By John Gaudiosi
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA—While the next season of the critically acclaimed sci-fi TV series, "Battlestar Galactica," won't air until 2008 on Sci-Fi, fans of the show have plenty to keep them busy this fall. There's the complete first season from Universal Studios Home Entertainment on HD-DVD as well as the new extended cut of the Battlestar Galactica Razor movie out on DVD. Game maker Blackdot has created a free online game, Raptor's Revenge, to tie into this new DVD release at www.battlestargalacticadvd.com. There's also Vivendi Games new Xbox Live Arcade downloadable high-definition Battlestar Galactica game.
Actor Tahmoh Penikett, who plays Lt. Karl C. "Helo" Agathon on the series, is the resident gamer of the cast. When he's not filming the series, he's playing his PSP or PlayStation 3. The actor got a chance to pilot the new Xbox 360 game on set and he took some time to talk about his gaming background, as well as his love of all things sci-fi.
Penikett grew up in a small northern town and he lived in a suburb that was near the airport. He said that was the only place they had videogames and there were only three games to choose from—Pac-Man, Asteroids and Galaga.
"Me and most of the neighborhood kids spent way too many hours and all of our allowance money pumping Galaga full of quarters," said Penikett. "When you think about that game and how you can only move back and forth, you have to have some pretty good reflexes for it. That's a classic of all time."
Although he played Galaga for endless hours, he never actually beat the game. He made it to the 42nd level once. Just thinking about Galaga brings back great memories of his childhood.
"I'm an old school gamer," said Penikett. "I was born and raised in Connecticutt. I remember getting the Atari Lynx back in the day. That was way ahead of its time. You could switch screens, depending on if you were a left-handed or right-handed player. It was 16-Bit, which was way ahead of its time. I remember ordering that system and being so excited about that. I had California Games. My favorite game was APB, which was this Dirty Harry-style cop game. That was so many years ago. I was 15 when I got that system. I was always reading up on games and I always wanted to get the most powerful system, so when TurboGrafx 16 came out I wanted that instead of Genesis. And Genesis ended up being the more popular system. I had a lot of the systems when I was in high school."
One can't mention the TurboGrafx 16 without asking about its mascot.
"Bonk was the shit," said Penikett. "I spent way too many hours playing that game. There was also that pack-in shooter, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, which I played a lot when I got it."
When looking at the systems Penkikett bought as a kid, he seemed to always pick the one that died an early death.
"I think that was a mistake I made," said Penikett. "I read up on these systems and everyone said TurboGrafx 16 was going to be more powerful than Genesis so I got that one. The same thing happened with the Lynx, which was twice the power of the Game Boy. And both of them really fizzled. I remember loving that Lynx, but we just didn't have the games."
Penikett has done better with his hardware purchases lately. He currently owns a PSP, which he uses for travel playing a lot of SOCOM and Killzone. He also has a PS3 which he uses for Resistance: Fall of Man.
"I've always been a sci-fi fan," said Penikett. "I think it's great how they have the alternate history story. The story lines are amazing. They're making movies about videogames now."
All of those hours playing games as a kid help the actor when beating today's games.
"I do appreciate the games and because I played so much when I was younger I can catch on to games pretty quickly today," said Penikett. "I've been playing Resistance: Fall of Man and Call of Duty 3 on PS3. I was going through levels pretty quickly, so I actually had to lay off the games a bit because I didn't want to beat them to quickly. I think about those games. The graphics in Call of Duty 3 are amazing. You feel like you're actually there."
Like many gamers, Penikett is looking forward to seeing how technology further advances gaming over the coming years.
"The possibilities are endless," said Penikett. "It's really up to your imagination. What's so interesting about this time that we live in is that technology is moving ahead so quickly. If we heard that in five years there's going to be a gaming system that will give us a virtual reality system...the William Gibson stuff...where we can cross over to a completely virtual world where you can smell and feel...I'm sure a lot of people would actually believe that's possible. We're moving ahead so quickly."
Long before he was helping to make sci-fi history with the re-boot of "Battlestar Galactica," Penikett was a fan of Gibson's work. He loves sci-fi writers that don't go too far into the future with their stories.
"I love Gibson's wild imaginationa and what he speculates what the future could be," said Penikett. "He coined the term 'cyberpunk.' He was way ahead of the game. That is one thing I'll be so curious to see in my lifetime is where we're heading on that virtual reality front."
When it comes to the games of "Battlestar Galactica," Penikett didn't play the first Vivendi game on Xbox and PlayStation 2 released back when the show's reboot mini-series debuted, but he'd heard about it. That game actually earned kudos from game critics for its dogfighting gameplay and backstory, which featured a young Captain Adama.
Penikett had a chance to engage in real videogame dogfighting, rather than his usual "make believe Raptor piloting" that he's used to on set. The actor played the new Xbox Live Arcade game with the game's developer and he liked what he saw.
Since he's been a sci-fi fan from when he was a kid, Penikett loved the way the new game incorporates actual episodes from the series into single-player campaign levels. These levels serve as a primer for gamers before embarking online and playing against 15 other players.
"I still have yet to try online gaming. I'm looking forward to it. It sounds awesome," said Penikett, who was only able to play the single-player game on set. He said he enjoyed his time with the virtual Raptor and he thinks fans of the show will embrace this game.