AE 530 – Interview: Growing Up as a Gamer Down Under with Rory Douglas
G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English! Today I have the pleasure of interviewing my brother in law, Rory. So, today we went out for my sister’s 30th birthday so, we went to a vineyard and brewery. I think they brew cider, a place called the Flying Brick, which is near Ocean Grove where we live on the ballerina peninsula. So, we went out there. It was really good. Got to see my grandparents, my folks, obviously. Kel and I went and my sister Annika and her partner Rory and their daughter Isabel were all there as well. So, yeah it was pretty good fun, we got to hang out, and it reminded me that I needed to put this interview up on the podcast with him. So, today we chat all about gaming and I thought he would be the perfect guy to get on the podcast to talk about what it’s like growing up being interested in games or somewhat addicted to games, which I was back in the day when I was younger and had a lot more free time. And yeah, he’s very much into his games. He has also learnt Japanese and I thought he’d be the perfect person to get on the podcast to give you guys more access to more Aussie English accents. Now I do want to apologize that I haven’t sort of gotten into a rhythm yet this year with staying, I guess, in a rhythm with the podcast episodes, the expression episodes in particular. Now, I’ve been working on a lot of different things in the English classroom. I recently put up the Shadowing Course.
There’s also now a spoken English course in the Aussie English classroom so, I’m putting up a lot more content focused on improving your accent, improving your spoken English, the use of contractions, the use of your pronunciation in general and so, that’s why I’ve sort of been out of kilter, out of rhythm, a little bit with the different kinds of episodes that I put up. Anyway, that’s a big intro, guys, I kind of just wanted to tell you what I’ve been up to give you an update. Now let’s get into it and I give you my brother in law Rory and me chatting about games and growing up in Australia. Let’s go!
Welcome to this episode of Aussie English, guys. I have my, I guess you would say brother in law, right?
Yeah, I guess so.
You aren’t married, but yeah, is that position.
So, I thought I’d get Rory, my sister’s husband. I don’t, it’s not really right to say boyfriend, right?
Partner is good.
I thought I’d get you on to chat about video games in Australia and growing up with them because you’re a bit of a gamer.
Just a bit.
I was a bit of a gamer, but I just haven’t done it in a long time.
You’re on a hiatus.
Exactly, well, that’s it. Does it ever stop, right? Does it ever wear off? Is it like alcoholism?
It’s a bit like that. You regress from time to time.
So, what was it like growing up? What was your first introduction to gaming? Do you remember at all?
Yes, my dad was big into I.T. so, he always had a good, for the time, a good computer and used to sit me on his knee and play some little rudimentary video games with me. Little MS DOS games.
Yeah, far out, I think I remember going across the road to my friend’s house and he had like an IBM. I don’t know if it was Microsoft back then or not…
(??) was a really popular computer at the time.
And he had so many of these old school video games that were like that arcade type thing and I remember just blowing my mind and like always wanting to go over and we’d just be like ”can we just play the game straightway?”
We used, I think it was like even Snake like, the MS DOS version of Snake, that used to be on the phones, used to play that.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, my mum used to play that a lot, she loved it.
And then went on to like the Aladdin game, The Lion King game. All the little kids games.
And so, do you remember being in primary school and the first person to introduce you to the Game Boy or did you get one of those?
No, I didn’t actually get one, but I remember seeing some of my friends getting one and the Game Boy color, the semitransparent ones, they used to play Pokémon on. I never got one.
You never got one?
It’s disappointing. I remember when I was in primary school there was a kid called Jared who was the first person had one of those old black and white Game Boys and he brought it in and I remember that he had Pokémon Red, the very first version of Pokémon and he used to allow us to play it if we paid a dollar to get like five minutes.
That’s amazing! What a great business idea! How old was he?
He would have been like grade four or five and like I remember Mum and Dad would give you a few dollars each day to go to the tuck shop and buy a packet of chips or a potato cake or something, right?
So he was running an arcade in the primary school?
Yeah exactly and so, we would go and pay him to use his game and play his game, though, right? It wasn’t like we could start from the start and have our own. It was his game that he’d already like leveled up a bit.
Not only Is he getting money, he’s having his game played for him by other people.
Exactly. He’s getting other people to pay for the right to level up his Pokémon. So, that was, I remember that was my first introduction to poke my read and I decided after that I had to have it and I think within like the next six months the Game Boy Color came out and we I had a purple one and I think Annika had a green one, I can’t remember which one she had, my sister got one, and she got Pokémon blue and I got Pokémon red and I think that was my first introduction to sort of gaming, gaming. Did you ever play those games? Did you ever end up with one?
Well, I never played them on the computer as an emulator. I think my first console was the PlayStation one.
Wouldn’t get a console for a long time. I guess when you talk about these things it’s always generational, right? ‘Cause I… we were 90s kids so…
I had a PlayStation 1, too, I would’ve got that think after the Game Boy. What games were you playing on PlayStation 1, Crash Bandicoot?
Yeah, we had so many games because dad went over to Vietnam and he bought all these little games for two dollars, one dollar, all those pirated ones, and we had a mod chip in the PlayStation.
So, we had hundreds of games.
Because it used to be a thing, right? Where you could get your…you could buy a PlayStation for several hundred bucks and then each game would be like 60 to 100 bucks and then I remember at least with the PlayStation 1 and the PlayStation 2 that there was a business where people could mod them or like you would send your PlayStation to a friend’s house.
It cost about 40 dollars or something like that.
And they put some sort of chip in. I never actually saw how it was done, but I remember friends doing that and it meant that they could play games from overseas or something or.
You could burn them yourself. You’d borrow games from the local Video Ezy or whatever and you could, if you had a CD burner on your computer, you could burn the games and then play on your PlayStation.
Far out, that’s right! Yeah because there would be, back in the day, that was when there were video like VHS stores, right? Renting out videos and I guess DVDs too at the end.
And consoles, and video games… I think, yeah, I remember going in borrowing videogames like Tekken, the fighting games, before we actually ended up buying them, but yeah I remember that and thinking that my friend had a lot of games that he’d somehow acquire without buying them and then he was like ”oh I just borrow them and burn them”.
Yeah, they were all good, but it was sort of like… I always felt like the 64, the Nintendo 64 was the better quality, the better-quality games on the Nintendo. Now, some my friends had that and we would end up just all night playing Super Smash Brothers or.
And James Bond, right?
Bond. Yeah, Perfect Dark. And so, I always wanted one of them as well. But yeah it was good having lots of games because you’d just play five minutes at least one, but I think the quality was really on the 64.
That was a difficult one too, you’d get bored pretty quickly, right? You play…. This was before the time of like those really addictive games like Call of Duty and Battlefield where you could be on there playing, I think as soon as they brought in that online component where you could interact with other people, before then, these games or relatively… you could play them, but you couldn’t really sit there for an eight-hour binge, right? You’d get really bored.
I think they sort of… they realized that if they put in a levelling system that doesn’t really end, you just keep getting experience, you keep getting points the more you play, people just got addicted to it. Whereas before I was sort of like you play to unlock a bunch of stuff, it might take you know 20, 30 hours and then you’ve got everything and you’ll play it because it’s fun, but you’re not playing it to unlock everything else like in Call of Duty when they figured out you could give people a slightly different variation of a color on their weapon and they’ll spend hundreds of hours trying to get that.
Or even pay for it, right?
Nowadays you can unlock things like that in these games, but you can pay to have those things and that was when it clicked, right? When they were like ”oh my Gosh, we can sell the game, but then it’s all the other added components within the game like expansion packs, everything like that that we can make all of the money on.”.
And it’s so insidious now, but back then it was just… it’s nice to think of those times, it was a bit more quaint, but…
So, were you always a PlayStation guy, you made the switch, didn’t you? I was always a PlayStation, I bought a PlayStation I, I bought a PlayStation 2, I bought a PlayStation 3. I never got a 4. Unfortunately, that was when I fell off the wagon and was just like… I don’t have time for this anymore, dammit and Kel won’t let me spend that kind of money on a PlayStation anymore.
We don’t even have a TV! But did you make the switch, because I know you got an Xbox today, right? Well, you got the computer too.
I’ve got so, I got a PlayStation 1, aside from my computer which I’ve always had, PlayStation 1 and then I got a Game Cube instead of a PlayStation 2, which the game keeper is the Nintendo console and then I got an Xbox 360 so, I’ve had all three and then I went back to… now I have a switch.
Which is Nintendo, right?
So, what were the benefits and why did you go back and forth? Were you following games or franchises that you really liked or was there some other aspect to the different gaming systems that made you think these ones are way better, like the way it feels in my hands with the controls all of? What was it?
It was… I got a PlayStation 1 because, like I said, we got all the burned games. And then because I like the 64 so much, I thought, right, I’ll get a Game Cube this time and then the Xbox 360 I bought on a whim because it was on sale on JB (HiFi). That was when I moved out of home, so it was pretty late in the Xbox lifespan, I think. Then this time I went for a Switch because all the standard PlayStation, Xbox games there were a couple of exclusives, but for the most part they come out on PC as well.
And it’s cheaper, is it or you’re just used to that system?
It’s usually cheaper, but the PC has a lot of other benefits so, I’ve got a PC. For those sort of games and then the Switch offers are a completely different experience.
So, what are the benefits of playing on PC, because I remember they used to be those sort of two factions. You would have your console kids who would play on things like Game Cubes , PlayStations, Xboxes and then you would have your computer kids and it always seemed to me like… for some reason I got sucked into the consoles, but the computer kids were always a lot more full on.
We call them PC master race.
What was the difference between the two and what were the benefits of playing on computer compared to console?
Without mentioning any of the downsides, which there are some, it was always like you don’t upgrade to the next console and lose all the games that you had on the last one.
I remember that being really irritating.
So, I’ve still got really old get games, I’ve at Commander Keane, from the nineties on my computer now.
And you can still play it?
Yeah and in 20 years I’ll still be able to play it.
Yeah so, the operating system is the same which means you can play all these games.
Yeah and they just sort of keep them running on the latest operating system, but it’s also that games were a bit cheaper and you can use any input device, you can use mouse and keyboard, which is much more accurate for (?).
Are they cheaper too because you can just download them on the computer, right? You don’t need to get CDs or any kind of DVDs?
Actually, digital games are usually more expensive.
So, say, on the Switch. If I walk into J.B. Hi-Fi and I buy a brand-new Nintendo game, it might cost me 80 dollars, but if I buy it through the Nintendo store online it will usually cost about 100.
What? How does that make sense?
It makes no sense because you think the distribution and the production of the CDs and everything would be pretty expensive.
Yeah. I’m not sure. They just, they get away with it because they can.
Is there just fewer people doing that too and maybe they don’t have to compete with as many other different consoles that have games at are similar price point or?
That’s very weird.
Yeah, I’m not sure that’s a very good I guess is that the retailers themselves aren’t involved.
Yeah, the retailers are competing with each other. So they want to keep dropping the price. Whereas if you’re selling it through your store, the Nintendo store, just have this box, you can buy it.
I would so be just like… I’m just going to go down the store and buy them, and screw you.
Well, it’s also that like… I’m so lazy, I hate going up to the TV and swapping the disco, swapping the disk or swapping the cartridge.
I’ll pay twenty dollars for this, you know, less of an inconvenience.
Exactly and particularly with the switch because it’s a portable. So, I hate having to carry a little case of games with me everywhere. It’s much easier to have it all on there.
Far out! So, what are the other downsides of playing on a computer then? Because I know that the other positive side is having loads more people, right? Because the computers are way more powerful than consoles with RAM and speed and internet connection, right?
Yes, so you can have much better graphics.
But what are the downsides then?
And the other thing I should mention is you can use any controller, so I could use a PlayStation controller.
You can connect it up to the computer?
Yeah, I can you just a switch control, even I can use some old USP Nintendo, Super Nintendo controller or a joystick or whatever you can think of, they’re pretty much all supported, but the downsides are that you have to like usually a lot of those games now that are on consoles as well have a smaller player based on PC, for the multiplayer and also you can, it’s not as prevalent as it used to be, but you can run into errors. Say, you… games might crash and then you’ve got to go why is it crashing? I don’t understand, I might have to change some settings on my PC.
So, do the games tend to be a bit more buggy on the computers instead of the consoles? Because they can be sort of updated and everything online as opposed if it comes out on a CD it’s pretty hard to…?
It’s more that, because everything’s updated online at the moment, on consoles it’s more that you’ve got one set of hardware. So, if I’m developing an Xbox game, there’s one set of hardware to optimize it for, whereas with the PC who knows how many combinations you could have, it’s like Android apps vs. iPhone. You’ve got so many different versions of an Android phone that you have to optimize it for all these different things and you’re always going to miss some and make some mistakes. So, I think it’s the same with PC, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. The downside is that you’ve got a lot of launches so, you have like say the steam is the main one. So, you have the online store fronts that you purchase your games through and launch your games through. There’s not just one, you might have say like Fortnight, which is really popular that uses the Epic Games Launcher, and now you’ve got Steam and Epic, and if you want to play Overwatch, then you have to have the Blizzard Game Launcher. So, you’re managing your games through all these different fronts and there are certain launches you can get that sort of bring them all together and it’s just a bit more complex, is a bit less user friendly than the consoles.
Far out! So, where do you see it going? Like, do you see it all sort of moving on to one console? Is one console going to win out or computer or do you think there’s going to be this, you know, I guess compartmentalisation of all these different games on different consoles, on consoles, and that’s going to maintain each of them because of their own individual popularity?
Well, they’re talking about… the game consoles are moving more towards PCs in that they upgraded more often and then they’ve got, they’ve been playing around with having changeable components and things like that, but it’s also that the main game companies are all talking about cloud gaming as the next big thing where you won’t have a particularly powerful console, you’ll just have one that connects to the Internet and you have a subscription like Netflix.
Yeah. So, everything is in the cloud. You can access any game, anywhere and as long as you get the internet connection you can play it.
Yes, all the processing, you won’t have to have an amazing graphics card or anything like that on your local, on your local computer or console. So, it’ll all be done by sort of a computer farm.
So, this just depends on the fact that you have a really fast internet connection, though?
Basically, yeah and I think in Australia especially we’re going to struggle with that.
Yeah. So, do you think we’re going to be left behind a bit if America gets to that point?
Probably. The idea is that all the processing is done offshore and then you’re just essentially getting the images and sending the inputs through your controller back to the server.
When is that going to that going to come in, do you think?
There are experiments with it right now. You can play…there was a project we could play Assassin’s Creed, the latest Assassin’s Creed, through Chrome on your computer.
Through Chrome? Wow, just your Internet browser.
Yeah, I don’t think it was available in Australia. It might have been in Japan or something like that, but it’s pretty impressive what they’ve been able to do with it.
And so, growing up as a kid and sort of obviously starting out, I guess, we would have been the generation after the Arcade sort of got up and running, right? That was the early 80s, when people start to have Pinball and everything or maybe even the late 70s. So, we sort of grew up and then slowly computer, laptops, consoles, gaming and Game Boys and all of that came out. Having lived through that, where do you think it’s going to go for your children, right? For the next generation, do you think it’s going to be even more invasive with regards to, like, obviously where originally you had to go to a location where they had these huge gaming things, now it’s like they’re getting smaller and smaller more and more powerful and they can be anywhere at all times, right? Like your phone is probably more powerful than the laptops we had as a kid.
Do you worry about that with your daughter and future kids as well? Do you worry about how addictive it could be or how insidious it will be in our culture?
Yeah, for sure. And I think the further we go, the more these game companies are coming up with sort of like the casino strategies to get you hooked and get you paying money again and again and again it’s getting a bit over the top and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a backlash there is.
Because that’s the thing that’s really started irritating me because of the pay to play games, where it’s no longer about skill and you don’t all start from the same position anymore, right? So, there is no… the game tends to be free. You can download it on your phone, at least with phone games, and I was whinging to you about this recently and it’s like you get to a certain point where you’re far enough in and you like the game and you want to keep playing and then all of a sudden the difficulty goes up exponentially and you have to pay to unlock certain things or to get to the next level. And so, they’re obviously setting up these games where it’s more about finding the one in a hundred that’s going to spend a heap of money on it.
The Whales. Yep
Than it is worrying about all of the dolphins, I guess all the small guys who just want to play it and aren’t going to spend that amount of money because I would probably spend 50 bucks on a good game, but the fact that it’s free and I think okay and I get used to that and then play it and they’re trying to use frustration to get you to sort of start lashing out a dollar here or 14 dollars there or just… here, buy a thousand dollars of, you know, online game currency that you can spend! How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s going to get to a point where it’s going to get regulated because people are going to be like this is gambling for kids or an addiction, you’re using gaming mechanics and addictive processes to get children hooked and spend money, whether it’s their money or not, their parents money on this stuff, and it’s getting out of control?
There is a bit of a case in Australia about this. I think it’s like a Senate inquiry on whether or not loot boxes should be considered gambling. So, loot boxes are where you have like a digital, digital box and you maybe pay for it or you pay for a key for it.
Or you unlock it or you get it.
And it opens and you get a random item, usually cosmetic, doesn’t really do anything in the game, but…
Or you’ll get like, at the moment, with angry birds that I’m playing, you get points or there’s certain coins or crystal that you can then use to unlock other things. But yeah it constantly asks me and prompts me like ”you’ve got this one box, but just pay five dollars and you’ll get this other one with even rarer items”. and t’s sort of randomises what you get.
Yeah, it’s sort of like the same thing as a booster pack in a collectible card game. That was the old school version of it, but it’s it’s worse, partly because it’s so available now and you don’t have to go down to the shops and purchase it physically, it’s right there on your phone or your computer and it’s also that they’re using those gambling strategies to make them more appealing so, that the lights and sounds like you’d get on a slot machine.
In a pokies.
In a pokies. Yeah, that’s exactly what you get when you open a loot box in something like Overwatch. It’s just…
It is pretty bizarre, isn’t? Because when I was growing up playing these games I never thought about, I never made the connection between those two things, but it obviously some entrepreneurial businessmen quickly realised we can just apply the gambling mechanics or, you know, gamification the same way that it’s done in casinos into these games and we’ll make a lot more money.
And they’ve got to constantly find the line for their particular market as to what people will put up with. So, like mobile gamers will put up with almost anything, you can do whatever pay to win strategies you want. People still, still play it, still play for it, whereas the console and PC game is a bit more savvy and probably more likely to give you a bit of backlash.
That’s really bizarre, isn’t it? Why do you think it is that there’s a difference between phoning, phoning, being on your phone and playing these games? I just made it a verb, and playing it on consoles. Why do you think people playing phone games are more, I guess, accepting of these ‘pay as you go’ strategies?
Well it’s partly because they’re not traditional gamers they haven’t you know maybe they mucked around with them a little bit when they were younger, but if you’ve been… if you’re a console gamer or a PC gamer, you’ve been playing a lot of it for a long time and you do remember when games weren’t like this and suddenly you go ‘Hold on. This is no good’. I’m not okay with this and I’m going to, you know, whether it’s complain on a forum or you know refuse to buy the game, there’s a bit more backlash. Whereas the mobile gamers are just happy to make the little lights go and click the button.
Far out! I wonder where it’s going to go and I think part of the problem too is that kids have more and more powerful phones, right? And especially phones that their parents have probably entered their card details and bank details into it so, they do have the capacity to just ”mum, can I use your phone?” and they get into a game and it’s like ”spend fifty dollars, fifty dollars!” and you’ll be like ”oh my Gosh! My bank account is emptied!”.
There’s some little features that, say like the Nintendo Switch, has some really good parenting features where you can, you can control the console from your phone and say ”Right, I want my kids to be playing this much per day” and when they go over the limit, it either gives them a warning, minus five minutes left or it just turns off the console and they can’t turn it back on.
So, they’re doing some good stuff as well, but yeah…
I wonder how much I’m going to have to sort of police that with my kids too because it’s so important to obviously encourage them to go outside, but you don’t want to at the same time control every minute of their life that they spend doing what activity.
And say something like Fortnight, which is so ubiquitous with kids, you don’t want to say to your kid ”you can’t play it” and they’re not cool because they’re not playing it, they don’t know what the other kids are talking about.
They don’t know what the other kids are talking about.
I always remember that as a kid, right? You had those parents who were like ‘we don’t have a TV. The kids aren’t allowed to play games” and you’d be like…’I don’t want to hang out with these kids”.
You don’t want to make you look like a secluded.
Exactly! An outcast, right? An easy target.
Yeah. So, that’s difficult. Well, I guess finishing up, what sort of games are the most popular games at the moment style wise? And which ones are you most into? Like, I know there’s, you know, you’ve got your shooters, your RPG. What is it? Role playing games, strategy games. What are you into?
It sort of depends on the console as to what’s really big at the moment, but I guess the new hotness is, not so new anymore, but over the past couple of years the most recent popular genre is Battle Royale, where it’s like you start with maybe it’s a hundred, maybe 50, maybe it’s 10 players, and when you get killed that’s it. You’re out of the round and you have to wait for another hundred people to play again.
So, it’s always like a, what is it? A death match? Where you have just the last survivor, right? And they get certain points by being the last person and there’s a series of those different rounds.
So, if you’re the final survivor you get, say in PUBG (Player Uknown’s Battlegrounds), you get ”winner, winner chicken dinner” on the screen and you get, you might get a whole lot of points. It is very satisfying to know that you’ve bested 99 other people and that’s what’s addictive about it.
So, you get that often? To beat 99 other players?
What do you do? You just have to hide for the entire round, right?
Yes, that’s actually one of the most effective strategies.
Come out at the end.
But there’s a whole range of different games under that banner that are all very different, but yeah that’s probably the genre that I’m enjoying at the moment is because it’s fresh.
Rory, thanks for joining me and chatting about gaming today.