My Favourite Game
The electro-house producer on the appeal of esports, being a character in Dragon Ball, and betting big on Street Fighter bouts
Musician and DJ Steve Aoki talks COD and buying an esports team
Steve Aoki is a musician, DJ, producer and the founder of Dim Mak Records. He also set up the Steve Aoki Foundation to support research into degenerative brain diseases, and regularly streams charity matches on Twitch. More recently, he bought esports organisation Rogue, and created a Dim Mak imprint called New Noise, which aims to provide royalty-free music to Twitch streamers.
Why did you buy an esports team? I might not be great at gaming, but I’ve been a gamer since I was a little kid. I’m always looking at what inspires me, so it’s not just about music – it can be any sort of entertainment. With the rise of gaming turning into an actual sport, this was an exciting venture to get involved in. I was researching different teams, and Rogue are kind of like the underdogs who are taking down Overwatch. They’re local guys, too, from Las Vegas, which is really cool. And they have this edgy vibe and image, and I just thought, ‘This is totally up my alley.’
You’re also a fairly regular streamer – what is the appeal for you? I’ve been really strategic about my streams – it’s not like I’m sitting down and gaming every day. I don’t really have the bandwidth to do that as I’m either producing music or touring a lot. But whenever I can, I like to make an event out of it. I met up with Team Liquid recently, and we all gamed together on Overwatch. That was a lot of fun. And before that I was doing a Street Fighter thing with Twitch where I was battling other artists. It was fun to watch.
You lost $10,000 in a charity match with Kid Ink. That must’ve been tense. It’s a lot of money, but we make sure it goes to charity – and I donate a lot anyway. But when you’re playing it’s like you’re watching the Superbowl and you’ve got money on it. It gets rid of the whole, ‘Oh, let’s just have fun’ mentality. It’s like, ‘No, I have to win.’ [Laughs.]
Do you play much when you’re on tour? For the most part last year I would produce on the road, but this year I’m spending a lot more time at home so I’m gaming on the road instead. I play a lot of iOS games. I’ve put out my own iOS game called Beat Bomb, and made exclusive music for it that’s only available in the game. But I actually travel with a PS4 as well – I have an LED monitor that sits on top of the console. I’ve just got Mafia III, and I’m looking forward to playing Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare. At home I have an Xbox One with Gears Of War 4, too.
As well as Beat Bomb, you’re also a character in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. How did that come about? That was a really big moment for me. I’m an anime junkie, and when I was at college I was in an anime club, and every week we’d go to sit in a hall and watch animes, trade soundtracks and geek out over them. My 18-year-old self would be jumping up and down like a little kid if you’d told him he was going to be in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. Originally they hit me up about doing some music for them, and then getting to be in the game was not even a cherry on top – it was just extra fucking cake!
On the topic of music, what was the thinking behind New Noise? I’m always trying to find different ways to fuse my platform, and the Dim Mak platform, to create these bridges between our worlds. I remember in 2007 when giving away music was a huge taboo. We gave out a single and a lot of the partners that we had were upset about it. But the records we gave away were also the records that sold the most… New Noise is the same kind of circulation concept. We created a sublabel so that it’s easy for gamers to use our music when they’re streaming. It was a big push for us to make sure that we put ourselves out there in the Twitch community, in the gaming community: ‘Hey, you guys can use our music for free.’ That was the whole point – get our music out there, and give back to gaming culture a bit more.
“Getting to be in the game was not even a cherry on top – it was just extra fucking cake”
And what’s your favourite game? It changes over time. Nowadays I don’t have time for RPGs too much. I tried to play The Witcher and Fallout, but you don’t really get that far in a couple of hours of gameplay. So now I’m like, ‘Get me into a mission, let me shoot some people up.’ I’m still hooked on Black Ops. It’s incredible – the movement, the look of it. I’m excited about the next one.