My Favourite Game

The ac­tor talks bond­ing with her brother over games, the creative process, and the ther­a­peu­tic po­ten­tial of play­ing


Ashly Burch on fra­ter­nal bond­ing and ther­apy through farm­ing

Ashly Burch is an ac­tor, voice artist and writer best known for play­ing Tiny Tina in Bor­der­lands and a ter­ri­fy­ing ver­sion of her­self in web sketch se­ries Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? More re­cently she took on the roles of Chloe in Life Is Strange and Orendi in Bat­tle­born. How did Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? come about? An­thony [Burch, Ashly’s brother] wanted to make a doc­u­men­tary about in­die games around 2007/8. So he bought a cam­era and we started do­ing sketches so he could fig­ure out how to use it. They be­came pop­u­lar, got on GameTrail­ers, and he never made the doc­u­men­tary! Early on in the Hey Ash days I was too ner­vous to write, but it was such an or­ganic devel­op­ment that over time I got more and more com­fort­able with the idea of be­ing a con­trib­u­tor, and now we mostly write all of our scripts to­gether. Did you and your brother bond over games from a young age? Our mum saw An­thony at his first school play, in which he was sup­posed to skip, but he couldn’t. So she lit­er­ally thought, ‘Well, he’s never go­ing to be co­or­di­nated so I’m go­ing to have to get him a fall­back.’ And she bought him his first videogame sys­tem! He’s two years older than me, so videogames were just in my life. It was also a big in­spi­ra­tion and mo­ti­va­tor for my cre­ativ­ity. For ex­am­ple, I would bring the man­u­als for Fi­nal Fan­tasy VII through X, or what­ever, to el­e­men­tary school. They had char­ac­ter bios in the front, and I’d show them to my girl­friends and we’d act out Fi­nal Fan­tasy. Peo­ple have al­ways said games sti­fle the imag­i­na­tion, but pre­sum­ably your par­ents were more pro­gres­sive. Yeah. Mum im­mi­grated from Thai­land, and didn’t even speak English, but she was very aware of how im­por­tant tech­nol­ogy was go­ing to be. We got the In­ter­net and cell­phones – I mean, re­ally crappy ones – prob­a­bly ear­lier than many of my peers be­cause of that. Did hav­ing a brother in the videogame in­dus­try push you into want­ing to be a part of it, too? Well, my first char­ac­ter was Tiny Tina in Bor­der­lands, which An­thony wrote. He was writ­ing the char­ac­ter and re­alised he wanted me to play her, but also felt like a jack­ass for get­ting hired and then be­ing like, “Put my sis­ter in the game!” So I sub­mit­ted my au­di­tion with­out a name at­tached and they ended up pick­ing mine. But apart from that, Hey Ash is a huge rea­son I’ve got­ten a lot of the gigs I’ve got­ten. I got my role in Mor­tal Kom­bat be­cause of it; I’m Miss Paul­ing in Team Fortress 2 be­cause of it. Peo­ple were more aware of my work on Hey Ash than any­thing else. Are you able to en­joy games in the same way you used to be­fore Hey Ash? Pre­sum­ably you’re con­tin­u­ally look­ing for sketch op­por­tu­ni­ties. To be hon­est, it’s usu­ally that we go, “Oh, fuck, we need to write some Hey Ash episodes,” and then start go­ing through our Rolodexes try­ing to re­mem­ber what games we’ve played. We start think­ing about what themes we want to hit, or what cul­tural things have hap­pened in the in­dus­try that we want to talk about. I don’t know what the ex­pe­ri­ence for An­thony and Justin is so much, but for me I hon­estly just play the games and then later re­alise, “Oh, shit, we need to write an en­tire sea­son of a web se­ries now.” What are you play­ing right now? I’m re­ally en­joy­ing mul­ti­player and co­op­er­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. So I’ve been play­ing a lot of Destiny: The Taken King and Rocket League. But I’m also so fas­ci­nated by the amount of fe­male pro­tag­o­nists that are be­ing fea­tured in the games com­ing out. I think it’s a re­ally en­cour­ag­ing shift from the trend of mostly white male pro­tag­o­nists. I think we still need to up our game in terms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mi­nor­ity char­ac­ters, but it feels like there’s a shift hap­pen­ing in the triple-A scene and more women are be­ing in­cluded.

“I was a ball of stress, and the only thing that would calm me down was play­ing Har­vest Moon 64”

And how about your favourite game? I have gen­er­alised anx­i­ety dis­or­der, and it was very acute when I was a child. It was hard for me to eat, I con­stantly felt nau­seous, and I had anx­i­ety at­tacks all the time. I was a ball of stress, and the only thing that would calm me down was play­ing Har­vest Moon 64. And for that rea­son it is, and prob­a­bly for­ever will be, my favourite game. I just adored it.

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