My Favourite Game
The guitar god and former Megadeth man on conquering Pong, losing at Taiko No Tatsujin, and rocking out for otaku
Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman looks back at Q*bert
Before teaching himself guitar, Marty Friedman taught himself Pac-Man routines and bested his entire city at Pong. His rise to superstardom stole his focus from games, but he regularly contributes music to titles in Japan, his home since 2003. He tells us how a Wii Taiko No Tatsujin set saved his dignity on Japanese TV. When did you start playing videogames? When I was a little kid, I loved pinball, and I was champion of the Washington DC area at Pong. I entered this contest when I was eight or nine, and played against the whole city of Washington. The football player from the Washington Redskins gave me some kind of prize. And then Pac-Man came out, and I got super good at that. Once you find the pattern in Pac-Man, you can play endlessly and get high scores. So I got the pattern and I was good at it. But then I started to play music for real, and once I got serious, all that energy went into making music and I went cold turkey on games. But it was a guilty pleasure. I loved Q*bert and Missile Command. As a self-taught musician with an unusually complex style, do you see parallels between learning guitar and learning the intricacies of Pac-Man? No, I think the parallel would be that you’re using your brain. In videogames I think you have to be creative and you have to use the synapses in your brain that work really fast, so that’s probably something they have in common, but that’s a very mechanical part of making music. The rest comes from the cojones. How have videogames touched your life as a musician? I’ve made a lot of music that’s been used in games, and I do a lot of instrumental music that’s really like an amusement park of metal – there are a lot of ups and downs and fast turns, and it’s really suited for videogame music. I played at the press conference for Guitar Hero 3 in Japan [in 2007] – they’ve had similar games in arcades here for years. Have game consoles always been fixtures when you’ve been on tour? Yeah, everyone’s got a PlayStation or Xbox, and it’s totally rad. I played Grand Theft Auto [on a tour bus]. The imagination they put into the game is where the fun is for me, because it takes a lot of time to get decent at these games. With pinball you could shake it and rock it… but you have to be quite dedicated to get past the first couple of levels of a videogame. What do you think of music games? I played Taiko No Tatsujin on a TV show… They had it at the game centre down the street [from my house], so I practised there. Those guys are insane down there, but I practised and practised… I really didn’t want to make an ass of myself on TV. I did pretty good, considering. I lost, but at least it was fair. bunch of people in a game and getting points. It feels good. I get that, but I’m so content and happy with what I do that I just don’t want to hurt anybody [laughs]. You were involved with the music for Bravely Default, right? Yes. Revo from [the band] Sound Horizon came to me with a song that he had written for that game and we worked on it together in the studio, and I played on the single. I played the concert too, and that’s a whole new subculture… the otaku fans are really into this fairytale world.
“I’d love to play a new Q*bert. The concept is simple, but to get good at it is hard – that’s the same as music”
What sort of games don’t you like? I’m not so much into shooting games. I understand the appeal of shooting a When you make music for videogames, do you write in a different way? Sometimes they say, “We’re making this kind of game, it’s about this, write a song for it” – that’s easy. One time it was quite difficult because they had things that happen at certain periods of time, like at 16 seconds it’s got to have a stop, at 24 seconds it’s got to play something fast, lots of specific things. What’s your favourite game of all time? Definitely Q*bert. If they made a new Q*bert game I would love to play it. The concept is simple, but to get good at it is hard – that’s the same as music. You can explain Q*bert easily: you jump on the cubes and don’t fall off the cliff. That’s it. But you get into the flow. Another common thing with music is the flow. The longer you play music, the longer you’re in the zone, and eventually you’re in the zone all the time.