From the Archive: Professional Wrestling for Amateurs – The Final Countdown

Exams are over! Holidays have started! What a time to be alive! And so as things return to normal it seems only fitting, on the theme of closure, that we bask in the final piece of the 6 part series from the archive! I feel like there should be some Green Day playing in the background – in fact, as a last hurrah to the Professional Wrestling for Amateurs series  press play on this and try not to tear up too much as we say goodbye.

Before we do that though lets go back together – yes I am coming with you this time – and take a look at what the whole point of this blog series was all about. Part one gave a detailed account of what it’s like to live as a fan of professional wrestling, the social stigma involved, and the sly comments and subtle digs you have to put up with on a regular basis (see recurring comment; “You do know that’s fake, right?”). From here we moved into Part two where we looked more at the physical side of things – using Mick Foley’s best selling book “Have A Nice Day” as a point of call, not only for evidence, but also as the point where I truly fell in love with the sport as a young child.

As May was world mental health month it seemed fitting that in Part three we touched on some of the confronting mental situations that workers in the industry are faced with regularly – most of which are overlooked by those of you who fail to see past the character into the person underneath. To get a better understanding of this we went out and got some first hand insight from someone who actually gets in the ring with Part four, which is still our most successful part to date, which was a sit down interview with O’Shay Edwards – who is easily my new favourite wrestler (and should be yours too) as he is taking the world by storm. Finally, in Part five, we looked at the growing sub-culture that has developed from the wrestling industry. The common themes that bring people together through wrestlers crossing the threshold within the mediasphere to becoming actors, wrestling approved and associated music, or just the overall sense of camaraderie that is shared between members of the broader wrestling community.

All of these topics were outlined and decided upon as, to date, there was no easily found and up to date source with similar information. The aim was to act as an educational tool for those who didn’t know – or as a point of reference for those who did – and as the series has unfolded I feel like I have legitimised everything that I set out to achieve. Hopefully you feel the same and, even if it is only a small titbit, something that I have said will remain with you long after you finish reading these words.

What started as an ambitious attempt to watch wrestling and pass it off as study when questioned by the wife has now turned into a nifty little blog that I have become more and more attached to and proud of as time goes on. For this reason – while this six part series is done – I will be sticking around to continue enlightening you with more of my quality insight which I am sure you are all growing to love (if you aren’t please try harder) and I look forward to looking back at this project as a collection of wrestling knowledge for everyone to enjoy for years to come.

Thank you for reading.


This piece was originally published on June 4th 2016 at http://botchworldorder.wordpress.com

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From the Archive: Professional Wrestling for Amateurs – What, Culture?

Another week of preparing for the end of term has left me short on time – luckily there is still more to go back to from this original series on the misunderstood art of professional wrestling.  Previously we sat down with an actual, real life, wrestling machine – O’Shay Edwards – for a look at the life of a wrestler as well as touching on the physical and mental commitments and sacrifices that are made by performers. If you haven’t had a chance to read those earlier parts I would strongly recommend them as they are each a literary delight before tackling part 5 of this gripping tale of intrigue and romance.

So far the majority of this series has been looking at things from a wrestlers perspective and trying to break it down for better insight. What has been overlooked, and what will be touched on now, is the way in which the wrestling industry has influenced a sort of sub-culture in the modern world. A place where, thanks to social media, wrestling fans and pundits alike come to pay tribute to the sport they love in many different ways.

As the popularity of wrestling grew through the late 90’s it reached cult status, establishing the careers of many modern day film actors, most notable the likes of The Rock and John Cena. But it wasn’t always wrestlers becoming actors. In fact in 2000 Actor David Arquette became the WCW World Champion in what can only be described as a piece of sheer booking genius from then head booker Vince Russo – the man famous for making everything infinitely better by putting it on a pole.

It was around this time that wrestling and music also began to go hand in hand. Yes, I know Cyndi Lauper was at the first Wrestlemania, but this is more than that – and no I’m not talking about the Macho Man’s foray into rap either (which is pure brilliance if you haven’t already heard it). The surge in popularity of hard rock/post-grunge/nu-metal music saw bands that would not normally get the time of day thrust into the spotlight and if you were to quiz most modern day wrestling fans on the likes of Cold, Drowning Pool and Limp Bizkit they would be able to tell you that in 2002 they were all close personal friends of Tazz.

Moving away from the main stream influence in modern pop-culture professional wrestling has also created a brilliant and beautiful virtual world – sometimes even more misunderstood than wrestling itself. “eFedding”, another term for online roleplaying games based around the sport of professional wrestling, has grown massively as a hobby over the last 20 years from chains of emails, to MSN message boards and into the present day with social media (there are entire rosters worth of characters constantly tearing into one another on Twitter). The attention to detail shown by some roleplayers, or “fedders”, is immense and there are often people outside of the hobbies inner sanctum who mistake them for real people. A more in depth analysis of this subculture can be found here in the essay An Exploration of Social Gaming.

All of these things, be it films, music or games, bring millions of people together every day and unite them with one common trait; a love of wrestling. Whether it is loved or hated the wrestling industry as a whole is a global phenomenon – second only to sports like football (soccer for you Americans) and boxing for global popularity and viewership – and deserves to be treated with the same respect.


This piece was originally published on May 31st 2016 at http://botchworldorder.wordpress.com

Social Gaming – Interacting in the online world

Social gaming is one of my favourite past times, particularly in recent times in the Online world of Grand Theft Auto. Together with two of my good pals I am the president of the Hells Harambe’s Motorcycle Club. We grow pot, we cut coke and we manufacture meth in a large scale operation which takes the tender loving care of all three of us (and sometimes some ring ins).

Running a shady criminal empire probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun as it sounds without having a couple of mates on the other end of a headset to share a laugh and some strategic murdering with. Waddell & Peng (2014) explored this subject in their research paper Does it matter with whom you slay? The effects of competition, cooperation and relationship type among video game players and found that “cooperative game play was found to predict increased cooperative behaviours and trust in their partner” Personally I am inclined to agree with them on this as I have complete trust in my second, both in virtual reality and in real life where we are good friends, however I don’t know that this extends to makeshift alliances. Often if we allow an outsider into our clubs inner sanctum it will only be for a short while – and afterwards they will be “let go” as they are nothing more than fodder and would only be called upon if need be. After all, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? (And then shoot the cow in the head).

But social gaming to me means so much more than online shooters or fantasy roleplaying. Roleplaying, in the traditional sense of words on paper, has been a part of my life for the best part of the last 10 years in one form or another and I have loved it since I first encountered it. It is somewhat disheartening then as a long time “competitive writer” as some may call it to see that our art is not even thought of in the new media society where social gaming seems to have replaced old fashioned communities with fast, money grabbing apps on social platforms like candy crush. The subject of the evolution of traditional roleplaying was explored in this previously published case study.

An Exploration of Social Gaming: Roleplaying Case Study

The purpose of this case study was to explore social changes in online activities and communities by observing the evolution of the text based social roleplaying game of fantasy wrestling – specifically coinciding the rise of social media culture. This subject was chosen as it is an underrepresented area in the social gaming sphere given that the majority of recognised social games nowadays are heavily backed financially and presented in an interactive environment. Using a series of both academic and non-academic sources it was determined that while this particular social game has been enhanced by social media it is not dictated by it as are many others.


The aim of this essay is to demonstrate an understanding of the social changes associated with online activities, communities, networks and social media publics by conducting a case study on social gaming. Broadly defined as a structured multiplayer activity with contextual rules through which users can engage with one another (O’Neill 2008) social gaming is often characterised, since the rise of new media, as being an embedded interactive experience within a social media platform. This has not always been the case and to narrow the scope of this case study the essay will focus on the progression of one particular style of social gaming – fantasy wrestling, more commonly referred to as “efedding” (a combination of e, as in electronic, and fedding, a contraction of federation) – and explore, with the help of academic and peer reviewed sources, it’s evolution over the last 40 years. The three key academic sources that will be used in the analysis of the chosen case study will include virtual communities and their characteristics (Siapera 2012), the rise of the always-on culture (Boyd 2012) and the introduction of constant social media connection (Wilken & McCosker 2014).

Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) are not always dependent on consoles and fast action in fantasy worlds set in far off galaxies. There are some who still prescribe to the old fashioned methods of text-based interactions. In an easily accessible corner of the Internet an entire universe exists filled with larger than life characters, evil geniuses and heroes who will always come to save the day. It’s not the WWE – the WWE has even gone as far as to send cease and desist notices to some of the creative individuals who borrow from their trademarks and likenesses – it is the world of efedding. Started in the 1980’s by real life wrestling magazines (Merritt n.d.) the grounding of the game has not changed for the best part of 4 decades. Writers create characters, give them personality traits and a level of in ring training, and they are pit against other players. Matches can be decided in a number of ways (a points system, dice rolls, computer simulation) but the most common is roleplaying – or competitive writing. Two (or more) authors publish a piece, which is judged by their peers, and the best piece wins. Much like the real world of professional wrestling the best characters are rewarded with high profile bouts and championships. From humble beginnings with mail order competition the 90’s saw the rise of the Internet and with it the game was able to launch itself into the future. As the popularity of real life wrestling grew, and the stories became increasingly grounded in reality, so too did the world of the efed. Hosting sites such as Invision and ProBoards became the “fedheads” – a common term for the owner of an efederation – best friend and they were able to manage community interaction, distribution of information and keep records all in one place (ICWF 2017). To keep things above board each federation would have a set of rules and guidelines set out by the fedhead on their forum of behaviours that would be tolerated both in and out of character (GEW 2014). Generally the rules are made uniform throughout the many companies in existence, which keeps things easy to understand across the board and makes participating simple from forum to forum. (De Zwart & Humphreys 2014)

As the times changed so to did the prerogative of the competitors. The contests became more about collaboration and story telling as opposed to direct competition and alternatives to roleplaying battles – such as predetermined, or “angle feds” – began to grow in popularity. With the push towards developing interaction many character handlers moved their in character social interactions from lengthy novellas to the 140 character world of Twitter where on any given day at any given time you can find a plethora of fictional wrestlers discussing all things from real life football matches to the results of fictional wrestling shows (AlohaAdamAlpha 2017). The evolution of this game would not have been possible without the mainstream shift in online culture and the rise of social media. The emergence of social media in the roleplaying subculture has allowed participants a new medium in which to express themselves and provides an interesting perspective on the Always-On theory discussed by Boyd (2012). As Boyd explains how individuals who use mobile devices to manage their social media are constantly connected to those in their network, in the example of the case study, In Character Tweeting allows writers and collaborators to connect on a level that was not previously possible – and at a constant. Where as in days gone by writers would have had to arrange for a time or place to get together, in person or through an Instant Messaging service, to flesh out ideas and build stories together now they need only check their mobile device. From creating complex personal lives, friendship circles, annoying habits and anything in between writers are now able to control the lives of their characters down to the most minute of details in 140 characters while simultaneously participating in a global conversation with other likeminded individuals who are choosing to do the same (Waddell & Peng 2014). In doing so these individuals are prescribing to Boyd’s Always-On ideals twofold – both in and out of character.

When examining the manner in which social media is used within this specific community in terms of the theories discussed by Wilken & McCosker (2014) – who raise concerns of diminishing privacy and social media encouraging increasingly public levels of self-disclosure or exposure (Wilken & McCosker 2014, p.292) – its use can be explored on two levels. On one level there is the actual user, working behind their character, in a location that they may or may not choose to disclose. Considering this then, for all the fanciful tools of the GPS, the geo-locational data gathered from their activities is essentially redundant as it bears no relevance to the content of the postings. Geographic information linked to the actions of the account are stored and disclosed to others but their content is false – therefor nullifying them for any further use (Wilken & McCosker 2014, p. 294). On the other hand there is the characters themselves – whose lives are on display for all to see when exploring down the communities rabbit hole – discussing topics/visiting places which are often in different cities, states and even countries to the handler behind the screen. Again this demonstrates how, despite all of the advancements in technology and fanciful ways to interpret data, the data is redundant if the information it reads is not true (Wilken & McCosker 2014).

Looking at the game on a large scale the efed community has grown significantly and prospered with the rise of social media and now allows global collaboration and multi-point contact between all of its members. This is of considerable difference to the single point contact that was initially available in the game between players and a magazine writer or Webmaster. The freedom to communicate allows for more robust and dynamic story telling and also a greater appreciation of peers and peer reviewed content. (Siapera 2012) The game itself is social gaming at its most basic – characterised by regular social interaction (Rheingold 2012) without need for paying subscriptions or substantial financial investment. By meeting these criteria it becomes the perfect medium for social interaction as anybody with a computer and an internet connection can take part – knowledge of wrestling isn’t even essential as there are so many experienced “fedders” willing to help and even specifically designed promotions to develop new talent and train those with no experience (SCCW 2017).

From this case study on fantasy wrestling it can be seen that social media platforms and advertising do not solely define the realm of social gaming. In the context of fantasy wrestling the shift towards the social media network has enhanced the overall experience of the game by allowing players to come together in a state of constancy that was not previously available. This can be seen to differ from most other social games as its dedicated members run it as a solely not for profit community. Considering this it can be declared that ultimately those who are in it define the social gaming sphere and, when those individuals come together to form a digital community, they can use social media rather than letting social media use them.

 

References 

AlohaAdamAlpha 2017, Atlanta Falcons Playoff Discussion, 22 January, viewed 6 February 2017 <https://twitter.com/AlohaAdamAlpha/status/823289830440337408>

Boyd, D 2012, Participating in the Always On Lifestyle, in Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76

de Zwart, M & Humphreys, S 2014,’ The Lawless Frontier of Deep Space: Code as Law in EVE Online’, Cultural Studies Review, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 77-99.

ICWF 2017, Impact Championship Wrestling Federation, jcink.net, viewed 6 February 2017, < http://icwf.jcink.net/index.php?&gt;

GEW 2014, The Rules of GEW, invisionfree.com, April 30, viewed 5 February 2017, <http://z11.invisionfree.com/GEW/index.php?showtopic=9227&gt;

Merritt, C n.d., Where Did FW Come From?, fwrestling.com, viewed 3 February 2017, <http://fwrestling.com/whatis/EpEVupFpppUVXRNrTx.shtml>

O’Neill, N 2008, What Exactly Are Social Games?, adweek.com, July 31, viewed 3 February 2017, <http://www.adweek.com/digital/social-games/&gt;

Rheingold, H 2012, Virtual Community, Britannica.com, 2 February, viewed 5 February 2017, <https://www.britannica.com/topic/virtual-community>

SCCW 2017, Sussex County Championship Wrestling, ProBoards.com, viewed 6 February 2017, <http://sccw.boards.net/&gt;

Siapera, E 2012, ‘Socialities and Social Media’, in Introduction to New Media, Sage, London, pp. 191-208.

Waddell, J & Peng, W 2014, ‘Does it matter with whom you slay? The effects of competition, cooperation and relationship type among video game players’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 38, pp. 331-338.

Wilken, R & McCosker, A 2014, ‘Social Selves‘, in Cunningham & Turnbull (eds), The Media & Communications in Australia, Allen and Unwin pp. 291-295.