With the British Academy Games Awards 2016 rapidly approaching, T3 caught up with the show's host and self-confessed gamer Dara Ó Briain, to talk about his games of the year, why he likes hosting the show so much, and the massive potential for embarrassment while enjoying VR.
T3: Straight off the bat, of the nominees, are their any titles in particular that you would like to see recognised?
Dara Ó Briain: I have really backed the wrong horses in gaming this year, especially as I didn’t get around to playing The Witcher 3, which looked absolutely huge. Life is Strange and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture too, I kept meaning to download them but I didn’t have time in the end and couldn’t play them. That leaves me strapping all my hopes to a balloon and being fired out of Afghanistan in Metal Gear Solid 5.
And, do you know, that is how maybe I should finish the British Academy Games Awards, particularly after I deliver a long monologue about how I have not played many of the nominated games! Just get lifted out of the room and dropped on an oil rig somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. So yeah, Metal Gear Solid 5! Luckily for me that game is great and really impressive.
T3: This isn’t the first time you’ve hosted this event. What do you like most about hosting this awards ceremony in particular?
Dara Ó Briain: This is like the sixth or seventh time I’ve hosted it I think. It’s got to that happy stage where I can’t really recall how many I’ve done. I like it because it is a celebration but without any of the faff you get at other awards shows. There’s no stuff like ‘what are people wearing?’ It properly feels more like a fans' awards. You know that everyone in the room is really interested in seeing who won what as they keep abreast of each other’s work. So I can go in there and do the monologue about not playing any of the games as a fan of the work. You can do in-jokes as well as the room is full of fans, there aren’t any hangers on or auxiliary organisations who are just there because it is a glamorous event.
"People’s idea of how long a piece of entertainment should be for your money has shifted because of gaming"
I mean everyone scrubs up well for sure, but it is not all about the dresses and tuxes. It seems more about the fun of doing it. Like at one of the past awards shows we had the guy who was the voice of John ‘Soap’ MacTavish from Call of Duty and when he was called up on stage the audience knew who he was. So when he then leaned in and said “Come with me if you want to live!” as Soap the whole room purred in appreciation. It’s proper fan boys in the room, who genuinely enjoy the product, as well as being part of the industry.
T3: VR gaming has been huge at this year’s Game Developers Conference. What’s your take on the new tech?
Dara Ó Briain: I like the fact that if you are like 1000 of a second off you induce mass nausea! I’m looking forward to it though as I’ve tried it a couple of times and it’s interesting in the way that it is the small scale rather than the huge scale that really trips you up. There was a demonstration I tried where there was just a model on a table and you could bend down and look at it and through it for example. That was impressive.
"Me and the burglar will be in my house hosting the awards and you’ll all be able to watch it from your home with your VR headset on"
Mainly though I think it’s all about your family watching you and walking into the room while you are playing this totally immersive experience! I mean, the thought of being burgled while playing a VR game and the burglar just standing there watching you, that is a situation you don’t want to happen. You, a hero in your virtual world, are fighting something epic all the while your TV is being removed! The console itself goes next and then you’d be just stuck there saying, ‘hmmm, the VR screen seems to have stopped working’, and then you take off the VR headset, look up, and your PS4 would be gone.
That’s the thing I’m looking forward to! The potential for embarrassment is huge!
T3: Do you think we will see any VR games recognised at next year’s British Academy Games Awards?
Dara Ó Briain: There’s always been a bit of lag for the quality of a new product to go up. It always takes a little while. I imagine there will be a ton of released titles, maybe offering really cool graphics, but I think overall many will still be too clunky. It will take something like 18 months until you see someone really use it well I feel. I’m not sure about next year.
The year after however the entire thing will be taking place on a helmet. I won’t even have to leave the house to host the awards. Me and the burglar will be in my house hosting the awards and you’ll all be able to watch it from your home with your VR headset on. It’ll be great. I might even bring the burglar on! The 2018 awards, they’ll be the ones to watch!
T3: What’s your personal opinion on gaming as an entertainment medium right now culturally?
Dara Ó Briain: It is interesting that gaming has gone through this transition from being a minority interest to having shifted our expectations of entertainment. The fact that people watch movies, then games come out and offer 40-hour experiences, and then there is a big rise in the amount of people who watch boxsets aren’t unrelated. People’s idea of how long a piece of entertainment should be for your money has shifted because of gaming to a certain extent. And I’m way beyond the point where gaming has to apologise for itself. But its effects in permeating the culture have been large.
Plus, you know, geeks are taking over the world. So, yay!
- Read more: Round-up - the best of GDC 2016