How "The Wrestler's" 8-bit Nintendo Game Was Made


I finally saw The Wrestler this weekend, and it was great. One little detail jumped out at me, though -- in one scene, the eponymous wrestler plays a Nintendo game with a neighborhood kid. The game is based on the character in the movie, and appears to be a real mid-80's NES game, but it can't be, because the wrestler character (Randy "The Ram" Robinson) is fictional. But in this scene they're playing the game, executing moves like the "Ram Slam" on each other. What? How did they do that?

It turns out the game is called Wrestle Jam and it was designed for the movie by artist Kristyn Hume and programmer Randall Furino. It wasn't actually running on Nintendo hardware, though Nintendo controllers were wired up to play it. There's an extensive story on the development of the game from Kotaku; here's a snippet:

...Furino, a tools programmer at Denver area developer NetDevil, had to program Wrestle Jam from the ground up, writing rendering, input, and artificial intelligence routines for the two playable characters, Randy "The Ram" Robinson and The Ayatollah. "[Wrestle Jam is] completely playable. There was an intro screen, character select, win / loss conditions, opponent AI, eight different attacks," Furino explained. "It was as close to a genuine old-school wrestling game as I could make it in the time allowed. I even mapped an old Nintendo controller to the input system so they could play it that way."

Read the rest for an interesting story about technology, low-budget filmmaking, and 8-bit gaming.