My Favourite Game
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.