt as I really started to get it 11 years ago(ish). After a near decade of poking my head into the various Peer-to-peer clients, I eventually discovered the game had been truly resurrected by an independent team of….assholes.

See, the thing about With Authority is that it was really a game like no-other. It was complicated but logical – A ” back elbow” would counter a headlock, a back body drop would counter a pedigree, a Rock Bottom would counter a clothesline, and so on.

It was fucking delicious. Made all the more delicious by the fact that 1) The development team was located in my home state of Massachusetts, and 2) It was a freakin’ CCG about pro wrestling I could play on my COMPUTER.

There were weekly and monthly live tournaments, and I associate so much of 8th grade with playing this game on weekends with my good friend Will, laughing at various drama on the forums or how folks constantly complained about “Speed” decks. There are no other games like it. None. Nothing is even close to the way this game played, the way ‘pages’ fit together to create awesome counter battles along with great sound queues and WWE-specific touches. There was real ingenuity and passion and care here.

But as I said, the game was shut down, with hooks in place to allow players to play against each other on their own, eventually an IRC client sprung up, but it wasn’t the same – it was like playing slow-pitch softball with a broomstick – it worked fine, but felt off because there was no more moving forward. Everything that game would ever be, already was.

So upon discovering this really weird remake, SynamicD (which is a dumb fucking name), I played dumb and tried to help. I worked with two of the guys who were actively attempting to get the thing past beta and into production, all the while cocking an eyebrow at the fact these folks were essentially stealing all the hard work a bunch of other people did – poorly too.  They’d constantly censor people on the forums, lash out at people actively trying to ask questions, and always retorted with a “we know what we’re doing” despite no one on the damn team having any game development experience or understanding. It stung because I thought maybe this would be an inroad into actually developing a game. But nah.

I eventually dropped off the whole endeavor after it was revealed packs and points were going to INSANELY expensive, I attempted to explain the logic of “Well, this is a niche game – actually a copy of a niche game that didn’t succeed the first time, and you think the key to making it successful the second time around is to charge MORE money?” but was, yet-again, rebuffed with a “We got this, don’t worry about it,”.

And I guess…they do? New clients, decent sized player base, but after seeing this sausage get made, and getting burnt the first time, I decided to simply give up the ghost. With Authority perhaps my favorite computer game of all time, was dead to me, forever – it’s death rattle reboot a carcass  resembling a woman I once loved, but with dead eyes and an empty soul – kind of like Sharon Stone at the end of “Casino”.

So now, leaving Shadow Era – a game I’ve defended and promoted ad-nauseum,  I can’t help but feel I’m fucking over some bizarro version of me who stumbled across this little CCG on their iPad and love it to death, dropped their allowance and birthday money on cards, only to see the diehard players leave for the simply…greener pastures of Hearthstone. 

So why should you care? Well, I think as wrestling fans we all have a bit of a chip on our shoulder regarding this silly passion of ours. Things have changed, evolved, died, been rebooted, and…it’s strange. The magic of the 90s attitude era is gone, yes (and With Authority along with it), but somehow it carries on. Pro wrestling is not going away, and it’s comforting that for all the insanity and shit and bad choices and Katie Vicks and Kerwin Whites and Stintsky baby punts, it will endure…probably forever as our last great form of performance art. We love it, we love to hate it, and we love to mourn the things that are gone from it, all the while hoping for the best from its future.

If there ever comes a day where one of us, or two of us, or seven or eight or a thousand of us simply stop caring, there are millions of others who do, and will continue to care, and pay their money to watch and cheer and jeer, sign up for forums and bitch and complain, both about the wrestling and the people talking about the wrestling (or not talking about the wrestling in my case) – all the while reverent for the stuff from the past that is rarely seen or simply goes away forever, and hopeful for the future that we maybe, just maybe, may see it again, happy to toast absent friends and, I guess, future endeavors.