BHP's Toby discusses gaming with Owen of Final Fantasy

Recently, DIW Magazine invited Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy and Toby Nathaniel of The Black Heart Procession to participate in a discussion of a mutual hobby of theirsógaming. The resulting exchange, though originally slated to run in an issue of the magazine, was cut due to time constraints and was about to slip through the cracks when we dove in and rescued it. So here it is. Maybe Owen and Toby will convince you to drop the NFL 2K6 and pick up some quality video games. Anyone for (virtual) tennis?

Who are you?

O: My name is Owen Pallett. I live in Toronto. I play the violin and make music under the moniker of Final Fantasy.

T: I am Tobias Nathaniel, multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of The Black Heart Procession.

How and when were you introduced to gaming?

O: Both of my parents were professors so we were around a lot of computers all the time. My father had up to six computers in his house in the 80s. The first game I remember playing was Adventure. I played it with my mom when I was 3 on a Commodore PET.

My earliest gaming memory was the time my mother took me to the arcade and she played Phoenix and beat five levels. At the time, I was 5 so I wasnít with it, but then as an adult, I realized she was pretty great at that game!

Later, my older brother became a sprite artist and game developer. He worked for Epic Games back when it was called Potomac Computer Systems. Tim Sweeney, whoís now somewhat of a development celebrity for the Unreal engine, used to rely on my older brother for his Autocad skills. I played a lot of old Epic Games.

T: My introduction to gaming was pretty standard. I played arcade games like Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong. We got an Atari 2600 at some point, had another home game system called Intellivision and just generally kept up on the newest available console systems. It was great fun playing goofy dungeon crawlers on those old systems. You really had to use your imagination. Games back then had to be attractive in other ways than the visual aspect.

What genre of gaming first piqued your interest, and held it till now?

O: Iím not interested in the technological curve. In fact, I think that new technology only allows designers to become lazy and make less innovative games. I prefer a game that challenges the way your brain works, as opposed to eye candy.

My favourite games are Ico, Contra 3 (and all other Treasure games), Einhander, Tetris on N64, the new Kirby game on DS, Infocom games, Space Quest 3, ZZT, and Zelda: A Link To The Past. Online games (since Tradewars) donít hold my interest, nor do wannabe movies like Metal Gear

T: It would have to be adventure/RPG.The first game that really got me hooked was The Legend of Zelda. It is simply an amazing game. I don't think I've played a game since that had such an impact on me. Dragon Warrior was a game that introduced me to the Japanese style turn based RPG. I played a version of Ultima on the Nintendo system that was also cool and extremely challenging. Anyway, fantasy based adventure or RPGs.

Have video games influenced your life in some way and if so, how?

O: Videogames, like good fantasy movies and novels, work best when they have a unique, hermetic internal logic. The viewer is then allowed to taste what this strange world is like, without being given a chance to fully comprehend all its facets.

The best example is Willow, which is the most perfect fantasy movie ever made. There is no explanation for daikinis, nelwyns, brownies or fairies. There is no explanation about how magic works or why. The world exists, but the movie doesnít attempt to illuminate anything about it. They simply tell the story.

Because my own songs have narrative elements, not to mention their own formal ideas, videogames and fantasy novels have taught me the best lesson: donít explain yourself too thoroughly.

T: Besides always trying to save elf princesses from the clutches of evil? Playing a good RPG can hone your ability to problem solve in creative ways. I suppose this has helped me in a musical sense...there might be a more elegant chord structure or melody line that isn't immediately obvious and can take some time to discover.

What is your preferred platform for gaming and why?

O: The N64 has always been my favourite platform, but the DS is quickly overtaking it. The DS has, at this moment, the most impressive collection of games any system has ever seen. I like Astroboy, Kirby, Tetris DS, Castlevania, Metroid, Mario 64 rehash, Mario Kart, Nanostray, Nintendogs and a bunch more. Best system ever, in all its flawed, bizarre beauty.

T: In the last 5 years or so it's been PC. Some friends of mine insisted that I get this game called Diablo 2. Up till then I had never really been a fan of PC gaming...outside some older Origin games like the Ultima series from the 80's. Diablo ended up being one of my all time favorites. I think the addictive aspect of Diablo 2 is the treasure hunting & equipment upgrades. I would literally have dreams about finding better armour and weapons. It's definitely not as challenging or stimulating as a Final Fantasy title but damn it's addictive.

I'm also a computer nerd. I love building & upgrading my own PCs. To play some of the latest games is like a benchmark test, to see how well you've tweaked your system. This is an entirely different endeavour than playing a really great game, but I do enjoy it as well.

Lately I've been playing World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online game. My wife plays as well, so it enables us to communicate and interact a bit differently with each other, especially when I'm on tour.

Thoughts about online gaming & its bearing on society/social behavior?

O: I have no interest in it. Online games donít stimulate me anymore.

T: Since I play World of Warcraft, I get to witness all kinds of bizarre scenarios and interactions between anonymous people. I have a hard time even role-playing a bad guy...maybe I should work on that.

If you could score any game or game series, what would it be & why?

O: The game Iíd like to score would be made by Team Ico. It would be a stylized romantic fantasy epic, with both role-playing elements and action. It would also have a tragic ending where the lead character is doomed forever to a realm of pain and silence.

My favourite videogame score, incidentally, is the score for Castlevania 4 for SNES.

T: I would love to do music for the Silent Hill series. Although the sound effects & noises are creepy & effective, I can't help but think that the music could be better.

If you could be any video game character, who would you be & why?

O: None. All the cute ones have bad voice acting.

T: Link from the original Legend of Zelda! I think that everyone has fantasized about being an 8 bit elf at some time or another.