A Chat With Mark Serrels

A Chat With Mark Serrels

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.

Where were you born/raised?

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.

When was the last time Scotland was in the World Cup?

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?


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

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!

Now the long term. What are your goals?

[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


  • I’m sure we all have games that we should have played in our lifetime…

    But not finished ICO! SHUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Welcome aboard the Kotaku Cruise Liner, where the seafood buffet is available 24/7 and oldies night is Sunday.

    If you have an questions, then don’t ask us, your the damn Captain! :p

  • @Cav: I’m so glad someone was there to document that burger. It lives long in my memory and my tastebuds…

    @James Mac: Yeah, I know! If it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t really a choice. I’ve the ‘support Glasgow Rangers’ gene since birth…

  • Bahahahaha. What a great first up interview. Big welcome Mark! Looking forward to your contributions.

    As a side note, how are you finding Reach? Can we expect like, a community play date? /flirt

  • Welcome aboard Mark, I hope your stay here is a pleasant one! Some good ideas you’ve put up there, a Kotaku Podcast sounds like it would be awesome! It would sure as heck beat listening to the god awful radio stations we have.

    Have to agree with you with the ‘games are still stupid’ sentiment. Who was it that said a little while ago that we are obsessed with ‘gay space marines’. You could have easily replaced gay with thick.

    However, ‘stupid’ games can be fun to play aswell. Some days after work i just want to kick back with Gears of War’s horde mode and mindlessly kill wave after wave of badies.

  • Thanks dudes – I really can’t wait to get started!

    @Bish and Strange: Accent= Shheaan Connery Shexy

    @Tom: Reach community play date is inevitable!

    @James Mac: Was born in Lanark, grew up around Larkhall/Hamilton – you?

    • Born in Mognahan, Ireland… grew up in Aus.
      Most of my mums family are from Coatbridge… which is every bit as horrifying as it sounds.

      I’m going over for the Edinburgh festival next year… so I’ll probably drop by and see them

  • Hi Mark, welcome to the daily mayhem that is Kotaku.

    In regards to Kotaku having an impact on games related issues in Australia, do you envisage some sort of lobby efforts or advocacy group? This sounds very interesting.

  • I actually read that whole interview out loud just to hear the hilarious dialogue with the scottish and american accents.

    I think it gained a lot for it.

  • Man, some of those questions are… well, don’t listen to Junglist, he hasn’t even perfected his copy/paste skills yet! =P

    I’m looking forward to the new era of Kotaku. I’ve been reading the big-K since the Xbox vs PS2 days, and unlike a lot of other places on teh internuts, the changes on here have always been a good thing regardless of how big or small they are… Oh, and you’re Scottish as well? Gnarly.

    Erhm, anyway… have fun!

    Love, Justin.

  • It won’t last; editors and readers are natural enemies. Like Englishmen and Scots, or Welshmen and Scots, or Japanese and Scots, or Scots and other Scots. Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!

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