My Favourite Game
The subversive comedian on spending pocket money on Sega Power and playing Skyrim in co-op
Comedian Sunil Patel talks playing Skyrim in co-op
Sunil Patel is an award-winning stand-up comedian, returning to the Edinburgh Fringe festival this year for a second performance. In addition to touring the country with his wellestablished brand of nihilistic comedy, he stars in Channel 5 mockumentary Borderline and runs a podcast called Why Is Harriet Crying? with fellow comedian Harriet Kemsley.
What was the first game to excite you? It was before I had my own console, playing on my cousin’s SNES. It was Super Mario World. We played it endlessly – it was a three-week summer holiday, it was really hot, and all we did was stay indoors, in this house in New Jersey, playing it. I didn’t have a console for ages after that, because I had to wait until Christmas. And then instead of getting a SNES, I asked for a Master System – I don’t know why.
Did you regret that? I didn’t, actually. I got a Master System because my parents said, “We’ll buy you a console and one game,” and the Master System had a game built in – so I could get the free game built in and an extra game. It was Alex Kidd In Miracle World that was built in. I think I got Shinobi as well. Do people who played games from that era insist that they were harder back then? I feel like they were. It’s like GCSEs, isn’t it?
Do you play games now, and do you find them easier? I do, and I do. But I’ve got to the stage where I’m playing Farming Simulator. I like the fact that it’s quite chilled out. There’s no one else about in it. I was reading somewhere that a lot of YouTubers are people that used to play Call Of Duty online, and they just got tired and old. So now they play Farming Simulator instead. I never played Call Of Duty online. I find it a bit too hectic.
Your comedy’s known for being quite dark, but it seems like you gravitate towards cheerful games. The darkest game I’ve played is probably Skyrim. I never really got into Resident Evil or stuff like that. They scare me. When I played Skyrim, I’d play it with my housemate for hours, because we both didn’t want to be playing it on our own. It’s not even that scary, is it? I think we were both being really pathetic. Skyrim’s built for you to play on your own, but it’s so much more fun when you’ve got someone else with you – reading the map and arguing with you. Any game can be multiplayer, I guess.
It’s the exact opposite of performing stand-up, surely? Comedy’s quite a lonely business, so the last thing I want to do is play a game alone. But then nobody wants to play Farming Simulator with me. I did get my friend Jay involved for three hours and then he just got angry and left. We had an argument over which tractor to buy.
Did your interest in videogames translate into your talent for comedy? As a kid, I couldn’t afford to buy games a lot, so I always used to buy Sega Power. It was really funny – I think that was when Charlie Brooker used to write for it. The old games magazines were great for that. I remember I used to have a Commodore 64 just because I thought the games would be cheaper, on the cassette tapes, and you could buy the magazine and get a free game on the front. But they just never worked. Rubbish. The other thing to do on the Commodore 64 if you couldn’t get the game to work was to do a bit of coding, and I was not going to do that. It was such a big risk, wasn’t it? You had to pay 30 quid for a cartridge, and you can’t just take it back if it’s shit. You’re just stuck with this bad game, and all that money gone. You’re not going to get that much pocket money again in the ‘90s.
“The last thing I want to do is play a game alone. But then nobody wants to play Farming Simulator with me”
What’s your favourite game? The one I always go back to – and it is just as boring as Farming Simulator – is probably SimCity. I can spend three days totally engrossed in it, and at the end of it I know I’ll just be sick of it and I won’t be addicted to it any more. Then I can go back to it again in six months’ time. Anything else I’d probably get too stuck into. That’s gone against everything I’ve said about enjoying games with other people. I’m mainly just interested in doing a great public transit system. That’s mainly why I play games. That, and occasionally releasing Godzilla.