Not often seen so much performing his stand-up on the telly or on the live circuit these days, Kevin Day is nowadays better known for his broadcast work on Match Of The Day, TalkSport or Five Live and, more recently, for his comedic writing talent on Radio Two’s long-running Radio Rivron comedy series.
Some of the older readers amongst you may well remember Day’s early...erm, days as a stand-up, where much of his set was made up of an hilarious lambasting of the world and characters of the extreme political right. An easy target for comedy, many would say, but it was one that Day had an intimate knowledge of, from dalliances with that world himself as a teenager.
SPOnG collared Kevin on a grey March day at his office in London’s fashionable Soho and fired some videogame related questions his way, and here is what he had to say. He is, it soon transpires, what you might call ‘hardcore’.
SPOnG: What are your favourite games of the last year or two? And why?
Kevin Day: I'm still loving Mario Kart on Gamecube and DS, for reasons of good old fashioned playability. As a more, ahem, mature gamer, I enjoy games that don't involve three days reading the instructions before I can get started. I am also really into the current Call of Duty, the Big Red One, on PS2. It's still too linear but I think it offers much more variety and challenge than the Medal of Honor games. Sadly, I still think it's big and clever to kill imaginary Nazis.
I really regret that I can't find an RPG on PS2 that I can really immerse myself in, although my ten year-old games guru tells me there is one imminent. Ed, my ten year-old son can't get enough of Burnout Legends and Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi.
SPOnG: What are your top three favourite games of all time? Any particular memories they evoke?
Kevin Day: Zelda and the early Final Fantasy games on SNES bring back very happy memories of a time when you felt it perfectly natural to stay up all night with beer and pizza trying to make just a little bit more headway or find the hidden secret that a five year-old cousin swore blind was just around the next rock.
My all time favourite game is one only I seem to have any memory of, so much so, that I am beginning to wonder I may have imagined the entire weeks trying to solve the little bleeder.
It was called either Shadowland or Shadowplay on the SNES. Basically a tiny little you (and the graphics were tiny) woke up in a morgue and you had to work out how you got there. You couldn't even get out of the morgue until you had found a pair of sunglasses hidden in a cabinet which you put on to fool the attendants. Then basically you spent the next year of your life solving fiendish puzzles, literally hacking into computers (you went inside them), fighting goons, and shooting dogs.
It was absolutely compelling and the first game that illustrated that at its best, a game could be as absorbing as a book or a film.
SPOnG: Whats your earliest memory of playing video games?
Kevin Day: Sadly, playing Pong on a mate's tv and thinking the age of Doctor Who had arrived! Then I was a Space Invaders hustler and finally I remeber the joy of Asterix on the Master System.
SPOnG: Xbox, PlayStation, PC or Gamecube? Any preferences, and if so can you say why?
Kevin Day: The SNES is still my favourite console but I do like the PS2. Gamecube is great for several games, especially Mario Kart, but PS2 feels more like a proper grown up gaming experience, you know, one that a fully grown man can justify to his wife. Number One son swears the PSP is the only console in town.
SPOnG: Unless you are one of the lucky few who already has an Xbox 360, will you buy a next-generation console in 2006? And if so, which one ? Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Revolution?
Kevin Day: Family Day are awaiting the PS3 with breath fully bated. I don't like the look of the Revolution control pad (I know, I'm a Luddite) and from what I can see, the Xbox 360 has stunning graphics but the gameplay is pretty much the same.
SPOnG: When you are buying a new game how do you make the decision what to buy? Magazines? Word of mouth? Pot luck? Other influences?
Kevin Day: I still flick through magazines, and some of the other comics are still into games, as are one or two of the other dads in the playground. TV advertising helps, but nearly all of my advance news and up to date reviews come from my son. I would never buy a game that he thought I wouldn't like or he couldn't nick.
SPOnG: Do you play games alone, online with others or multiplayer with your partner, family and/or friends?
Kevin Day: I play race games with Ed, my son; but to be honest I prefer gaming to be a solo experience. Possibly because I am an only child, possibly because I like long, involved RPGs and possibly because I am a really grumpy loser.
SPOnG: If you were given carte blanche to design the game of your dreams, what would it be?
Kevin Day: It would either be a completely non-linear Medal of Honor-type game but with fiendish puzzles thrown in; or, my ideal game would be a Sherlock Holmes clue-solving mystery with a bit of fighting thrown in, and no random battles. It's really hard to find a game that balances the physical and mental gameplay challenges.
SPOnG: What talents could you bring to creating a game? If you had a job with a games development company, what would you want your job title to be?
Kevin Day: There is a secret part of me that would love to be a DisneyLand Imagineer, so Imagineer is what I would want on my badge. I have no technical expertise whatsoever, so my role would be the one who people shout at. Namely, "It can't be done. Stop suggesting Medal of Honor with added pterodactyls".
SPOnG: What movie license(s) would you like to see videogame versions of?
Kevin Day: 'V for Vendetta' is obviously a film adaptation of a comic book but strikes me as having the potential for puzzles and mystery. Now there is finally to be a Terry Pratchett movie tie-in, I can suggest that. You could get a variety of games out of Discworld, from first person shoot 'em ups to grand battle strategy games.
SPOnG: Finally, its increasingly rare to see 'positive' press coverage about gaming. There is much talk of videogames being ‘bad’ for gamers (younger games especially). Do you have any thoughts and opinions on this issue? How do you think ‘responsible, good’ parents should deal with their kids' videogaming habits and use?
Kevin Day: This is a very pertinent question in our house, as Ed really wants to get Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories and I won't let him. He is a very mature young man and accepts why I have made the decision but it has led us into some proper conversations about responsibilty and age-appropriate material. I probably sound terribly old-fashioned to him, but I wouldn't be happy about him playing any game with mature content that I hadn't thoroughly researched first, and there are definitely some things that I think are inappropriate for recreational games.
Having said that, he limits his own game-playing because he seems instinctively aware that a couple of hours at a time means he gets more out of a game both in terms of playability and good old-fashioned economics.
Also, I actually believe that a well-constructed game can be a positive thing for children. I have seen him use problem-solving skills and hand/eye co-ordination, and it teaches valuable lessons about perseverance, acceptance of defeat, and, very occasionally, graciousness in victory when he has whupped me at Mario Kart.
See. Told you. Day is definitely and defiantly hardcore
When asked what he was currently up to, Kevin replied: “I am currently working on Match of the Day 2, presenting a film every Sunday night. I am doing comedy work on and off for 5Live. I'm writing a DVD for Gary Lineker and am just about to start presenting the Daily Mirror's weekly podcast.
Oh, and also I'm doing some radio shows with a bloke called Roland Rivron!”
So, basically he’s a very, very busy man. Thanks for taking time out to regale us with your thoughts on videogames, Kevin.