For a few years now, Audun Sorlie have been interviewing wrestlers and developers of video games through various work for Hardcore Gaming 101, Destructoid and magazine publications. No matter if the interview originally revolved around other subjects, or if he had sat down with them specifically to discuss the world of wrestling, it dawned on him the sheer amount of stories he was gathering that had never been heard before, yet held so much humor, shock, passion and confusion.
And as Sorlie sat down to research this genre further; he discovered the synchronicity between the wrestling industry and the video game industry. Both had experienced a sense of rebirth in 1984, as the WWF expanded its coverage beyond its territory of the northeast and video games resurfaced from the debris of the video game collapse left by Atari. Together these eventual juggernauts formed a tag team, perfectly working together to create an interactive experience of the action seen on TV. Wrestling did not only showcase the sport itself to be represented through maneuvers and rules, but also through the colorful and eccentric characters, tailor made for a medium such as video game to allow fans at home to take control of their favorite wrestler.
Quickly, wrestling video games became one of the most important merchandising item for companies around the world, and in order to bring the likeness of the performers, the authenticity of the moves and the sound of action home to the living room, it would often find itself pushing the limitations of video game consoles as far as it could handle.
That’s exactly why he and his good friend Matthew Gregg, creator of Botchamania, decided to create a truly unique project in order to get the full story told!
Want to know the internal reaction from WWF and its superstars the very first time they saw WWF Wrestlemania in action on the NES in 1988? Want to hear the list of ideas and demands Vince McMahon sent the developers when he first discovered video games, many of which are still requested to this day, and how developers maneuvered around it? Want to know why Hokuto No Ken creator Tetsuo Hara still fondly remembers his designs for Muscle Bomber (Slam Masters)? Want to hear the full story of the creation of Fire Pro Wrestling, the saga of the AKI wrestling games on the Nintendo 64 and what the future holds of the people who created these games? Or what about never before heard information on prototypes and unreleased wrestling games? All those stories and many more are in this book, straight from the mouths of the very people who created the games we all love and cherish.
In addition to this, most of the interviews we are conducting will be filmed and edited down to be shared with the backers, making this a full documented celebration of a genre of games that has influenced more than just mayhem on screen. As far as the interview objects will allow it, video documentation will be done for every single interview we do, and if that is not available, we’ll do our damnedest to get the audio released in its place.
Wrestling, more so than any other sport, holds such a mystique due to the rather closed off nature of the backstage dealings and secretive employees, which has led to a fantastic line of books from wrestlers and historians alike detailing the strange yet enthralling world of wrestling. The idea of this project is to provide a book much like one of our favorites, Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and RD Reynolds, and for it to fit in naturally in any wrestling or video game book aficionado. For wrestling fans, the concept of video game development might be completely unknown to them, and this book will provide an interesting look into just the sheer amount of details and research that went into even the earliest of wrestling video games. For video game fans, the world of wrestling might be completely alien and one they never thought to take any interest in, but to see how video game developers dealt with the wrestling industry might hold some shocking surprises even for the most jaded fan.
While the book already has extensive research done, there is still a lot of work to be done and stories to be heard. Over the years, I’ve accumulated many interviews that has given me some rare insight and stories ranging from incredible to downright bizarre.
Interviews already conducted over the last few years:
Syuji Yoshida (AKI/Syn Sophia)
GETA (AKI/Syn Sophia)
SUDA51 (Fire Pro Wrestling, No More Heroes)
Akari Uchida (Rumble Roses)
Akira Yamaoka (Rumble Roses)
Tetsuo Hara (Creator of Hokuto no Ken, character designer for Muscle Bomber/Slam Masters)
Ray Lloyd (Glacier in WCW, discussing his video game themed character and internal dealings with Midway.)
Yoshihisa Kishimoto (Director of WWF Wrestlefest, WWF Superstars Arcade, Creator of Double Dragon)
Immersion (AAA Lucha Libre Developer)
Panic Button (Developers of Hulk Hogan Main Event)
Former staff of THQ
Former staff of EA (WCW Mayhem/Backstage Assault development members)
Samoa Joe (TNA)
AJ Styles (TNA)
Mike Quackenbush (Chikara)
Mick Foley (WWE Hall of Famer)
+ more announced throughout the funding process.
In addition, we have contacted and reached out to many of the following to take part in this project and sit down with us for interviews. We can’t guarantee their participation, but with the proper budget and equipment, it is highly possible we can get them onboard:
Bret Hart (WWE Hall of Famer)
Ted Dibiase (WWE Hall of Famer)
Diamond Dallas Page (Former WCW world champion, creator of DDP Yoga)
Warrior (WWE and WCW Legend)
Takashi Shimada (Creator of Kinnikuman)
Yoshiaki Inose (Tecmo)
Masato Masuda (HUMAN, creator of Pro Wrestling NES)
Simon Inoki (Former NJPW president)
Steve Ryno (Former VP and develop assistant on THQ’s WCW releases)
The higher our budget is, the more stars we can get access to through booking fees and scheduling. Our network extends quite far into both the video game industry and the wrestling industry between the 2 authors. The interviews will be shared online with the reward tiers above $30.
The book is built up in 2 interchanging parts. The history chapters which details the story of how wrestling and video games began their rise in the mid 80's and became a solid tag team, looking at the competition between WCW and WWF and how it shaped the games.
-Developing the first wrestling games. (Apooh and Tag Team Wrestling)
-WWF picks up the controller. (The history behind the very first WWF video games and reaction from the wrestlers.)
-Human Psychology (Developing Fire Pro, evolving wrestling in Japan)
-Independent scene (The rise of original wrestling games based on new character designs and creativity.)
-Muscle Memory (The creation of Muscle Breeze/AKI)
-King of the Ring (WWF and WCW go head to head in the virtual ring in the late 90's)
-Broken in Half (Smackdown dominates)
-Colosseum and Kingdoms (The struggles of wrestling games in Japan)
These are just some of the things you will find in the book, and you won't believe the stories you'll hear in this book as wrestling truly is a unique beast to grapple with, even for video game developers. The book will have illustrations based on numerous wrestling games by Minecraft's graphic designer, junkboy!
Between each chapter, there will be a catalog of every wrestling game ever made. That's right, ever! Every game from WWF, NJPW, WCW, FMW, you name it, those developed in the US, those in Japan, even some in Spain. We even went so far to track down a pachinko machine just to write 2 paragraphs for it!
To illustrate, here are temporary designs how these things are laid out:
The editing and design of the book will be handled by an outside party to ensure that the text and the design meets the expectation of anyone who picks up this strange little book. And safe to say, this strange little book will actually be huge, it already is at 35% done!
For many, the main draw is hearing from AKI directly about their work in wrestling games, and what they plan for the future.
As we are conducting interviews over this winter and spring, we are documenting each and every interview. While it is important to note that we are not making a documentary, the DVD will be a perfect companion to the book containing unfiltered, unedited footage from former developers and wrestlers about their memories revolving around wrestling video games and their own participation. This isn't just to create something to fill up the reward pledges with, we think it's important to document and capture some memories that haven't been unearthed before, and to allow wrestlers to speak on something else that might be refreshing. Of course, we will fill this DVD with all kinds of footage from the production, and some of the things you can expect are:
-Interviews (Wrestlers, developers and kickstarter pledgers discussing wrestling games. Anecdotes, memories, development)
-Convention footage from Botchamania past and present
-Footage of Botchamania's annual WWF No Mercy Tournament from MAGFest
-More will be announced throughout the production time
Waiting for anything to get done is a pain. We all baked cakes before and nearly killed as we smell that sweet chocolate scent coming out of the oven. While we can't ship you brownies while you wait, we are however doing a development podcast in order to update the pledgers what is going on. What interviews have we done recently, what things can you expect? We will discuss this in each episode and dedicate time to speak about one wrestling game per episode, and we also have a few guests lined up to keep things interesting and engaging while the book is being finished. We will of course answer any questions or feedback sent to us as well. Unless you are trying to make us cry.
One of the most exciting things about this book for us is the involvement of Markus Toivonen, better known as junkboy! You might know him from Minecraft, as he was the graphic designer on that game and works as Mojang's resident art developer. Since he is such a big fan of old school wrestling and the offer for him to be completely free in illustrating wrestling for our book, he graciously accepted! We will be offering a coffee table book with his art as a reward, and we can't wait to see all the fantastic work he will bring to this project. here are some examples of his insane talents:
Addtionally, there will be extra artwork by other artists in the book. (Only Junkboy's art will be featured in the coffee table art book!)
Wrestling with Pixels has a crew of merry men and women that ensures the quality of this product.
Audun Sorlie has written for famous video game websites and magazines around the world, including some of Hardcore Gaming 101's most popular and expansive retrospectives, including the AKI Wrestling Games and Tecmo World Wrestling articles. For several years he has also worked with various video game symphony projects in both the US and Europe.
Matthew "Maffew" Gregg created the very popular wrestling video series Botchamania, which combines wrestling bloopers with video game music to humorous effect. He has also written for 411Mania, Powerslam Magazine and been a popular attraction at conventions due to his quick wit and warm personality.
junkboy is the graphic designer behind the incredibly popular Minecraft, and a famous illustrator in his own right. His love for the 80's pop culture and classic wrestling makes him the perfect choice to illustrate Wrestling With Pixels.
Vivianne Ducharme is a Canadian graphic designer and illustrator. She has worked on various fan projects based on video games in the past, and will ensure a clean, intuitive design structure to the book.
Brenna Wilkes works has experience with organizing projects and management through her daily work and activities within video game projects. Being the project manager and organizer, she'll ensure that your money is being spent most efficiently and provide the fastest service.
This winter, both Sorlie and Maffew will travel to the US and several interviews have been scheduled and will be conducted then. This trip is already paid for and arranged and is not included into the budget set for this project. Additional trips to GDC, E3 and a few wrestling conventions are also penciled in. Most of the budget is reserved the printing cost, as the book is of great size and different versions will also be printed based on the reward tier. Additionally, some wrestlers have booking fees for interviews, and equipment needs to be rented in some situations. The budget set for this is the bare minimum to get everything produced up to standard, but with any added amount, more interviews and more content will be produced. All money goes towards production of the book and DVD, and there is no profit involved for the author. This is a dream we already been working on for a year, and this won't change.
Breaking down the budget, we end up with this:
-Wrestler booking fees
-Translation for further Japanese interviews
-Printing costs (Biggest expense)
-DVD manufacturing (proper menus and editing by outside party)
-Travel costs (train, bus etc)
Since most of the wrestling fans are in the US, the book is being printed and produced in the US to ensure fast shipping (in theory, don't kill us if Postman Pat is late in your area!). All rewards includes shipping for US residents.
There aren't any stretch goals in mind as we are rather focused on getting what we have as good as it can be, but as we mentioned, the bigger budget, the better production and more interviews we can do.
Risks and challenges
As with any project, one of the risks we can run into is simply that we need more time. We are at about 35% but depending on if we make the goal, or should we be so lucky to exceed it, many more stories from additional interviews will come forth and new names will be brought on to be interviewed, so there might be a few months delay. Regardless, the digital version will be sent out to those who pledged for it the moment it is fully done, with the print following in the weeks after.
We also might face the risk that with increased size, comes an increased printing cost. We already got an estimate on where we are heading for now, and should it be inflated, we might look into cutting certain sections and offering them digitally in a worst case scenario, though we would never cut out any essential stories or information, so we will edit this book with eagle eyes.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)