My Favourite Game

Rap­per, pro­ducer and song­writer El­liot Gleave talks Sega’s golden era, Wu-Tang’s mor­ti­fy­ing fighter and be­com­ing in­vis­i­ble

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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”

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