When sceptical misogynists challenged Aisha Tyler’s credentials for hosting Ubisoft’s E3 conference by asking what console she plays, her response was “motherfucker, all of them”. Tyler has toured the US
as a comedian, published a book of essays, starred in Friends, 24, Glee and Archer, and has discussed gaming on her own podcast enough to leave little doubt about where her interests lie when it comes to downtime.
How did gaming start out for you?
I started as an arcade gamer. As a kid, I played with my dad a lot. I played a lot of Pac-Man, but my first kind of really obsessive game was Defender. There was a Defender [cabinet] in the laundromat across the street from my house and I would go there every afternoon and play the crap out of it. So, yeah, early Defender… Galaga.
Did you get into PC gaming?
It was arcades through high school and then in college I started PC gaming – PC gaming in the sense that it was on a computer; I’ve always been a Mac user. So in college I played a lot of really rudimentary PC games like Tetris – that was a really big life-killer when I was at college, all the permutations of Tetris – Leisure Suit Larry and some of the early disk games. And then, after that, all of the Myst and Riven games, and then the early Tomb Raider games.
What do you play nowadays?
The big three for me are Halo, Gears Of War and Fallout. Those are probably my three most-played franchises. It’s interesting, I mainly play shooters. I used to play multiplayer on Halo quite a bit and I played a lot of campaign on Gears and Fallout with my husband. We’re in the middle of BioShock Infinite right now. I liked the first BioShock, but did not like the second one. I’m still avoiding Skyrim because I’m told it’s going to eat my life and I can’t afford something [like that]. I’ll stay up till four in the morning just to play, so if a game is going to do that to me I tend to avoid it, which is awful because I’m sure Skyrim is amazing. We play a little bit of everything but I’m not a franchise obsessive or a platform obsessive. So I really just get into games that I like and I play them. I’m not like, “I only play this!”
Do you manage to play games much when you’re away filming?
A few years ago Microsoft built me a custom travel case for my Xbox, which was really nice and accommodating. It’s a hard case and weighs like a thousand pounds. But I don’t travel with anything to game with now because I’m working 17-hour days and have no time. I don’t do any [handhelds] but I do occasionally game on my iPad. So really basic games [such as] Plants Vs Zombies. The Walking Dead – that was incredible, really beautifully done. It goes to show that a complex story and great characters can more than compensate for rudimentary gameplay.
The games you’ve talked about so far are very ‘blokey’. Does it bother you that games are still predominantly made by and for men?
Yes and no. I feel like my way into gaming was ‘blokey’; I was raised by a single dad, so I always loved action movies and every kid who loves action movies imagines that they’re John McClane. There are women who like shooters, and I don’t feel female gaming is necessarily more ‘huggy’ than male gaming, but I also feel if The Walking Dead is the way games are going, then more women will want to game. If there’s a ‘feminisation’ of games – and I don’t think that’s the right word, honestly – it’ll benefit all gaming because The Walking Dead was so emotionally wrenching that everything about it was satisfying.
What’s your favourite game of all time, and why?
Can I give two answers? Halo was my gateway, my first console game. I thought it was so beautiful, but they did the reboot a couple of years ago – they were showing the old and the new – and I remember thinking, “Oh my God, it looks like shit!” But I feel like, honestly, the whole Myst/Riven thing because it was my adult reintroduction to gaming. I hadn’t been gaming for years and it was so beautiful and evocative and kind of a harbinger of where console gaming eventually went, [to] these beautiful dream-like worlds. That was when I woke back up to gaming as a grown-up.