One from the archives, this interview was originally published on my MySpace blog in January 2007 – nearly 5 years to the day, and was the result of working in tandem with Edge’s forum members, who helped to ensure that the questions I asked were of an extremely high standard.
It is safe to say that whilst I did take credit for securing the interview, the interview itself was only as good as the interviewer(s), and I would like to thank Edge forum members for their contribution in ensuring that this interview remained a stable highlight on the old Edge forums till the day it closed.
Anyway, you can read the interview below:
You recently had an article published in MCV on the state of videogames and their representation on TV through celebrities and other media icons. Can you please tell us as to what the reaction was to your article and how do you feel about Mr Biffo’s reply in his column at Edge magazine?
On the whole the reaction to my article was extremely positive. MCV had asked me personally to write the piece, so I guess they felt it needed saying.
As for Biffo’s comment in Edge, I can only assume he was short of something to write that month, because I certainly don’t want to believe that he would be that naive. He’s entitled to his opinion – but he should be aware that he’s wrong.
A gamer called Otoko asked me to ask you, given that you were for many children, a TV “gaming hero of heroes”, if there are any modern day gaming icons that you would consider as carrying the flame for future generations? Why do you think there has been a dearth of comparable modern gaming icons since you and what would you do to rectify the situation?
For now there are no modern gaming icons, and that makes me sad. I think most people are too frightened to put their heads above the trenches for fear of getting shot. What kind of career is that? But this industry is its own worst enemy. Generally it is very snide and negative. There is certainly a lot of jealousy and resentment aimed towards success of any kind, a real barrel of crabs mentality. You’ve only to experience the kind of cowardly vitriole and hostility that can be found on most gaming forums.
There is nothing you can do to change the situation. You cannot just create personalities, X-Factor has proved that.
Whilst you’ve always been a legend in publishing circles, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Games Master TV show that you found fame on a truly mass-market level. Tell us, what were your experiences like whilst on that show and who did you get on with more between Dominic Diamond and Dexter Fletcher?
Without question Dexter. Although Dominik and I got on fine in the early days of series 1 and 2. We had a good laugh. Why things changed I don’t know.
My experiences of GamesMaster were a combination of very high, highs and annoyingly frustrating lows. I loved doing the show, as it had been my ‘baby’ from the start. But I always felt like I was on a crusade to keep it true to its original concept, to make sure that when I was onscreen it was always about the games not just a forum for cracking one-liners and childish innuendo. By series 6 I’d had enough. I didn’t feel I could stop the rot and lost interest in the politics. Series 7 showed my decision to walk to be the correct one.
As the self-proclaimed “Greatest Games-Player in the World”, how did it feel to be beaten by Dominic Diamond during a Super Mario 64 challenge, and why did you pick a game as mediocre as Mortal Kombat to master?
Ha, ha. I mastered many games. It’s just that Mortal Kombat was THE big game for many years, and the one everyone wanted to play me on. Don’t forget there was no online gaming community in the early 90s. The arcades were where the real battles took place, and at the time Mortal Kombat was king of the cabinets. So in return I had to be the king of Mortal Kombat. And I was.
As for being beaten by Dominik, he’s never beaten me on a game in his life. The Mario 64 challenge you’re referring to has been well documented through the years. It was rigged so that I would lose on a game and a system I had never played on before, against someone who had practiced for three months in advance. That person also just happened to be Dominik’s best friend. You do the math. My only regret is that I didn’t react better. But hey ho.
Can you please give us any tips as to how one can forge a reputable career in the media publishing industry and what advice would you give to those who want to follow in your footsteps by becoming Videogame Journalists?
Okay… are you ready?… Here is my standard response to anybody wanting to get into the games industry….
There’s no questioning the fact that as professional arenas go, the games industry is an exciting place to earn a crust. For example there are also the obvious benefits – playing games, going to parties, and flying to expos around the world, and these when matched up with a decent salary are what makes this industry such a desirable place in which to hang your hat. However, it is also an extremely tough world to get a foot hold in, and, due to its quite insular and specialist nature, prospective professionals can find it a bewildering place to get started.
The most important single area, when beginning any attack on a career plan, is getting your head in shape. I have long since lost count of the number of whinging university graduates I have worked with who seemed to believe that the world owed them a living, and after a year in the job couldn’t understand why they weren’t running the company and banking a big league salary every month. If this sounds like you, then stop now. Save someone the trouble of firing your ass, and save yourself months and months of hanging around pubs and web forums moaning and bitching about how everyone else has got it wrong, and just can’t see it. You know the kind of people I mean.
If you want to get a career really worth having then you’ve got to be prepared to go that bit further than everyone else in order to get it. Great jobs don’t just pop up at the end of the street. For my first two jobs in publishing I turned up ready to work with my life’s possessions crammed into the back of my mini clubman and a sleeping bag. I lived in digs in London and a converted bus for two years earning £7,000 a year and living on soup and beans (not glamorous I assure you). But I had to do it to get the grounding I needed.
Experience is essential, but more often than not it is up to you to go out and get it.
I have always looked at a career as being like a car. To get it moving you need the following:
An Engine – Your Work Ethic
A Driver – Your Skills and Training
And Fuel – Your Ambition
It’s a very simple model to picture, but if you try to imagine any two of these three elements on their own then the vehicle/career simply won’t go anywhere. You must have all three if you are going to achieve anything in life, and must be honest with your self-appraisal. Because if you can see a weakness, you can be damn sure your boss will!
Most importantly… ideas don’t work unless you do. If you still think you have what it takes to forge out a career in videogames, then commit to it 100% and go get the career you’ve always dreamed of. Personally, I wouldn’t change my time spent within videogames for any other industry in the world.
What do you feel about the state of videogames journalism today and what would you change about the way gaming “journalism” is done?
People seem to have forgotten that people buy magazines to be entertained as well as informed. The glitter and fun have gone out of the news stand sector, and the internet on the whole seems to be mistaking irreverence and bad language for coolness and humour.
Where’s the fun, baby? Games are fun. You’ve got to remember that it’s a great job, but it’ll never be a cool job… so stop trying so hard. You’re fooling no-one. Just enjoy yourself.
What do you think of Old Games Journalism and why do you think it’s fallen out of favour with the “Videogames Intelligentsia”, especially when one considers the impact of New Games Journalism and its associated championing by Edge magazine?
New Games Journalism is the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ of videogames writing. It doesn’t exist. It was a tongue-in-cheek joke that backfired.
What did you think of Dominik Diamond’s comments on the need for videogames academia and study in Edge magazine and what do you think of Edge magazine in general?
Study videogames? Really? No wonder the hobby is in danger of disappearing up its own overly retentive anus. As for Edge, it’s alright. It does a job but it doesn’t excite me. It’s like reading a manual when you could be playing the game. It reminds me of a Big Mac trying to be a steak dinner. Magazines are the fast food equivilent of literature; they should be cheap, fun, tasty and immediately satisfying, but ultimately leave you wanting more. Read, throw away, but crave another one in four weeks time. When magazines get too intense and serious they lose their very essence.
You once had plans to launch a magazine that was to rival Edge and yet capture the zeitgeist era of Mean Machines, Super Play and CVG. Please tell us, how would you go about launching such a magazine today and do you think a market still exists for such a magazine in printed format? Indeed, do you think printed publications even have a future when considering the encroaching effects of the internet on traditional media publications?
A far as the games press is concerned, print is all but dead. Broadband has seen to that.
“Player1” asked me to ask you as to what you think of journalists entering the games industry as developers (such as Julian Rignall and Greg Kasavin off Gamespot). Do you think that this is an evolutionary step and if so, is it an area of work you’d be interested in entering? If so, where do you think your particular skills would be best put to use and what type of game would you most want to make and for which platform?
Games journalists always need somewhere to go when they get too old to write for games magazines and websites. Mainly because the money is so bad. So a more corporate environment often seems like the answer. Decent salary, lots of perks, expense accounts, company cars etc. I tried it at THQ but missed my independance too much.
There’s no reason why experienced journalists shouldn’t take their knowledge into the development arena and try to use it to produce more playable products. But just as many developers would make awful journalists… it also works in reverse. It’s not for me.
What is your opinion of Nintendo’s newly released Wii console? How do you think the machine and its Virtual Console will do in the marketplace and what do you think the implications will be for both gamers and retro collectors?
I’m not a great fan of the Wii. It’s a nice toy, but a bit too gimmicky for my tastes. Still it’s nice to see people trying something different. Nintnedo can always be relied upon to do that.
Considering the viability of the PC as a gaming platform, how do you feel about the PS3 and Xbox 360 and why do you think we should care about either console as a gaming platform when a modern PC has shown that it can do both gaming and serious applications at an affordable price?
I still believe that there are games that work better on a console (beat ’em-ups, racing games) and those that work better on a PC (RTS, first person shooters). So for me there will always be a need to have both a PC and a favourite console.
Personally I have both a PS3 and a 360, and while the PS3 has thus far been underwhelming, I think Microsoft’s machine is the most impressive console I’ve seen since the original PlayStation. If only it wasn’t so fragile.
What are your Top 5 games of last year and what do you think will be the gaming highlights of 2007?
My top 5 games of the last year… boy that’s tough. I liked Def Jam: The Fight For New York, Motorstorm (I’ve had an early version since October), Guitar Hero 2, Viva Pinata and Fight Night 3. Hmm, but Gears of War and Medieval 2: Total War aren’t too far behind. I also really enjoyed Fiffa Street 2 on the PSP, but that’s a controversial opinion.
I guess the gaming highlights of 2007 will come from watching to see how the Wii’s developers actually use the hardware to its best advantage and trying to guess when the PS3 will finally appear in the UK.
A lot of people have asked me as to where the inspiration for your bandanna came from. For those who don’t know, can you please tell us as to what your favourite bandanna is and why do you think this article of clothing was so crucial towards establishing and maintaining your image in 90’s.
I started wearing the bandana during series 2 of GamesMaster because I was growing my hair and to be honest it looked shit. You know, it was at that in between stage. So I started wearing bandanas on screen, and the Director loved it. From that moment on I decided that it would be a really strong image to have. It didn’t matter whether it looked cool or not. The important thing was being iconic. Being recognisable and standing out from the rest. And it worked.
My favourite bandana’s were my US flag bandana and the Union Jack one I wore throughout series 3 of GamesMaster. In the end I had over 70 different designs. I even had my own ones made and screen printed for personal appearances.
The bandanas were crucial for establishing my image in the 90s because they gave me a trademark. They made me instandly recognisable. They made me ‘feel’ like the GamesAnimal, which also gave me confidence. It’s like playing a character sometimes when you go on stage in front of a crowd.
With everyone now being fascinated with the concept of celebrity (through reality TV shows etc), how do you think your life has been affected since you became famous and what do you think the term “Celebrity” means today. What would you want the term to mean and what do you hope to gain from your proposed re-entry in the videogames industry?
I certainly got to sleep with more models and female ‘celebrities’ as a result of my ‘fame’. Which in my early 20s was a huge bonus! Believe me, if I ever write a book about gaming in those years it’s going to be interesting. I somehow managed to have a rock n’ roll lifestyle while being a games expert. A colleague once described my career in the 90s as a ‘roller coaster ride’, and it was. It was amazing, and probably climaxed with my being recognised by Company magazine…
Company Magazine named you one of Britain’s most Eligible Bachelors in 1996. Tell us, how did a “gaming geek” like you become so popular with the ladies and what do you think was the reaction from both gamers and women as I have heard many stories about you. And just for the record, what exactly happened between you and Dani Behr?
Bloody hell. I think most people were amazed that a gamer could achieve such recognition. But then I have always been way better looking than your average journo. Just check out the recent Ram Raider Poll.
Certainly many stories have circulated about me through the years though. And an awful lot of them seem to come from people who have never even met me but think they know me well enough to comment anyway.
As for Dani, well it was fun while it lasted. But that was years ago man. Ask me about Denise or Louise or Nancy…
Now that you’re no longer single and lead a successfully married life, what do you think girls look for in a guy? Is it still the case of winning girls over with a flash car or do you think the modern woman now asks for an altogether different type of person?
Women like men who can make them laugh and are individuals. Strength of character is also a definite female turn-on. However, I have found that just having an enormous knob has always been my greatest asset with the fairer sex.
As someone who attended many opening ceremonies of independent videogame stores, what do think of the increased proliferation of chain retail stores (such as CEX and Gamestation). What do you think of these faceless corporate behemoths and what tips would you give to someone who wants to open “The Best Videogames Store in the World”? What strategies would you implement and how would you go about ensuring that the enterprise is able to live up to expectations?
I have a blueprint for an idea that would allow private businessmen to set-up their own independent stores all over the world, without having to worry about competing with the big chains. The trouble is it would initially need an investor with fairly deep pockets to get it off the ground. After that however it would give a lot power back to the indies… but not in quite the same shape and form as before. You can’t compete head-on with the chains, the profit margins just aren’t there any more. You have to think laterally.
Seeing that you’re an industry veteran with many years of experience, what would you say have been your fondest memories and favourite moments to date? Indeed, what do you think have been your biggest achievements, and if all this ended tomorrow, what would you like to be remembered for?
Phew, it’s been almost 20 years now since I first started working in this industry. I have lived in a converted bus and written articles on PCs powered by a generator, presented on more than 300 TV shows and been voted one of the country’s Top 50 bachelors. I have opened stores, had articles written about me in the tabloids and even gone to The Cliff training ground to work with Manchester United’s players on new product promotions.
My fondest moments though would probably have been spent sitting in front of the crowd in the Games World arena for Sky One. That was such a great place to be. Just me and Bob Mills, up on the stage, trying to commentate on the latest games while the audience cheered the competitors on around us. It was electric. A real home for heroes.
If I could be remembered for anything I would like it to be that I was larger than life. A real character. Someone who stood out from the videogames crowd and did things his own way.
Do you have any last words for your adoring fans?
Just love me. I do.