Don’t be fooled by Pendleton Ward’s seemingly upper crust name: the 30-year-old animator/writer is anything but stuffy. He’s best known for his whimsically silly, Emmy-nominated Cartoon Network series Adventure Time about a boy named Finn and Jake the dog (voiced by John ‘Marcus Fenix’ DiMaggio) who repeatedly save the day for bubblegum princesses and thousand-year-old vampire bassist girls. Ward tells us about the games he made as a kid, why he loves Altered Beast and why he drew a comic about Charles Martinet.
What are your earliest memories of gaming?
I really liked Altered Beast. That was the first game before Sonic that came with the Sega Genesis. I really got into it. I liked how the bear had the power to turn people into stone. I would do that all the time. I was eight. Another game I liked a lot was the Tron firstperson shooter, Tron 2.0, which came out about 10 years ago. I was ranked, like, number one in the world for a while, because I was one of maybe six people playing it online and the rest were all children. At junior high school, I got into those early game-maker programs. Klik & Play was great. My games – I would put them on Post-it notes and draw out levels and everything. Then I’d go back and try to put my sprite in. But I couldn’t figure out how to make slopes or hills.
How has your love of games influenced Adventure Time?
A lot of game stuff makes it into the show because all the storyboard artists who really control the writing of their individual episodes are very into gaming. Rebecca Sugar puts a lot of Zelda-influenced ideas into her episodes and Steve Wolfhard put a shot in a season five episode that’s like Minecraft when you’re moving through a rectangular tunnel that’s two blocks high. Just little things like that influence shots.
And what inspired you to start a gaming blog?
I love games. My blog is www.ilovegamesyouguys.tumblr.com. I just started drawing Mario GIFs. I think I was on the phone and I started just drawing. I wanted a specific place to put ‘em, and I haven’t done much with the blog, so I just keep putting GIFs up.
Aren’t you trying to interview people in the game industry as well?
I interviewed [Masaya Matsuura], the guy who created PaRappa The Rapper. I asked him stupid questions about putting clothes on animals and what he thought about that. I’m just trying to get at stories. I’m more fascinated by stories than data about the games. So I’m asking silly questions about them and what they believe. I do want to interview Charles Martinet [the voice of Mario] really badly. I want that to be my first published interview. Until I get that, I don’t want to post anything else.
Do you have any other dream interviews for your site?
No, I just really want to interview Charles Martinet. [Laughs] From what I’ve heard he’s pretty accessible through Facebook and I just haven’t pushed hard enough, I don’t think. I’m gonna keep trying. I think I’ll get it done. I want to interview him really bad. I did a comic about him that I want to put up with the interview. It’s about what I imagine Charles Martinet’s powers to be. He gets pulled over by a cop and he goes, “It’s a-me! It’s a-Mario!” And the cop says, “Oh my God! You’re Charles Martinet! You’re Mario!” And he says, “That’s a-me!” And the cop says, “You’re free to go, Mr Martinet!”
So what’s your all-time favourite game?
I feel like Myst is my favourite game that I come back to. When I was a kid, I would play Myst and after I beat the game I enjoyed the world so much that I would leave it on and just listen to the atmospheric sound effects and pretend I was in there. I bought all the books and I played the sequel and I played [Uru: Ages Beyond Myst]. That really struck a chord and a nerve with me, and it still does today.
Myst is a polarising game and gets criticised a lot. How do you usually respond to those complaints about it?
I have long debates with my friend Pat about it and whether it’s an adventure game. Actually, I don’t even remember his point of view because I like it so much. I can only remember my side of the argument, which is that I love Myst.