A changing of the guard is always an emotional time. We all just want to know we're going to be in good hands. With that in mind, we sat down with Mark "Mad Dog" Serrels for a completely professional, 100% serious interview about his short & long term plans for Kotaku AU.
I knew a guy named Mark once. Guy was a douche. Are you a douche?
Well, I knew a guy called ‘Junglist’ once, and he was a douche. Actually I don’t know anyone else called ‘Junglist’. What kind of name is that anyway? Who makes up their own nickname, honestly…
But I digress. My name is Mark Serrels from the clan Serrels. I am (not) immortal. And I am (not) a douche.
So, Official Playstation Mag, huh? Do you, like, know anything about games that aren't PS3?
Man, tough crowd.
Look buddy, I’ve worked on every magazine known to Australia! OXM, OPS, PSM3, ONM, and bunch of other acronyms that you’ve never even heard of.
I can tell you one game I know about – FIFA 11. And when that game comes out you’re going to choose Barcelona, then I’m going to choose Glasgow Rangers, and I’m still going to absolutely smash you!
Disclaimer: there is no way in hell I can beat Jeremy ‘Junglist’ Ray at FIFA 11, especially if he chooses Barcelona and I have to go Glasgow Rangers.
And what makes you think you can do better at Kotaku than, say, one of its awesome acting editors?
You know what ‘Junglist’ – if that even is your real name – who do you think you are? You walk in here, stay for a couple of months, then you just leave? Leave us here all alone?
In response to your heartless betrayal, I would like to answer this question in the form of a song: ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’ by the Backstreet Boys to be specific.
It goes a little something… like this…
“I'll never break your heart, I'lll never make you cry, I'd rather die than live without you..."
[We decided to save you from the entire song. Yes, Mark just sang all of the lyrics to a Backstreet Boys song. -ed]
What's your Gamerscore?
I’m hovering at around the 14,000 mark – but I would also like to add that, in my defence, I’ve probably acquired another 20,000 on various consoles in various offices over the years!
What was the first game you played?
I was totally going to save this for a future ‘Remember This’ screenshot post down the line, but the first game I ever played was a little known game called ‘Horace Goes Skiing on the ZX Spectrum 48k – a rubber keyed computer which was like a UK made pre-cursor to the Commodore 64.
Horace is a, um… bizarre, blue, torso-less blob that featured in a number of truly terrible clones in the early 80s. Horace Goes Skiing was the Frogger clone, sequel to Hungry Horace, which was a Pacman clone, prequel to Horace and the Spiders, which was a Space Panic clone.
Begun the clone wars have.
I was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And I am immortal.
No, wait. That’s the plot of the popular 1986 movie Highlander…
Actually, I was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Learned to headbutt at the tender age of four, before gravitating towards a specialty in ‘glassing’ at 10. I am now a well-versed master in all forms of Glaswegian martial arts.
I moved to Japan for two years when I was 21, before setting in Australia four years ago.
What game first made you believe you could have a meaningful experience playing a video game?
Tough question. It really depends on what you define as ‘meaningful’. Gamers ascribe their own meaning to games, and it’s completely subjective.
I found rescuing Princess Daisy from Tatanga’s minions in Super Mario Land a completely meaningful experience when I was nine years old. Defeating Ganon in Ocarina of Time was a similar experience, but by then I was in my first year of University and it was meaningful for a number of different reasons. Same goes for confronting Andrew Ryan via the lost art of wedging a putter in his skull. That was meaningful too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the user dictates meaning and, in that respect, every single game I’ve ever played has been meaningful to me on some level. [/cop out answer]
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job was writing freelance for a number of magazines and websites including [deep breath] : Games TM, popmatters.com, Major League Gaming, Hyper, OPS, IGN, and a bunch of other outlets I can’t remember! My first full time job was as Staff Writer on the Australian Official PlayStation Magazine many moons ago.
Shut up, that’s when! (1998… sob).
In your opinion - the greatest game of all time?
[Deep breath]I just don’t know. On a personal note, my favourite game ever made is Monkey Island 2. It was probably the first time that I properly fell in love with a game.
The second game I fell in love with, however, was Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and I think that technically, from a design standpoint, it’s my favourite game of all time. It provided the structure for every subsequent Zelda ever made and, even to this day, it still feels like a flawless, perfect videogame.
Which was better, Majora's Mask or Wind Waker?
If Wind Waker didn’t have that god-awful fetch quest at the end, this wouldn’t even be a discussion – but it did and it is.
Therefore I’m going to say Majora’s Mask. Boom.
What game are you ashamed of never having played/beaten?
I’ve got a couple of answers for this one. Dead Space is a game that I absolutely loved to death, but never finished for some reason – don’t understand why. I think it’s because I enjoy wearing clean underwear.
The second answer is ICO. Again, I loved this game, but got stuck and just never went back to it.
Has anyone ever told you you look like Simon Pegg?
No! You’re the first person that’s ever said that! [/extreme sarcasm]
Yeah. I get that a lot. I also get Boris Becker, to the extent that the best man at my wedding, during his speech, actually showed a slide-show of my life, replacing all the photos of me with pics of major events from Boris Becker’s life: winning Wimbledon for the first time, the birth of his first child, etc, etc.
Think fast - you're up against a Blanka who won't stop doing the cheap electricity move. What do you do?
HADOUKEN! HADOUKEN! HADOUKEN!
In your spare time, the odds are you'll be playing what?
Right now? Halo: Reach. No question.
What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
I don’t even have to think twice. The 3DS. Easily.
What is the likelyhood that when posting from home, you'll be in your underpants?
Honestly, you wouldn’t put money against this. Putting money on me not being in my underpants while posting from home is like betting on a professional wrestling match. Utterly pointless – the outcome has already been pre-decided.
Let me put it another way. I’m writing the answers to these questions at home.
And the breeze feels good.
Give us a rundown of your short term plans for Kotaku.
My short term plans are:
– Top-notch Aussie focused features – The same awesome community led posts, along with some new ones I think you’ll enjoy
– All the important Aussie news first – A Kotaku podcast? But a good one!
I have a lot of cool ideas for Kotaku, but I don’t want to completely spill the beans just yet!
[steps on soap box] .
My long term aim for Kotaku is to get the community more involved in the issues that really affect Australian gamers on a day to day basis. Kotaku represents the gamers that live and breathe games culture: we’re the people that family and friends come to when they want to find out about what’s going on in video gaming.
In that respect, every single Kotaku reader is influential. If there’s something that we as a community think needs to change – be it the R18 problem, or Internet censorship, or Aussie game prices – we truly do have the power to make steps to try and change that. Kotaku doesn’t just have to write the news – if we band together and try to make a difference, we can be part of the news. There isn’t a more knowledgeable, committed community out there, and we can totally harness that to make things better for gamers.
That’s my long term goal for Kotaku – to make things better for gamers in Australia.
[Steps off soap box] .
If you could wave a magic wand over the industry, what would you fix?
I think there’s a lot that needs fixin’!
The R18 issue is obvious but I think, at its root, gaming’s major problem is one of perception. Despite the Wii’s success, and gaming’s general move towards the mainstream, it’s still a niche pursuit worthy of contempt and disrespect in the eyes of many. If I could change one thing I would definitely change that.
But I don’t think we necessarily do ourselves any favours. On the whole, if we’re being honest, games are still pretty stupid! We’ve taken massive steps with games like Bioshock, Heavy Rain, Flower, Braid, etc, etc but on the whole it can be difficult to treat gaming seriously.
Part of the perception shift has to be a commitment from developers to try and make good art, but with development costs as high as they are it’s tough to make that commitment and take it seriously.
Personally I’m putting a lot of stock in downloadable games. Huge development costs, picky retailers, and stressed-out publishers are all part of this huge conundrum that needs sorting if gaming is to push forward. Xbox LIVE, the Virtual Console, Steam and the PSN are home to some of the most innovative games, and I think that’s partly to do with the ease of distribution – no need to convince EB or Game that your game will sell, just throw it on an online service and let the people decide! It’s not perfect, but in a downloadable environment the success of games is far more democratic, which allows niche titles like Limbo, Braid and Flower to succeed.
And these are the kind of games you are most likely to bring up every time a commentator comes along and tries to tell us that games don’t matter.
Mark Serrels begins at Kotaku AU on October 11th, but you don't have to wait until then to get his take on games - Tweetsters can follow him at @Serrels