As many of you may know, I’m a big-time fan of video games. I pretty much get down on any genre, any style, and any console. Heck, I started learning to read playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and it was a beautiful friendship between me and gaming from there. What some of you may not know, though, is I’m also a big fan of podcasts, too!
So when I found out two passionate gamers, such as myself, were putting together a new podcast exploring video games and why people love them, how they connect with them, how they make them feel, etc, I was pumped. The new podcast, which premiered last week, is called “New Player Has Joined”, and is hosted by Keith Kingbay and Jesse Neil. I had a chance to sit down for an interview with these two cool cats and get a closer look at what inspired them to put together this new gaming podcast. Give it a look!
First off, Keith and Jesse, thank you both so much for taking the time to have this interview with us. Before we kick things off, why don’t you both give our Daily Crate fans a little background on the two of you (who you are, where you’re from, past experiences, etc)?
Jesse: Thank you so much for talking with us! Some quick background: Keith is from Denver where he learned to play hockey – he got an offer to play professionally in Finland when he was 18. And I grew up outside of Boston and I used to be a jazz musician. Then we both moved to NYC to do comedy, and that’s where we met and decided to start performing together. Interesting facts outside of that? Keith’s grandfather is responsible for most of America’s bike trails and I strangled a goose when I was 5 because he took my bread.
I see you’re quite attached to your bread, duly noted. Anyway, I’m an avid gamer myself, and a lover of podcasts, so your new podcast “New Player Has Joined” is certainly one that hits right in my wheelhouse. What got you both interested in a video game related podcast?
Keith: We both play a lot of video games. If we aren’t doing comedy or writing, we are playing games. Initially, we thought, “We should do something political.” Then we realized we like Zelda way more than politicians. There’s also this connection that happens when you hear somebody’s voice that we think is special. A podcast is a fun medium, but it’s more than that. It feels like having somebody in your living room with you. The world is filled with gaming stuff, but we wanted to create something that felt like hanging out with a friend you haven’t seen in years.
There are quite a few gaming shows and podcasts out there, but I know that you guys have a special sauce that you may not see in other gaming podcasts – what sets “New Player Has Joined” apart from the rest?
Jesse: A lot of people talk about video games in terms of the levels and gameplay they enjoy. “This mechanic was fun!” or “I like using this weapon!” and while that’s always great, Keith and I like figuring out why people like those things. There’s psychology and stories behind the reasons we love the things we love, and Keith and I (Jesse writing again. Thank goodness, right?!) enjoy delving into that aspect of gaming. When you listen to “New Player Has Joined” you’ll hear questions about the emotions people associate with games and the memories people have of playing them. But on top of all of that, we have scripted elements in the show dedicated to exploring the sillier sides of both podcasts and gaming. It’s equal parts gaming and comedy. Also, Keith and I have been working together and talking about games for so long — we just have a really great and friendly relationship with each other.
You’ve mentioned that “New Player Has Joined” will focus a lot on how video games make you feel – what drew you both to that emotional connection being a driving force for this awesome new podcast?
Keith: I would say (Me, Keith. Not the one who thinks we have “a great relationship”) what drives us is an urge to acknowledge the human connections and bonds video games create that other art forms can’t– at least not in the same way. Gaming has this amazing leg up on other entertainment media. It puts you in control of the experience. TV and movies let you watch somebody do something crazy, and you relate or empathize, but at a distance. A video game tells you that you are in control, that you are accountable even, and that your decisions are what drive the story forward. It’s also just an enormous medium now, and people sometimes forget that. When The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out, most people I knew were playing it. Adults and children would share stories about their adventures as Link or their annoyance with Navi. When GoldenEye came out, I feel like EVERYONE played that game. It brought unlikely friends together. Those memories, those positive experiences resonate with me and Jesse. Games bring people together in a beautiful way. Hold on, Jesse’s trying to take the computer away–
Being invested and connected with the games you play is clearly pretty important to you both. Give me an example (or two or three, even!) of games that you really felt emotionally connected to/invested in?
Jesse: Before we get into that question – sorry about Keith up there. He’s the worst, right? Anyway, for me (Jesse) Final Fantasy X left a mark on my brain. On the surface, it’s a game about saving the world from a terrifying evil. But as a secondary plot, it’s about how organized religions are easily corrupted and can take advantage of good people. The first time I played it I was at an age where I was questioning my religious upbringing. FFX really drove home a lot of the doubt I was feeling, and when I look back on it I realize it helped me come to terms with an emotional shift in how I view the world. Oh, and Keith probably likes FarmVille because he’s dumb or something.
Keith: Good one, Jesse. (It was not a good one. I was being sarcastic. Jesse is not good.) I’d say the game that has resonated with me recently is The Last of Us. It was such a beautiful and complex story that I feel deserves to be shared and talked about. I’m actually in the middle of streaming The Last of Us to my family because I wanted to share the experience with them. It’s something I can actually talk about with my mother. That’s kinda crazy. But not like “Final Fantasy X left a mark on my brain,” crazy. Only dumb people say that…
There’s so much nostalgia that I can attach to games, especially ones I played growing up. What was the first game you played that really woke you up to gaming being such an impactful art form?
Jesse: Jesse here! (The one who isn’t awful. Remember?) The first game to really impact me was Toejam & Earl for Sega Genesis. It’s not that it’s a deep and meaningful game, but I played it with my older brothers a lot. I think the realization that video games were bringing us together really shaped my thought process around the concept of gaming. I beat Super Mario Bros. 3 with my older brothers Chris and Jon when I was 10, and I beat New Super Mario Bros. Wii with my younger brother Anthony when he was about 10. And now, when we’re all home for the holidays still playing games together — yeah, that’s a nice moment. It’s a part of how we relate to each other. It’s a tradition. Those games will always be special to me because of those moments.
Keith: Jesse is terrible and so is Toejam & Earl. I’m happy he wasted his time watching his older brothers not let him play. For me, the answer is NHL94 on Sega. My brother and I were really into hockey growing up and that was the first game I could beat him in. From there we would play every new hockey game that came out. It became an unspoken ritual between the both of us for years to come.
I’ve seen some of the upcoming guests for your show, and I gotta say the lineups look pretty dang solid. Are there any kickass guests or topics coming up that you may want to tease? I’m sure you don’t want to spoil TOO much, but what can we look forward to in that area?
Keith: We’ve got Ron Funches coming in to talk about The Last of Us, which is probably the coolest thing to ever happen to either of us. And Keith knows how to skateboard! (Keith here. I’m just talking in the third person.) Honestly, there are tons of people we want to talk to. Game designers and creators, close friends with great gaming stories, celebrities, politicians, journalists — and people who are just huge gamers. We’re also talking with SMOSH Games host Mari Takahashi about Mortal Kombat. We’re really excited about that one. She’s such a cool person and a huge gamer. Plus she’s got about a dozen amazing life experiences including being a professional ballet dancer that toured nationwide, so keep your eyes out for that one. I think we’re most looking forward to (or maybe hoping for) that random connection with someone listening out there who has that same random love for that same random game, and we can feel like the podcast is doing what games themselves can do. Unrelated, Jesse hates puppies, probably.
Are there any big names in the gaming industry that you would love to have join you on your show?
Jesse: Hideo Kojima is an insane mastermind who we just need to interview. Mila Kunis played World Of Warcraft so much that the developers created a character named after her, so she’s somebody we’d love to speak with. At its core, our show is about connecting and understand people through the games they love. So if there’s a person with a great story, we’d love to have them in the studio. Assuming they can deal with Keith’s terrible body odor. (This is Jesse again. Keith smells. I love all dogs.)
And I will close our interview today with the question I’m sure you both get a LOT: What is your favorite video game of all time?
Keith: Star Wars Galaxies. I don’t think I’ll ever have another experience like that game. Players didn’t have levels or a cliched MMO experience. This was a game where you played at your own pace and really engulfed yourself in the Star Wars universe…. or galaxy. I owned houses on Tatooine, I hunted Jedis on Yavin 4, I smuggled spliced blasters into Coronet and got into fights with Wookies inside cantinas constantly. So yeah, that game dwarfs whatever Jesse is about to say.
Jesse: I beat Final Fantasy VII once a year. Sure it’s old (like Keith) and doesn’t look great compared to other things on the market (also like Keith), but I empathize with the characters every time I pick up the controller. It’s a game that really impacted a lot of gamers in our generation. I remember freaking out when they showed the trailer of the remake at E3. And I realized how many other gamers were screaming their heads off in joy. That was a really great moment. All those people got to share in this feeling like they’d all won the Super Bowl together. That kind of collective experience really heightens that game for me.
This was probably one of the funniest interviews I’ve been able to be a part of – and I gotta say it’s hard to side with either of your video game choices, because I basically love them all so much (except for Toejam and Earl… I mean, really?!). Anyway, thank you both so much for taking the time to answer my hard-hitting questions – I had an absolute blast. And best of luck with “New Player Has Joined”!