Scroobius Pip: My Favourite Game
David Peter Meads (aka Scroobius Pip) launched into the public eye upon releasing his single with DJ Dan Le Sac “Thou Shalt Always Kill” in late 2006. The accompanying video, which saw Pip tossing records aside and declaring legends from The Beatles to Radiohead “just a band”, became a viral sensation. He’s not just a music geek, however, which you realise very quickly once the subject turns to games.
Did you grow up with game consoles in the house?
Yeah, I was always a Nintendo guy. A mate of mine was a Sega guy, but I was always into NES and SNES and all that. I had Amigas and Spectrums as a really young lad as well.
Was that because your parents were tech savvy themselves?
Not really, I think it was just because there was a higher demand from me and my brother for such things. My uncle was quite a gamer, though. He used to make Spectrum games himself. He had one of the programs where you could build a few things, and he’d build them like that. It’s got to a level these days where it’s not easy to say, ‘hang on, I’m going to make a game’. But with more technology available at cheaper prices, kids will be growing up with more knowledge of that side of things and hopefully be able to take that route. Yeah, it’s a big old task these days, and we don’t like our games small anymore. It needs to be developed for several years and be some huge beast of a game.
You’ve mentioned FIFA a bit lately on Twitter. Are you a longtime fan of the series?
I was into Pro Evo for a while, but in the last couple of games I think FIFA has pulled it back. I went off FIFA when International Superstar Soccer came out, but I’ve always been a fan of football games in general. Championship Manager is my greatest addiction to date, more than any alcohol or drug. One of the guys who works on it is a fan and he offered me the new one when it was just about to come out. But I had to turn it down because I had my album on its way, and I’m releasing it on my own label, and I knew that it would push the release date back by several months if I got Championship Manager, sadly. Because I’m self-employed, as it were, that’s why I generally only get games like FIFA or beat ‘em up games where I can step into it and have a few games and then walk away. My treat at the end of the last tour – because I knew I had a month off – was Arkham City. Because I knew I could allow myself to spend days upon end sitting there and getting into a really big game and devouring it.
As a kid you don’t think anything about spending 80 hours on a Final Fantasy, but it certainly gets tougher to justify that kind of time investment the older you get. I was discussing this earlier because I’ve got a MAME emulator arcade cabinet, and it’s got tons of old arcade games on it and tons of old MegaDrive games and Master System games, and you realise that back then they kind of had to make games that you could complete in a few hours because a lot of them didn’t have save functions, particularly arcade games. You couldn’t save your game so you couldn’t have a game that took ten days to complete. Today the idea of not being able to save seems like a completely insane thought.
You see those kind of short-burst games having a resurgence on mobile devices.
Yeah, you can just pick it up and play. I’m not a big mobile gamer. If I’m playing, I’m playing. I’m setting time aside and getting into it rather than having a quick go. All I play on my iPod is the card game Klondike.
You mentioned being a Nintendo guy. What were the games on those systems that cemented your fandom?
I still maintain to this day that any game in the world is improved with the addition of Mario. I mean, all the Mario games are amazing. When I was in America on tour a while back and I had my DS, I picked up a Mario basketball game. It’s just a basketball game, but it’s ten times better when it’s Mario Basketball. Mario Kart, Mario Soccer, all of them. I guess it’s just the game developers. Because it’s got some ludicrous elements and a huge allowance to escape from reality with it. With Mario Basketball you’re doing these crazy spinning slam dunks. I guess you could do that all on NBA Jam back in the day, but it’s just that weirdness, that unusualness, and all the characters are incredibly well designed. I’m just a big Mario fan, I think.
It killed me when Mario Olympics came out and Sonic and Tales were in it. When I was growing up, they were mortal enemies. Now there aren’t any Sega consoles and Sonic is whoring himself out on Mario Olympics. Obviously it’s good for playing, but things like that are painful to see. I couldn’t get my head around that for a long time. When I saw the two come up on the screen together, I was like whoa whoa whoa, what’s going on here?
Have you ever been approached about doing music for any game projects?
Not really. We had a song licensed for Dirt 3, I think. But I did have a Scroobius Pip-based game developed for my website called Bash The Beard. You have to mash the space bar to make my beard grow until it lifts me off the ground, then you have to balance me as I’m flying up through the sky with this growing beard. There are things you can collect on the way up. It was all because I got addicted to Robot Unicorn Attack. I got obsessed with that and got thinking, I need a weird little web game. I spoke to a few people and we came up with this idea and built it, and it actually works really well. It’s just a nice addictive little challenge game and has a leaderboard. Some of the kids’ scores on this game, I can’t imagine how that’s at all possible. I was playing it for a good month while it was being developed, and just four days after launch there were scores that were literally ten times as much as my top score.
Do you and your girlfriend play games together?
We’ve put Tiger Woods on and had a play, but we’d end up arguing, getting annoyed and turning it off. For me, gaming is mostly an ‘on your own, in your flat’ kind of experience. It’s something that people lose me to. For Arkham City I needed to do that. I also did it with LA Noire last year, and I thought that was good. I’ll only allow myself a month or so at it, while doing other things. But after that is the cut-off point.
It’s impressive that, given your addictive personality, you still have the self-discipline to just cut it off when you need to.
I’m also painfully professional, thankfully. With Championship Manager, I played it a lot on one of the tours and then I’d set a date – as sad as that sounds – which is my last day to play it. Because I know I’ve got other shit to do. So it goes away and I don’t play it after that.
You’ve rapped about disaffected kids turning violent as a way to cope with small-town boredom. Why do you think games are scapegoated so often as the cause of that violence?
I don’t think it’s just games in particular. The media just loves a story every now and then. You’ll get a band that they blame – a Marilyn Manson or whoever – that they claim is turning kids evil and causing violence. If they’re going to react badly to Grand Theft Auto or whatever, I don’t know why there wasn’t more press outside of the gaming world celebrating Portal 2 last year. Portal 2 is a great game – it’s problem solving, it’s logic. They could play that in schools and it would genuinely help teach kids higher-level thinking, but it was still a really enjoyable and fun game. That could’ve been a game that you had to play in class.
What’s your favourite game of all time?
Based on sheer number of hours it’s taken from my life, I have to go with Championship Manager. It’s the most addictive game, and it’s bizarre because it shouldn’t be. Because nothing about it suggests it’s even a game. It’s just stats and numbers and all that, but it’s the greatest, most addictive game of all time. On my arcade machine, I love that I’ve got NBA Jam and all the old Wrestlemania games, but if I had to pick one, it’s got to be Championship Manager.
Hailing from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, Scroobius Pip got his start as a spoken word artist. Then he teamed up with electronic musician Dan Le Sac
in 2006 and the pair released their first single, Thou Shalt Always Kill, later that year. The accompanying video has garnered over three million views on YouTube. Pip’s debut solo album, Distraction Pieces, was released in September 2011 on his own label, Speech Development.