An interview with comedian Dara O Briain

"I would like to be able to fondle the dragon by wearing a glove."

Dara O Briain is the fast talking Irish comedian known to us for his passion for video games, a hobby he sends up frequently during his renowned stand-up routines. O Briain also hosts satirical telly show Mock the Week, and this evening he'll host the GAME British Academy Video Game Awards (BAFTA) - a post he's filled every year since 2009.

Ahead of the awards, Eurogamer sat Dara O Briain down for a chat.

Dara O Briain: How's Mass Effect 3?

Eurogamer: I was going to ask you that!

Dara O Briain: I haven't seen it yet! Jesus, I'm still back logged up to the wazoo with f***ing Arkham City, and I think I've killed one dragon in Skyrim. Apparently there are more.

Eurogamer: There are. Some can fly backwards.

Dara O Briain: You're f***ing kidding me?! Really?

dara

Dara O Briain likes Batman, the joker.

Eurogamer: Well, they did [explains]...

Dara O Briain: That's cool. That actually sounds like an evolution of dragons. But I, being Dragonborn, should know that.

God, the thought of picking up Commander Shepard...

Eurogamer: Have you played Mass Effect before?

Dara O Briain: I played Mass Effect 2. I'm about two-thirds of the way through, I think, or I got to the third universe. But for all I know there are another 10 universes!

Eurogamer: What kind of Shepard are you?

Dara O Briain: I was a boy Shepard. Was there anything else I need to...

Eurogamer: Well, were you good or evil?

Dara O Briain: Oh I don't know actually, I think I veered between the two.

Eurogamer: Were you trying to be you?

Dara O Briain: No I wasn't. I know in Skyrim I'm a high-elf, and I myself am not a high-elf. I expect I just responded to the situations as I saw fit.

Eurogamer: What would be a satisfying Mass Effect 3 ending for you?

Dara O Briain: The sex scene everyone keeps promising me! If I could finally get to see that. Honestly. I spent so much time mining planets that I didn't get to mine any of my team!

How would I like it to end? I would like it to end with Shepard returning back to Earth in the 1990s, like when Ripley got home at the end of Aliens. Shepard running a small bar somewhere called Mass Effect 4 and just chatting to people about, 'Oh, man, I had some crazy adventures...'

Eurogamer: Are role-playing games your thing?

Dara O Briain: Not as a rule! Skyrim will do very very well at these awards, I presume. Because even I, who can't stand trolls or orcs and, 'I am Ragnor, fourth son of... who fought in the early times...' - this sh** I cannot take. But even I found it just astonishing.

Eurogamer: Which are your favourite BAFTA-nominated games?

Dara O Briain: Well, Skyrim was impressive. But it's a ludicrous list. FIFA I love - I get FIFA every year, but it's just because I'm a big football fan.

But Portal 2 I adored. There's nothing wrong with having a game that you can finish in 10 hours. It's just nice to complete something. Not every novel has to be A Suitable Boy. Not everything has to be Ulysees, or some massive, thousand page tome. It's just nice to have a satisfying story that ends, and see a conclusion.

Eurogamer: Did fellow funny-man Stephen Merchant being in Portal 2 have anything to do with your liking it?

Dara O Briain: No. I was on board anyway because I adored the first one. The first one was among the finest gaming experiences ever. And as an ending, ay yay yay - it was wondrous. Very little will compare with that song.

dragon

Invisible game pad.

Eurogamer: You're professionally funny - how funny did you find Portal 2?

Dara O Briain: I found it properly funny. The Merchant thing was great, the writing was fabulous. It was touching as much as funny, a lot of it. God, I want to play it again now. It ranked high in the 'properly funny' [list]. It's beautifully written.

Eurogamer: So what's the funniest game you've played?

Dara O Briain: Things that are meant to be intentionally funny - there aren't that many that are good comedy games. Most [games] are very very serious.

But then, putting zombies in is a good touch - that always helps. I've called for zombies to be added to more games. FIFA Zombie as a downloadable DLC. I even worked out a mechanic where you'd play zombies. If you got too close to the zombie you get turned into the zombie, but you can score quite easily against them. The case is, you've got to finish your ninety minutes. You don't want corners! Because you're players are close together and suddenly it's all zombies.

It's a brilliant idea! I said it last year and 'ha ha ha laugh' and no one has taken me up on it.

Eurogamer: Well why don't you write a game? Would you?

Dara O Briain: Well no, because I don't necessarily have the head for it. It would just be, 'Search the barrel!' And then maybe there's a treasure in it. I don't think I'd be able to come up with a gifted new mechanism for it. I have little kids so I'm supposed to be coming with games all the time, but they tend to be quite simple.

So no, I am in deep admiration for those that [do]. And luring you in, the gamification - making it so you need to get to the next bit... My craft let's say, rather than art, is I hammer you over the head with jokes. I stand around and go, 'Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang..." I don't have to put crumbs out for you to follow. I go to you and I punch the face with the jokes. It's quite the opposite to creating a world where people will get lured in and want to explore more. That's impressive.

Eurogamer: Earlier this week, people logged on to Xbox Live to find that all of their Achievements and Gamerpoints had been wiped! What would you do if that happened to you?

Dara O Briain: I don't think the 400 points I've amassed over my gaming career would be an enormous loss!

"I don't have to put crumbs out for you to follow. I go to you and I punch the face with the jokes. It's quite the opposite to creating a world where people will get lured in and want to explore more. That's impressive. "

Eurogamer: Do you really only have 400 Gamerpoints?

Dara O Briain: No, I have a few thousand. But I don't have an enormous amount.

It wouldn't be a huge loss. It's not like if I lost all my air miles. They're [Gamerpoints] not actually literally worth anything. It's not like I get lounge access if I hit 90,000 Gamerpoints. Occasionally I go, 'Oh I collected nearly all the Riddler Trophies [in Arkham City]!' What great days those were. But there are things I'm more nostalgic about than that.

Eurogamer: You've got famous gaming friends like Charlie Brooker. Do you play online with him?

Dara O Briain: No I don't. Graeme Linehan is another one - he tried to get me into Battlefield 3 which I played a few times myself and I think is great. Online I find Modern Warfare 3 to be just unbearable. I just die instantly, then I'm respawned and die instantly. But Battlefield 3, after respawns, I have to run for 10 minutes to get to where the flag is, and at least the running keeps me alive for a while!

I'm very rarely online at the same time as somebody else. Ed Byrne - he and I have occasionally played Halo online. I said to him, 'My god, your voice is coming out of my television!' And he said, 'Well, your voice is constantly coming out of my television!'

Really, the chances of me on a whim, at one o'clock in the morning after coming back from a gig in Nottingham or something, finding somebody else - yeah, I can't really ring around at that stage.

fondle

Those hands he would use to fondle a dragon. A harmless dragon.

Eurogamer: Does being well known mean you're thrown free games?

Dara O Briain: Weirdly, I get thrown a fair few I never get around to looking at, but I still have to queue up and get Portal 2 and Skyrim.

Listen, I'll not lie to you - there's a bit of that. But hey, I host the f***ing awards, they should be throwing me something! I get to this point and BAFTA, they're very nice, go, 'Is there anything you haven't seen?' And it's very embarrassing for a man of 40 to go, 'No, I've played them all!' Normally they have to send over some kind of catch-up pack. They haven't had to do that this year! On reflection, f***ing hell, I had another baby this year - there's no reason that I would been able to keep up. But yes, I have actually played all of them. Bollocks.

Eurogamer: Have you heard about GAME? Do you have any fond memories of it when you were young?

Dara O Briain: Well when I was young there were these really strange shops run by people with a passion and always filled with 14-year-olds going, 'Can I try out Boulder Dash please?' Or whatever it was on Commodore 64. And you'd save up your 10.99 or whatever for your game. I'm not sure [GAME] provide quite the same service - it was quite shambolic back in the '80s.

It will be an awful shame [if GAME died], just because the high street has been diluted of this stuff.

Eurogamer: Something else that's happening is the future...

Dara O Briain: Something else that is happening is the future?

"I would like a headset with which I can smell the environment. I would like to be able to fondle the dragon by wearing a glove. We all want that! We all secretly want that Lawnmower Man thing."

Eurogamer: It's definitely happening.

Dara O Briain: Is it?! I thought we were just going to stay in the present.

Eurogamer: We could.

Dara O Briain: In a manner of speaking we are. But I'm excited about this future you keep talking about.

Eurogamer: In the future there will be new consoles! Gaze into the future for me, Dara, and tell me what you would like to see.

Dara O Briain: Oh, wow, what would I really like? Heed the long pause that nothing gets me excited any more.

Eurogamer: But that's so cynical.

Dara O Briain: I would like to be blown away. I would like not to be able to predict the next exciting thing. I want to be shocked and surprised.

In terms of being wowed, yes obviously I would like a headset with which I can smell the environment. I would like to be able to fondle the dragon by wearing a glove. We all want that! We all secretly want that Lawnmower Man thing. We've already sort of got Minority Report [with Kinect].

Eurogamer: What's going to win a BAFTA tonight?

Dara O Briain: It's down to people comparing chalk and cheese. I have an idea that dragons will win - I have a sneaking suspicion. But that doesn't necessarily mean it was the most enjoyable experience I had of the year. That would still be, 'We do what we must because we can' - Portal 2 will still be my favourite gaming thing of the year.

I'm genuinely excited to see what wins. That's not something I normally get to say.

Dara O'Briain is hosting the 2012 GAME British Academy Video Games Awards on Friday, 16th March at the London Hilton, Park Lane. Watch it live at www.bafta.org/games/awards or on Challenge TV on Sunday 18th / Monday 19th March.

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