My Favourite Game

The co­me­dian and writer on us­ing games as a men­tal re­boot, script tin­ker­ing for as­sas­sins, and get­ting to grips with a ZX81

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Co­me­dian Danny Wal­lace on a not-really-haunted-at-all ZX81

Af­ter a spell do­ing odd jobs around the Sega Power of­fice in 1992, the 16-year-old Danny Wal­lace found him­self jug­gling GCSEs with game re­views. That early ex­po­sure to mul­ti­task­ing seems to have pro­vided a sturdy foun­da­tion on which to build a var­ied ca­reer – he’s since tack­led writ­ing, di­rect­ing, pre­sent­ing and, of course, voice act­ing in the As­sas­sin’s Creed se­ries and Thomas Was Alone. With that in mind, we ask whether he’d like games to fea­ture more heav­ily on his CV.

You’ve worked at both ends of the videogame bud­get spec­trum – how dif­fer­ent were those ex­pe­ri­ences? Yes, I have a very De Niro ap­proach to videogames: a block­buster, then an in­die. With Mike [Bithell], we get to­gether, talk, then do it. With Ubisoft, it’s a much more in­volved process, since they get me writ­ing and con­sult­ing too. I did quite a bit of work on As­sas­sin’s Creed Syn­di­cate this year on other char­ac­ters too, and when it comes to my char­ac­ter, Shaun Hast­ings, they let me mess around a lot and im­pro­vise. With Mike, it’s voice only, and with Ubisoft it’s the whole wear­ing-a-hel­met-cam and draw­ing dots on your face [thing], but the core of it is the same.

Do you have a pref­er­ence when it comes to the styles of work­ing? No, they’re both great fun. With Thomas Was Alone, Mike’s first game, it was just a case of try­ing not to ruin things. The de­sign, the game­play, the thought­ful­ness and the mu­sic all made it quite spe­cial. My job was to try to pull that all to­gether with­out be­ing over­bear­ing.

Do you see your videogame voice work as a side project, or is it a part of your ca­reer that you’d like to ex­pand upon? I find it fun, but I’ve never had a ca­reer plan. My whole thing is: go where the fun is, but cru­cially, try to do the fun well so it might lead to more fun some­where down the line. It’s nice to have dif­fer­ent routes you can go down from time to time. I’d be up for more games work, but it’s up to other peo­ple to ask me.

Go­ing back, what’s your ear­li­est gam­ing mem­ory? Sit­ting in my dad’s of­fice with the ZX81 our neigh­bour gave us when they up­graded to a Spec­trum. My par­ents were down­stairs and I got really freaked out be­cause the game started play­ing it­self. I as­sumed a ghost was play­ing Space In­vaders, when in fact it was on demo mode.

And how about the first game that really grabbed you? We got a BBC Model B and I re­mem­ber play­ing Chuckie Egg and re­al­is­ing how much fun it was. Then I saved up and bought The Way Of The Ex­plod­ing Fist for about £1.50 from Wool­worths. But it wasn’t un­til the Mega Drive that I got fully in­volved – ob­sessed, even. I’d de­vour the mag­a­zines, save up for what­ever I could, and in­vei­gled my way into Sega Power as a teenager. That was in­sane. Now I was get­ting free games and money to write about them. It was my golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Fac­tory.

What kind of player are you now? I like mul­ti­player. I like be­ing out­wit­ted by ac­tual peo­ple, and try­ing to out­wit [oth­ers]. The ear­lier Call Of Duty games were great for that.

Do you match wits much now? It’s part of my writ­ing process some­times. You hit a wall, or you can’t think of a bet­ter line… so you switch on the PS4, play for 20 min­utes and it frees some­thing up in your brain.

We talk to a lot of comics for MFG – is there a nat­u­ral over­lap be­tween com­edy and games? Comics tend to work at night and wake up tired, so those guys have more of their day free. My friends list, be­cause of my job, tends to have a lot of comics and com­edy writ­ers on it. The fact you can talk to your mates while play­ing leads to some fun af­ter­noons, but I tend to know comics who are quite dis­ci­plined and have other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Play­ing games re­minds ev­ery­body of be­ing in their 20s, and be­ing able to spend all day on Driver.

“I got freaked out be­cause the game started play­ing it­self. I as­sumed a ghost was play­ing Space In­vaders”

So which game would you choose to spend all day play­ing if you could? Prob­a­bly mul­ti­player Gold­enEye on the N64. I lost a sum­mer to it and bonded with count­less peo­ple over it. It was one of those games you be­came in­sanely good at. You’d play it at 10am, 6pm, 2am – when­ever. It was never not fun. That’s the mark of a good game.

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