My Favourite Game

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Rick And Morty’s Justin Roi­land re­calls his first Nin­tendo en­counter

The ac­tor, di­rec­tor and an­i­ma­tor on vir­tual wan­der­lust, the prom­ise of VR, and his first en­counter with Nin­tendo

Co-cre­ator of Rick And Morty Justin Roi­land can reel off a long list of an­i­ma­tion and act­ing cred­its – in­clud­ing, spec­tac­u­larly, guest spots for both in an episode of The Simp­sons – but his pas­sion right now is VR. It’s a fas­ci­na­tion he’s ex­plor­ing through new stu­dio Squanch­t­endo, which he co-founded with Epic Games alum­nus Tanya Wat­son, the first project from which is Crows Crows Crows col­lab­o­ra­tion Ac­count­ing.

You’ve said in the past that you’re more ex­cited about mak­ing VR games than any­thing else you’ve done. What is it about VR that gets you so fired up? It’s that same feel­ing I had when I first played Mario 64. I re­mem­ber go­ing to Toys ’R’ Us to buy a Saturn, be­cause I wanted Nights with that con­troller. But when I saw Mario 64 run­ning I was like, “What the hell?” That was my in­tro­duc­tion to the ana­logue stick and the in­sane move­ment of a 3D plat­former. I’d saved my money for that Saturn, but I left the store with an N64 and a copy of Mario. With VR, it’s that times 100. VR is tak­ing this mas­sive leap into im­mer­sion, putting play­ers into sit­u­a­tions as op­posed to look­ing at them on a screen.

You’re work­ing on help­ing to bring about that fu­ture, but what kinds of games do you en­joy right now? I love ev­ery­thing, I’ve been across the board my whole life. One of my favourites games is Shadow Of The Colos­sus – I don’t know how many times I’ve fin­ished it over the years. That game blew my mind. I tend to like third­per­son stuff more than first, I guess. The stuff I’m least into is like mul­ti­player Halo or Call Of Duty. But I love Fall­out 3 and 4, Skyrim, Obliv­ion… But those are more thought-out RPGs with tons of story and in­cred­i­ble world build­ing.

So big sto­ries ap­peal to you? I love the prom­ise of a larger world. I re­mem­ber as a kid in the 8bit era there were very few games that gave you that – you’d beat the game and you’d just be met with some cred­its. One of my most dis­ap­point­ing child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences was Ram­page on the NES. Me and my friend stayed up all night to beat that game, and it’s just the same thing over and over and then cred­its. We were so bummed out. Even in the 16bit era, I’d play Road Rash and see the moun­tains or cities off to the side and fan­ta­sise about veer­ing off the road and go­ing over to see what’s go­ing on. That ba­si­cally is what Grand Theft Auto be­came: here’s all that stuff you fan­ta­sised about.

It all started with an 8bit NES, then. It was def­i­nitely the NES. I mean, I was into games be­fore that – my dad had a very short-lived side busi­ness with my un­cle where they bought a few ar­cade cab­i­nets and they were rent­ing them to lo­cal busi­nesses. I’d played the Atari [VCS], but de­spite my mas­sive imag­i­na­tion, I just couldn’t get into it. There was one good game for ev­ery 500 bad ones. But I re­mem­ber liv­ing in the coun­try and walk­ing half a mile through al­mond or­chards to my friend’s house, and he had the NES and was play­ing Mario. I watched a lot of TV as a kid and I felt like I was pretty on top of things, but I had no idea that the Nin­tendo even ex­isted. I was like, ‘Are you kid­ding me? Are you fuck­ing kid­ding me?’ I couldn’t be­lieve it. The NES was ex­actly what I was hop­ing for. Then it was just weeks of me beg­ging my par­ents to get me one un­til they did. My first game was Mario, the sec­ond was Zelda, and then Metroid.

What was your re­la­tion­ship with coin-ops, given that your dad had the ar­cade busi­ness? I re­mem­ber go­ing to some place, maybe a laun­dro­mat, and play­ing Lady Bug and dad lift­ing me up to reach the con­trols. I do re­mem­ber go­ing to ar­cades – it was that era when the ar­cades were still gen­er­a­tions ahead of con­soles – but that Lady Bug ma­chine ended up in my grandma’s garage af­ter the busi­ness ended, and I’d play the crap out of it.

“I had no idea that the Nin­tendo even ex­isted. I couldn’t be­lieve it. The NES was ex­actly what I was hop­ing for”

What’s your favourite game of all? This is a So­phie’s choice for sure, but I think it has to be Metroid. There was a time when I com­pleted it ev­ery other month. And I re-bought a NES and the game in my mid-20s. The mu­sic in that game gives me nos­tal­gic chills – ev­ery sec­tion of the game has this in­cred­i­ble haunt­ing mu­sic, and I would just leave it on in the back­ground on a loop.

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