My Favourite Game
Rapper, producer and songwriter Elliot Gleave talks Sega’s golden era, Wu-Tang’s mortifying fighter and becoming invisible
Example recalls a youth spent playing Nintendo and Sega
Elliot Gleave isn’t a name known to millions, but rapper Example is. Taking his name from his initials – eg, which stands for exempli gratia, or ‘for example’ – Gleave has released four albums, with a fifth due this year. Playing In The Shadows (2011) reached number one in the UK, but before his success, Gleave was raised on Nintendo and Sega.
What’s your console of choice at home? I’ve got the new PlayStation and Xbox One, but I’ve hardly been home at all recently. I’ve only been in the UK for about four months of the last year. I’ve been on tour so much, playing whatever’s on the tour bus. There can be up to eight of us on there at a time, so the best games to play are FIFA and Call Of Duty. On some nights of our European tour we’d come off stage at midnight, get some pizza and some red wine or some local beer, and we’d turn on Call Of Duty [and play multiplayer] until 4am.
What’s your golden age of gaming? For me, it was all about the Sega Mega Drive. That’s the first console that my dad bought me. Well, Santa got it for me, I suppose… I used to play on other consoles and computers at friends’ houses – one had a Commodore 64; another, a NES with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros; and another had an Atari 2600. But my first was a Mega Drive, which came with Altered Beast. It had its charms, I suppose, but when I got the first Sonic game, that just became my life. I really liked the Streets Of Rage games, and the first two Golden Axes. Road Rash was amazing, too. So that’s my golden age, but I don’t know anyone who bought a Mega-CD. Actually, yes, I do: there was this one kid who had some money. Well, his parents had money.
Mega-CD famously pushed interactive movies. With your film background, do you think that games can now deliver stories as effectively as movies? When I think back to Mega-CD, those games looked just terrible. And whenever you played a game that had a proper voiceover, you felt like maybe there was just one guy doing a range of different roles because the budget was so small… I think the first Resident Evil changed things when it showed how games could take on a properly dramatic shape, with expanded stories that could be scary, too. But when you turn on a Call Of Duty today, you end up watching a film for ten minutes. If I’m playing a game like that, heavy on cutscenes, I tend to skip them after the first five or six if I’m not that invested in the story.
What about, say, Hideo Kojima or Ken Levine – do you think they may one day be as recognised as Spielberg? If you walk into a pub right now, more people will be talking about movies and music than games. At least in casual terms, just conversationally. I’d think maybe 90 per cent of people who play games have no idea who the director behind a particular title is, or who the lead designer is. I think that level of knowledge is the preserve of the minority, whereas I’d say more people would claim a decent knowledge of films. Players are interested in characters and in levels, but of course it’s the designers and directors putting their personalities into those things. You buy into these brands through the characters you see onscreen.
Many musicians have appeared in games. Would you like to? I remember seeing the Def Jam games, and wasn’t there a Wu-Tang fighting game, too? [There was: Wu-Tang: Taste The Pain.] I recall it being shocking; they were aiming for something like Tekken or Mortal Kombat, but got nowhere near. As for being in a game myself, I did a launch event for COD a couple of years ago, and met some Infinity Ward people. They asked me to come see them next time I was in LA so I could do a voiceover. I thought they were joking, but then I’m in LA, and they’re serious. Sadly, I had to fly to New York, so I couldn’t do it, but I’d be into doing a voice for a game. I’d make a good Russian baddie.
You’ve played lots of games over the years, but what’s your favourite? GoldenEye 007. I played that game so much, alone and in multiplayer. I was the best at it among my friends. It had some amazing cheats. I managed to finish the Archives in less than one minute and 20 seconds, and gained invisibility. I beat it by one second. I couldn’t believe it.
“Altered Beast had its charms, I suppose, but when I got the first Sonic game, that just became my life”