My Favourite Game

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Imran Yusuf on Shen­mue and be­ing Games Aid’s first pa­tron

BThe game-savvy stand-up co­me­dian on set­ting up his own de­vel­op­ment stu­dio, vir­tual kit­tens and sweet re­venge

efore his com­edy ca­reer took off, Imran Yusuf worked for de­vel­op­ment stu­dios such as Mid­way, Sega and Kuju. Now he’s re­turn­ing to his roots by be­com­ing GamesAid’s first pa­tron. Ahead of his Ed­in­burgh Fringe show, we chat about miss­ing his old in­dus­try and the na­ture of videogame pil­grim­ages. How did your ap­point­ment as GamesAid pa­tron come about? Be­fore GamesAid, there used to be an­other char­ity called the En­ter­tain­ment Soft­ware Char­ity, and I was look­ing to do some work with them, be­cause I used to work at Sega. So I met with the people at ESC, and we wanted to do some stuff to­gether, but sadly they folded. From Sega, I went to Kuju and got in­volved with some other stuff. And then fi­nally, once I made some head­way in my com­edy ca­reer, I thought we could put on a night at the Com­edy Store, and it worked. We sold it out last year and raised over £4,000. Do you miss mak­ing games? Oh, ab­so­lutely! I still keep in touch with people in the game in­dus­try. In fact, I was just speak­ing to [ Kick Off cre­ator] Dino Dini last night about how much I missed it. It was re­ally hard work, and there were a lot of long days, but be­ing in the in­dus­try – be­ing around people that I en­joyed be­ing around, talk­ing about games and just work­ing on them – it’s just what I en­joy do­ing. Would you ever con­sider re­turn­ing? Ab­so­lutely. What I’m want­ing to do is make my for­tune in com­edy and then… I’ve al­ready reg­is­tered my own de­vel­op­ment com­pany as a side project, just out of a de­sire of noth­ing more than to make games. What sparked your in­ter­est in them? When I was 11, I got a NES and I can still re­mem­ber the mo­ment I stuck in Su­per Mario Bros and heard ‘Duh-duh duh duh-duh duh, duh’. At that very mo­ment, my life changed and I went, “When I grow up, I want to make videogames.” How has your ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing on games in­formed your com­edy? I’ve got a rou­tine about play­ing COD; it’s based on some­thing that ac­tu­ally hap­pened to me. Me and my mate were play­ing COD on Xbox Live, and these Amer­i­can kids laid into us when they heard our ac­cent. It up­set me a lot, be­cause I was be­ing in­sulted in my house – I’m a very sen­si­tive guy! And so I wrote that rou­tine off the back of the frus­tra­tion that I felt. I was re­ally lucky, be­cause had I not re­ceived that abuse, I wouldn’t have writ­ten that rou­tine [and] it wouldn’t have got me on TV. It was about that rou­tine that Michael McIn­trye went, “I re­ally like that. I want you on my show.” Do you think jokes about games have a broad enough ap­peal yet? It hasn’t been easy to write ma­te­rial about videogames that I can then ap­proach a main­stream au­di­ence with. It’s re­ally weird. When I’m with my gamer friends, we can talk about games and [I can] make jokes about them they will un­der­stand, but I can’t turn up at the Com­edy Store and start talk­ing about Shen­mue! No one would know what the hell I’m talk­ing about, un­for­tu­nately. There were a cou­ple of times I’ve men­tioned Killer In­stinct or Street Fighter on­stage, then people look at me and go, “What the hell is an Ul­tra Combo?” So which game is your favourite? I love Shen­mue. I started work­ing in the game in­dus­try at the end of 2000. I got a job at Mid­way. I did a good job in my first cou­ple of weeks there and my boss – who had con­tacts at Sega – said, “Right, Imran, what game do you want from Sega?” I was look­ing for­ward to Shen­mue, so he got it for me. I took it home, and I hated it. I thought it was ab­so­lutely cum­ber­some and I didn’t un­der­stand what the hell was go­ing on… Af­ter about a week, I thought I should give it an­other go and sit down with it prop­erly this time. And then I fell in love with it. Just the amount of ef­fort they’d put into cre­at­ing the world and mak­ing it feel real. You were Ryo Hazuki and you had to find your fa­ther’s killer by ex­plor­ing the crim­i­nal un­der­world of Yoko­suka, but at the same time you could feed kit­tens, buy soda, and race fork­lifts! When I went to Ja­pan, I went to Yoko­suka and vis­ited Dobuita Street and took all these pic­tures. How many games are you so be­sot­ted by that you go and visit the place where it’s set?

“I was re­ally lucky, be­cause had I not re­ceived that abuse, I wouldn’t have writ­ten that COD rou­tine”

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