30/11/2020

๐Ÿ•น️ Britt Interviews: Robbie Collin - "Chief Film Critic At The Telegraph and Commodore 64 Le Mans Player At The Age Of 3" ๐Ÿ•น️ @robbiereviews #RetroGaming

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Being chief film critic at The Telegraph for almost a decade, Robbie Collin certainly knows his Akira Kurosawa from his Al Cliver but I had no idea that he was also a fan of video games.

In a recent Twitter post, Robbie shared a picture of his children playing Daytona USA at The Heart of Gaming in London (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heart_of_Gaming) – good – and I leapt upon the opportunity to learn about a totally different facet of his life.

A facet completely removed from his career of film criticism, a facet in which, instead of looking at a screen, he looks at a screen whilst also moving his thumbs slightly. 

Britt: Hi Robbie, thanks for taking the time to speak Games Freezer! To kick-off, what is your earliest gaming memory?

RC: I’m pretty sure it was playing Le Mans on my dad’s Commodore 64 – I must have been around three years old, and it was one of three games we had on cartridge.


The others were Jupiter Lander and some kind of semi-interactive map of the solar system, which I can remember keeping me enthralled for hours, even though for my kids it would be like putting them in front of a cave painting.


I also loved Quo Vadis, Pyjamarama, Attack of the Mutant Camels and Ghostbusters, though of course, those all came on cassette, which meant you first had to spend five or ten minutes staring blankly at a flashing screen and listening to bizarre atonal soundscapes, like you were undergoing some kind of brainwashing procedure.

Britt: Are there specific genres that you gravitate towards and perhaps some that you avoid?

RC: My dream games are the ones which feel immersive but can be played in small bursts – ones like Return of the Obra Dinn, The Witness, Lonely Mountains: Downhill, and of course Breath of the Wild.


Since becoming a father, anything with a lot of surface complexity or which demands hours of commitment to break into is more or less out of the question.


I picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons earlier this year but whenever I sat down to play it all the shops were shut, so I was just wandering around in the dark, weeding.

Britt: In a recent Twitter post, you had taken your kids to a retro gaming arcade, how did they react to the older titles or are they retro gamers themselves?

RC: My kids are seven and five, and they’re as happy playing old games as new ones – they loved Strider Hiryu and the old top-down shooters, at home they enjoy going through the NES and SNES libraries on the Switch and seeing how series like Mario and Zelda have evolved over time.


It feels to me like technology has now advanced far enough for their generation to embrace classic games on their own merits, rather than view them as technologically subpar warm-ups for the latest instalments.


The only downside is they sometimes refer to the eight- and 16-bit eras, without irony, as “the nineteen hundreds”, which makes me feel like they’re asking me about life during the Blitz rather than, say, Sonic and Knuckles.


Britt: In the past, you’ve mentioned interviewing Shigeru Miyamoto, do you have any lasting memories of meeting such a force in the gaming industry?

RC: This was a dream interview, and one I’d never thought I’d actually get to do since I’m not a games journalist. But Miyamoto was at the Tokyo Film Festival in 2014 with some Pikmin animated shorts he’d produced as a kind of side project to Pikmin, so I leapt at the chance.


The comment that made the biggest impression on me was that he was completely unsold on the idea that games could learn anything from cinema – in his view, the player was a kind of director-figure who should be creating a story rather than merely enabling it to unfold.


I think you can see that philosophy running through his work – and of course it pushes against the general drift towards ‘more cinematic’ AAA games since the early 2000s.

Britt: In your career as a film critic, you’ve probably seen a lot of movies based on video games, for which I can only offer my condolences. Which ones would you say you enjoyed the most?

RC: I mean, it’s a short list. There are only two which I’d describe as ‘good’, which are Detective Pikachu and Rampage. And I suppose the recent Tomb Raider was perfectly bearable. But I do think it’s interesting when you see a film that’s been influenced in a positive way by video games – it doesn’t happen often, but Crank, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Kong: Skull Island are all recent examples that are hugely enjoyable films in their own right. 

Britt: As we head into the next generation of gaming, which titles from the last decade stood out to you?

RC: To me, everything pales next to Breath of the Wild. I think it’s the greatest game I’ve ever encountered. I love it so much that I’ve avoided completing it, just so it can still be there, waiting to be played.


Britt: Further to this, will you be choosing PS5 or Xbox in the new generation (Or perhaps PC?). For me, Game Pass is quite the pull...

RC: Oh, PS5 all the way – I’ve always found the Xbox to be a fundamentally laughable object. The new ones look like a washing machine and a freestanding cigarette bin.


Britt: Are there titles on the horizon that have you rubbing your hands with glee or perhaps an older game you’d love to see a sequel for?

RC: I’m going to be tragically predictable and say F-Zero. I remember gazing in awe at the SNES original in Jenners department store in Edinburgh when I was a kid and then goggling at a row of AX cabinets in a Tokyo arcade 20-some years later.


I’d also love a new Ridge Racer or Daytona – I’m a huge fan of eccentric racing games, even though I tend not to be particularly good at them. I just love the idea of spending time in a world in which someone would build an enormous fruit machine into the side of a hill.

Britt: Finally, which games would you say have made the biggest mark on you and stand out as personal favourites?

RC: Recently, Breath of the Wild, probably because it seems to encapsulate that Miyamoto philosophy more perfectly than any other game I’ve played. And as a kid, Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VII were as formative an influence as any books I read or films I watched.


It was through video games that I discovered anime and then Japanese cinema at large, so I have a heck of a lot to thank them for.


A big thanks again to Robbie for taking the time to speak to us, he can be found on Twitter under - @robbiereviews

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