Creativity – Then and Now

In the years since college, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing, other than a prompt here or a super short story there. That, of course, is what I’m hoping to change.

Creativity comes in different flavors though. I would be omitting a huge outlet for it if I didn’t mention a game I played from eighth grade into my 30s.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a huge fan of pro wrestling. I grew up with it, watching the AWA on Sunday mornings with my dad and ultimately the WWF (now, WWE). Probably the height of my fandom was the mid to late 1990s, when WCW and WWE/F duked it out in a big ratings war. I still watch classics from that era thanks to the WWE Network. I love the larger-than-life characters, the storylines, the alliances and betrayals, and of course the (simulated) combat itself.

As a kid, I collected Masters of the Universe action figures. Unlike most of my peers however, I set up the Eternia Wrestling Federation (EWF) instead of traditional adventures. I still remember details like Kobra Khan being the first champion, and Tri-Klops being the “Ric Flair” of EWF, winning the title time after time.

Tri-Klops action figure from the 1980s toy line Masters of the Universe

The most storied champion in the history of the Eternia Wrestling Federation. Like his inspiration Ric Flair, he’d finish off opponents with his deadly figure-four leg lock.
Sadly, his career was halted when one of his legs snapped off.
(Photo from: He-Man.org)

Similarly, I had a ton of those M.U.S.C.L.E. wrestlers (you know, those little pink rubber guys – see A Brief History of M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures for a great recap). I made my own ring out of wood, nails, and rubber bands, and had an elaborate league with titles, feuds, and all the good stuff that goes with pro-wrestling.

In the interests of full transparency, even today in my basement on the pool table are a pile of these figures. It’s pretty common for me to go downstairs to do laundry or grab something from the freezer, and pause to have a quick match or two.

MUSCLE action figures posed in a wrestling match on my pool table

Yes, this is a current picture. Here, we see Warlock (the red guy) battling Slim Jim for the MWF Legends Title.

What endured the longest, however, was my devotion to a game called Champions of the Galaxy. My two best friends and I ordered the first several sets back in the mid 1980’s, and while they dropped off in a matter of a few years, I stuck with it for a couple decades.

During the years I played, the game comprised of black and white cards with a wrestler illustration on one side and the stats/game mechanics on the other. You’d roll dice, follow charts, and a wrestling match would unfold.

What makes this even crazier – the game and its Galaxian Wrestling Federation (GWF) were set over a hundred years in the future, throughout the cosmos. Some wrestlers came from Earth, but most were aliens from all over the Milky Way and beyond.

Seven playable cards from Champions of the Galaxy, including characters named Bishop Hell, Thantos, Comrade Terror, Battering Ram, Pegasus, Bounty Hunter and Janus.

Here is just a tiny subset of the legends who made up the Champions of the Galaxy pantheon.
Special mention goes to the guy in the lower right, Janus the Overman, who was far and away the most successful, memorable combatant in the decades-long love affair I had with this game.

Most of the time, I kept track of results via write-ups, in notebooks and binders. In later years, I’d make fancier computerized versions. The reams of paper I went through was staggering, building up feuds, rivalries and grandiose storylines. I kept track of each and every champion in charts and later spreadsheets. When I was much younger, I’d even do promos in front of the mirror before big matches, playing the role of one of the wrestlers.

And for the most part, I had an audience of one. Thousands of results that only I saw. And I didn’t care – it entertained the heck out of me for a long, long time.

Handwritten results of two events held in my fictional wrestling federation in the Champions of the Galaxy game setting. These are from 2007.

Yes, I did this in my early 30s, nearing the end of my run with Champions of the Galaxy.
But it gets the point across of how I’d keep track of results, and progress storylines.

The game exists even today, though I dropped off several years ago. What’s sad is expanding beyond my audience of one and meeting other players via online communities ruined everything. I was exposed to a clique of gamers that soured me to the entire game, though I fortunately made a couple genuine friends out of it that I still talk to now.

I really miss the game though, and the creative outlet it provided me. I mentally conjure up scenarios and storylines when I play modern video games like WWE 2K16, but it’s just not the same. There are go-to fictional wrestlers that I always make in wrestling games that allow character creation like: Prince Ali, the young, brash Middle Eastern aristocrat; Marcel, the creepy, enigmatic French mime; “Java” Jose Cortez, the Hispanic high-flyer; Golden Saint, the masked hero inspired visually from characters in the Elder Scrolls game series…

I’ve tried to recapture the magic with Champions of the Galaxy in recent years, but you can’t always go back home.

So that was then. Today, there are dozens of story fragments on my computer, in Dropbox, etcetera. Many of them came from memorable dreams I had, others conjured up after things picked up from books or video games.

I’ll close here, with much thanks again for taking this journey with me. It’s been a lot of fun reminiscing about these creative forays.

How, pray tell, does this all relate to User Experience, Accessibility, and my career?

Well, I wouldn’t be in the UX role I am today, and the web design roles before that, without these experiences.

Everything that got me into design has been self-taught, up until the graduate program I’ve currently in.

All those years fiddling around with MacPaint, all those mind-expanding sessions writing stuff for the fun of it, all those hours I spent teaching myself HTML so that I could make my own web site for that wrestling game….it all parlayed into an entry level job updating web sites. That took me into web design, which took me into accessibility, which took me into UX.

You get the point. A creative mind questions experiences. It explores ways to make them better. It doesn’t settle. And whether you’ve studied art, business, or programming — or history and Latin like me — your brain can be wired for user experience if you’re an explorer and thinker.

I’ve done well for myself professionally, even though some of my favorite creative outlets have gone dormant.

Here’s to a 2016 where I bring some of that back. Wish me luck.


Creativity Series

  1. Creativity
  2. Creativity – Me & the ’70s and ’80s
  3. Creativity – More Fun in the ’80s
  4. Creativity – The Late 80’s and 90’s
  5. Creativity – Then and Now

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