TECH

BAFTA Game Awards: Host Dara O'Briain Gives His Take On GTA, Bioshock... And Flappy Bird

07/03/2014 14:49 GMT | Updated 07/03/2014 15:59 GMT
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BAFTA Games Awards host Dara O'Briain has raged against the dying of the light in 'The Last of Us'. He's soared through the skies in 'Bioshock Infinite' and roamed the Caribbean for rum and booty in 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag'.

But he admits he hasn't played the undisputed gaming hit of 2014.

"I didn't play Flappy Bird," he tells HuffPost. "I was away, and by the time I got back he had withdrawn it from sale."

"But I love the fact the industry can operate at these different levels. On the one hand you have 40 hour epics with voice-acting, cut scenes and totally immersive plot, and on the other hand you have something you can turn to on your phone for 30 seconds."

To the British Academy's credit, the BAFTA Games Awards have managed to represent all these scales of games, even as the industry has ballooned in size.

Last year was a breakthrough for indie games, as very small-scale teams won out over major developers. And while 2014 was -- for some -- a year of next-gen consoles, a huge and inspiring number of indie games were nominated once again.

Ahead of the awards we caught up with O'Briain to chat about everything from the year's big AAA hits, the future for Nintendo and whether or not Flappy Bird needs a zombie remake...

(The following is a transcript of a telephone interview, slightly edited due in large part to the low quality of the recording, which sadly rendered some sections only vaguely audible.)

Dara O'Briain hosts the BAFTA Games Awards which will be streamed on Twitch.TV on the 12 March following BAFTA's first Inside Games Event; tickets available here.

bafta

What games did you enjoy most last year?

I enjoyed The Last of Us, I enjoyed Assassin's Creed IV and FIFA… and I also enjoyed finishing off the games from the previous year. I only end up finishing off stuff the year after the BAFTAs occur. So I've got a lot to catch up on at the moment and very little time in which to do it.

As games get better, and the narratives become more complex and engaging, I just feel more guilt for not finishing them all.

I've been living with that guilt for a while. I will probably finish one or two, maybe, games a year, because it's just too difficult to find the time to get through them, when there's 40 hours of gaming there.

And yet I don't know about you, but somehow I still find 100 hours to pour into Minecraft…

For me I've never been into that, I gather it's a complete time sink but I absolutely can't get into that. The other thing is I have kids, and family and things to get on with, you know. It's very difficult sometimes.

I did play Bioshock Infinite as well actually, which I liked the look of but but then slowly it began to irritate me more and more. It gripped me less than it should have. But then I haven't finished anything this year, from this generation of stuff.

the last of us game

That's a shame, in as much as games like The Last of Us (above) are nominated across the board this year, and it feels like narratively games have taken a big step forward.

I agree, I think we're going to see more and more of that. I've said a few times in these things, but from I first hosted the BAFTAs to now, the games are coming at a different pace, and a different size. The industry is getting more and more broad. But you're right, what we will take from games is getting more sophisticated.

On Bioshock Infinite, what was it that didn't grip you?

After a while, once I got through how beautiful it was, the actual mechanics didn't keep me playing. Not after about 10 hours I suppose.

It does feel like in that case, and some other games, there is a disconnect between what a game is and what it is trying to say.

There is an element of that in Bioshock. When I eventually got around to playing it - the first one, I went 'wait it's just a first-person shooter'. I heard so much about the different mechanics, but then I realised that's essentially what it is. To be honest rooting around in bins for slices of pineapple began to wear on me a little bit.

I find that the little things niggle at me a little bit more than they used to in general. In Grand Theft Auto, I've often thought about the amount of driving there is in these things. There are just things I don't want to endure too much.

With 'The Last of Us' I felt like I was just preparing emotionally to hide for an hour. There were times I thought this is amazing, but it's like having a box set of Saw I have to sit through, and I knew I wouldn't enjoy large parts of it. It was terrifying, and difficult. Sometimes you get home at midnight and you think I just want an hour of something mindless.

I want 'pew-pew-pew', too. That's my favourite new gaming word. Sometimes I want just a quick game of football, a race or a shoot-em-up. If anything The Last of Us was too immersive.

flappy bird

It's funny at HuffPost we track what games people are most interested in based on what they're clicking or reading and this year - by far - it was Flappy Bird (above).

Oh really?!

It's one of the most simple game ideas anyone could have, but it was obviously huge. Did you play it? And do you think it taps into the idea that the oldest tropes in games are often still the best ones?

I'm a huge fan of both casual gaming and retro gaming, which is really casual gaming with an air of nostalgia about it. I pine desperately for just having a joystick with one fire button, possibly with microswitches - do you remember micro-switches? And just a game of Boulder Dash.

But I didn't play Flappy Bird, because I was away and by the time I got back he had withdrawn it from sale. But no, you can over-think these things. I played Canabalt a bit as well, by the same token, which is essentially the same, and you're right it is all you want - just to test your reflexes and away we go.

Perhaps you don't want to think that this tiny bird has a massive back-story… You probably don't need cut scenes in Flappy Bird.

I'm sure there should be a zombie version too, as there are Flappy Birds for everything else. Where the Flappy Bird is chased by other zombie versions of himself.

But I love the fact the industry can operate at these different levels. On the one hand you have 40 hour epics with voice-acting, cut scenes and totally immersive plot, and on the other hand you have something you can turn to on your phone for 30 seconds.

super mario 3d world

Somewhere in the middle you have Nintendo, who manage to do both, often amazingly well.

Given the amount of building blocks that Mario has - things that move, things that go up and down, things on whose heads you have to jump - they have managed to rearrange those small elements into an enormous range of patterns. It's a testament to their creativity. I have yet to play Super Mario 3D World (above), I'm told it's fantastic.

Last year the BAFTAs were huge for indie games. The year after was dominated in elements of the press by the big new consoles. Do you think one has overshadowed the other?

While I have them both and have them sitting there, the next generation feels like it hasn't arrived yet. While I've played Assassin's Creed on the next-gen consoles and it looks very shiny and bright, I still think we're a long way off from the defining release of this generation…

It'll be interesting to see what happens when Steam comes to console machines too, as that's where I get most of these things. When Valve release their efforts, will that become the destination? But the indie scene is still key to the market, last year was just a very special year.

It also feels like we're waiting for the next big hardware invention. Have you had any time with Oculus Rift?

I've not seen it in a gaming environment, I have watched a violin concerto being played by violinists 'around' me and it was great, and I would love to see it. I would not like to see myself playing it, as I imagine I'd look like a right dick, but it could be intriguing.

I could see it being more useful sometimes than the motion-sensor stuff. I have not really used Kinect, for instance, within games… I've yet to see a mechanic that properly uses it.

Going back to the BAFTAs, there's obviously a lot of attention around the awards now. But can you see the awards becoming a truly mainstream event, without the glamorous stars in dresses?

Yeah I think the glamorous pictures of people looking glamorous are what the movie and TV industry likes, and the games industry can't necessarily supply that too much. And I think that's actually made it a very enjoyable event to host, as you're not distracted by the circus going on around it. It's very focused and people are very interested to see who's going to win which award… The industry is so comfortable in its own skin, they're comfortable with the fact that quietly it's the most dominant consumer industry in the world.

I'm still lobbying for a time when we can have a fully CGI version of the BAFTAs with Lara Croft and the cast of GTA accepting the awards.

I'll do them all in a skin-tight suit with the little motion capture ping-pong balls. We can live-mix me in to present the awards.