Interviews

Dara O'Briain: 'I never thought I'd become an advocate for gaming'

Irish funnyman on BAFTA, violence and Olly Murs...

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I remember Tank Commander was the major game of the time. That became Vic20, which then became Commodore 64 - and that was when I really got into it. That would be my 'tribe'.

That went all through my early teens. And then in late teens and early 20s that kind of disappeared, so I missed Sonic and I missed Mario. Then when I was a kids' TV presenter, I rediscovered it all because I bagged a PlayStation from Sony.

From there in on, it's kind of been buzzing around constantly. I describe myself as "hardcore/casual", which is that I have the heart of a hardcore gamer, but I don't have the skills or the time. So I can get as far as a couple of boss battles and then I baulk at it. I just like the virtual worlds.

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So they've always been around, but getting involved with BAFTA has kind of given me a good excuse to play more, which I use regularly in the house, of it being "research".

I play lots and lots of games now. Now, I host a lot of awards. In March I'm hosting about seven different awards - including the Money Marketing awards. I don't pay anywhere near as much attention to that as I do to video games. I'm hosting the Mothercare awards, and I'm not looking at different types of nappy in quite the avid way I'm playing Bad Company 2.

In the last couple of years as well, I've noticed that I've got slightly better, or the calibration of games is slightly kinder, because I'm now finishing things, which I didn't used to. I finished Uncharted and I finished Arkham Asylum.

You've talked about games 'blocking' less accomplished players from experiencing what they've paid for. Although that seems to be happening a little less now, which the hardcore aren't great fans of...

Of course they're not! It's so funny, when that routine [about Dara being unable to beat a Gears boss] came out - which was a celebration of gaming - there were a load of people sneering: "He's obviously rubbish at games."

That was kind of the whole point of it. It's a very common thing. There was a phrase from Caitlin Moran in The Times - we were talking about anonymous commentary on things - and she said: "You never forget the first time your work is taken apart by SirWankalot27."

It's one of those things. Haters gonna hate. You're always going to get people on YouTube saying how lame something is. But if my nagging has had anything to do with that phenomenon of players being 'blocked' from content [dying down], then great.

I'd love that. Just a button saying: "You're not getting this. Why don't we just let you pass. We'll stick it in a section called 'uncompleted bits' and you can drop back in later. Because this is getting ridiculous."

I read an interview with you where you discussed Bill Hicks. Although you said you respected him, you also suggested he opened the door for some less witty, less driven comedians, who were merely offensive for offensiveness's sake. Do you think games have a similar problem? That you have to have headshots, knives in necks, multiple grisly death scenes, or you're not considered 'edgy' enough?

Yeah. I thought The Onion nailed it with that 'Headshot 2' spoof. You press the space bar and just get headshots. There's a horse at one stage and you pop one in his head. That sort of thing reminds me of Bad Company - but then you just have to admit that there's something about looking down the scope of a lens and just [makes dampened gunshot noise, complete with hand gestures].

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I found Fallout a bit slow-motion head-blown-off-the-neck. The 20th time you've seen that, you want to go: "All right, all right. That's a bit silly now."

I haven't played Manhunt, Madworld or Saw or the ones that are explicitly about the gruesomeness. But there's always going to be that element, that genre - it just doesn't particularly appeal to me. I will say that any game of that type that I have played hasn't inspired any great bloodlust in me once I've turned off the console.

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