Actor Warwick Davis is perhaps best known to one generation as Wicket the Ewok from Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi or as the protagonist of the Lucas-produced fantasy adventure Willow. To others, he’s more familiar for being Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films, or the star of TV mockumentary Life’s Too Short. But since a fateful meeting with Darth Vader, he’s been a gamer at heart.
What was your earliest experience with videogames?
My very first experience of a game was the [Sinclair] ZX81. David Prowse showed me this very rudimentary game in his office, which had a frog jumping across logs that were floating by, and I thought it was amazing. I then bought a ZX Spectrum, where it would take maybe half an hour to load the game – kids don’t know how lucky they are these days. There was a TV show at the time about computer games [Database] where they would broadcast the code for a game with a modem-type sound, and you’d have to record it so you could play it back into the computer in order to play the game – though one time my mum ruined it, because she came in with the Hoover while it was recording. Then the Atari 2600 came along, and that had a nice bit of wood veneer on the front, and I played a lot of Pac-Man. The joysticks back then were really hard to push, and so I used to have blisters on the inside of my hands from playing too much.
So were you mostly a console gamer?
Well, after a while I got the Amiga computer, and the games on that were some of the best ever. I loved the Bitmap Brothers’ games, particularly The Chaos Engine and Speedball 2 – I was really glad to be able to get that on my iPhone.
Have you found yourself with less time to play as your career has developed?
In our house, we’ve got every console there is at the moment. I use gaming as a motivational tool, actually. Some people do it the other way – a lot of gaming and a little bit of work – whereas I do a lot of work, and then ten minutes on the PlayStation is my reward. It’s a way of motivating myself, and it’s a good de-stresser, too.
What games do you unwind with?
I enjoy Grid, and driving games in general, though not if they’re too simmy. Grid seems to find that balance between reality and playability, which I really love, and I love the damage you get on the cars. One of my favourite games on the PlayStation was the original Destruction Derby, and on Grid you can get a similar kind of experience with some of the events. Another game I play as well is Battlefield. I’m no good at it at all, but it’s kind of fun to run around and jump in tanks, and I enjoy the freedom it offers. When I was growing up playing games, I used to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could get in that vehicle or go in that building?’ And you never could because the maps were so limited. But now these games are vast: if you can see [a vehicle], you can usually drive it or fly it. I’m no good at the fighting or war elements; I just like the idea of wandering around discovering things.
You’ve coauthored an app in Pocket Warwick. Do you find yourself playing games on your phone, or do other apps take up the time?
Well, there’s so much you can do on your phone now, isn’t there? So you do have to make a conscious choice: am I going to use that free time to play a game, or am I going to catch up on Twitter, or look at the stock market? [I play] Pocket Warwick, obviously, but I also really enjoy the Reckless Racing games on the iPhone.
Do you have an all-time favourite game?
One personal favourite I didn’t mention is Star Wars Battlefront on the PS2 – I used to spend many happy hours playing that. There was a two-player mode on it, which I used to play with my daughter… All-time favourite, though? I don’t know. I want to say Speedball or The Chaos Engine, I think.
It’d be nice to have The Chaos Engine on iPhone, right?
It would work, wouldn’t it? The Bitmap Brothers games had all these little graphical details, the great soundtracks – it was such an immersive experience. I wonder why they never got round to updating all [of them] for all the new consoles. Imagine Chaos Engine on the PS3 – it’d be great.