20 Questions With Violet Berlin

It is with great honour and pride to announce, as a truly amazing Christmas present to everyone who reads and writes for Consoles & Conkers that our very first interview with a famous bloke LADY! is with the officially appointed Queen of Gaming: VIOLET BERLIN!

Section 1 - The Games TV Industry

Violet's top games of 1994 - from some old kids mag I found in a drawer.1. Has your gradual departure from the gaming community over the years been on account of a simple change of personal interest or has the nature of the present-day games market affected that at all?

A combination of the two. I used to play Cupid - trying to marry the TV industry and the games industry. I found that neither party really wanted the other very much. This may change of course. After all, I made a return to games TV about 7 years after Bad Influence! finished (and all those other games shows I did in the early 90s) to make GameSpot TV and then Game-Pad. Itís possible that Iíll wait a few more years and then try a new approach, given the right circumstances. In the meantime, I have found many subjects other than games which I enjoy covering -  at the moment it is astronomy and particle physics! I have just written scripts for all the movies and interactive games for the a new Ďvisitor attractioní at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which will open in 2007.

2. Have you been persued for any games TV shows over the years that you have declined to be involved with and were you ever approached for either of Hewland's big name productions, Games World and Games Master?

Ha ha... Er what games TV shows!?! There really havenít been that many, have there?! Yes, I have been asked to guest on a few and stuff, and yes I did guest on Games World, but never Games Master.

3. On a similar note, have there been any games shows of yours that never left the drawing board or never made it past the pilot?

Iíve got a drawer full! There are also a copies of non-broadcast pilots in there somewhere too. About 3 of these ideas actually got requested by commissioners and then - for various boring reasons - never actually made it to the studio. One quite recently. Thatís quite normal in the TV industry, though. Anyone else who tries to get telly shows made has got similar stories. You need to keep at it, and have the attitude of the Terminator who ďabsolutely-will-not-stopĒ.

4. Do you think gaming television can ever return to the glory days of the early-to-mid 90s?

The real question is - can games ever return to their glory days of the early-to-mid 90s?! Ahem. In truth, I think itís hard to predict at the moment what will happen with TV and games, because of the Internet Video Revolution. Itís very exciting, actually. Personally I can imagine a few interesting routes that bring together interactive television and vid games TV, and Iím sure there are exciting developments round the corner.

5. The celebs from yesteryear, including yourself, became iconic not only due to their high-quality presentation skills, but also renowned for a defining image. From Dominik Diamond's dapper Tudorpole suits to Alex Verrey's larger than life Big Boy Barry character and from Dave Perry's permanent Billy Kane-Fatal Fury streetwear to your cyberpunk Tank Girl style, we had clear unique televised personalities to identify with. In the current gaming climate, there are little to no gaming celebrities, least of all any with a defining iconic image. Would you say that's because the market is too commercial, too casual and too self-conscious for any production studios to risk making a programme more cult in its appeal, or simply because no presenters are making the effort?

What modern TV shows do you mean? I canít think of any. (Except for internet video game shows, like Consolevania, which certainly do have strong characters). I do agree, though, that the games industry is a bit faceless. Apart from the odd Lara Croft lookalike, thereís not much, is there?

6. Were you ever close-to or keep in any contact with any other gaming celebs of yesteryear?

I wish I was still in touch with Andy Wear, the actor who played ĎNam Roodí in Bad Influence! as we were mates. Iíve recently renewed contact with Larry Bundy Jr (who did some Game Guru presenting a couple of years ago, but who I met when he was a kid, winning constantly on ďHead To HeadĒ). Iím occasionally in touch with Aleks from Bits. My biggest, oldest gaming friend, who I do keep in touch with is Mr. Biffo of Teletext/Digitiser fame. Not a TV celeb but surely the greatest games celeb of all time.

7. If you've kept up with gaming shows over the last few years, are there any that have caught your eye as something special? And, if you're at liberty to say, have any been truly awful?

Nothing Iíve seen on TV has been truly terrible or truly brilliant, to tell the truth. There have not been any unmissable ones, thatís for sure. The interesting developments are all online with homemade shows, podcasts and vodcasts.

8. What's the worst experience you've been subjected to in all your years as a gaming icon?

Nothing majorly horrible springs to mind, youíll be pleased to hear. Itís mostly been good. Or maybe Iíve blocked the bad memories...

9. And besides being interviewed for Consoles & Conkers, what's been the best experience?

There are too many to name, really. Attending the launch of the N64 in Japan certainly ranks right up there with the best of them.

Violet shows off some cutting-edge technology.10. From a personal consumer and viewer perspective, from around 1995 there seemed to be a sudden decline in the quality and quantity of gaming television and journalism. Many shows were cancelled, magazine staff laid-off and magazine production-standards severely cut-back. Was this all in my imagination, or was there ever a defining shift in the games industry that could be felt by all involved? And if so - what caused it?

Yes, it was around the time when the SNES and Megadrive/Mega CD were on the way out, and all the new consoles were on the way in, wasnít it? One way of looking at it is that games got more mainstream, with columns appearing in lifestyle mags and newspapers, so less need to buy a specialist games mag. Iím guessing here, Iíve never understood the games magazine market. I do know that when Bad Influence came off the air, there had been a (terrible) Childrenís BBC games show called something like Total Reality, plus Games Master, plus Bad Influence!, plus Games World, plus goodness knows how many other shows on TV, all vying for an audience. I think maybe having so many shows meant the games-playing audience was getting stretched over all the TV shows, getting fragmented, so maybe audience figures for individual shows suffered a bit as there wasnít enough to go round? It is possible that the same thing happened to the mags - there were just so many different ones, I guess it was inevitable that thereíd be a rationalisation. Plus, thereís always a lull in the games industry just before a new console comes out. If I recall, there was quite a gap between the PS1 and N64 making it to the UK, which left the UK retail sector a bit high and dry. These are all guesses, to be honest, I canít really remember in detail, even though I probably used to rant about it at the time.

11. Nerfie asks - Being the first (to my memory) prominent female in the games and technology world that was actually genuinely interested in what they were doing, and not just stuck there in a lead role to help the pimply faced youths self-gratification routines, how well received were you in the industry as a whole? Did the companies you visited take you seriously?

Some did, some didnít. I often did feel like a bit of a freak, the only girl in a club for boys. I think some may have been a bit suspicious of me. ďShe canít possibly play games, sheís a girl Ė so whatís she in it for?Ē  To me, video games are so obviously appealing that I could hardly understand...

A) There's an internet rumour, possibly fueled by confused memories, but due to the lack of any source of historical information, this is seemingly unable to be confirmed - did you ever do the voice-over for Cybernet?

No Iíve never done that. It was done by Lucy somebody, and then by that bad American voice-over guy.

B) And simply because we don't know who else would know - are you in possession of the knowledge to finally provide the world with the concrete information on how long Cybernet has actually aired on television (we estimate it's somewhere in the region of 11 years - making it, we assume, the longest-running games show in history)?

Iíve no idea, Iím afraid. I suspect the secret of its success is being broadcast at a time in the early hours of the morning when nobody knows itís on - even the commissioners, who have no idea itís still in the schedule!

Section 2 - Games

Violet in the Micro Machines 2 'trilogy'. The only character no one ever edits the name of.13.
A) How did you get involved in the cast of Micro Machines 2?

Codemasters asked me if Iíd be in it, and based on the playability of the original game, I said ďyesĒ.

B) When did you last thrash someone in a game of Micro Machines 2 - and do you always play as yourself?

Itís gathering dust in my loft, so not for ages. I used to beat everyone except my mate Mark who used to always roundly beat me by bumping me off the track.

C) The high-point for the series was undoubtedly the era of the second title - but what was the best version, MM2, MM96 or MM Military?

MM2. I must be a traditionalist.

14. I recall on one show of yours, perhaps Head 2 Head(?), that featured two gamers fighting against one another on a special pre-release copy of Star Fox 2. As one of the most famous lost-in-action games in history, how did your programme get hold of the game when larger shows didn't (to my knowledge), what were your thoughts on it, and perhaps most importantly - what happened to that copy?

Yes it was probably Head to Head, but Iíve no idea where it is. We might have had to send it back to the games company. Or it could be in my loft with the other mountains of paraphernalia. Iíll have a look next time Iím up there. I know the special pre-release version of the original Starfox is there for certain but whether Starfox 2 is as well Iíd have to check.

15. What games are currently rocking Violet's world?

Well this week itís been one Iím involved in myself - Iíve literally just finished writing the script for a 3-person game about sending a space probe out to explore the Solar System, so that one mainly! (But I did also get a chance to play We Love Katamari with one of my sons, which is rather brilliant).

16. What are the official top 5 games of all time according to Violet Berlin?

In no particular order: Guitaroo Man, Legend of Zelda, Chronotrigger, Wario Ware, Parodius.
Ask me next week and Iíll probably give you a different 5. Too many to choose from.

Just add 'To my biggest fan Captain Commodore' at the top left please Violet...17. In relation to a feature we have on our own site's Games section that we like to call 'Look Mate It's Just Not That Good, Alright?', where we nitpick specific titles we consider overly praised by the general public and media - is there a particular game you'd like to nominate for this award?

Tomb Raider, the original game. It was nothing special. Just marketed well. Also, it was a lot of peopleís first adventure games experience (as casual gamers were getting lured in by Sonyís marketing) so when they all thought theyíd discovered a great game, what theyíd really done was discover a great new hobby.

18. The Oliver Brothers don't, but do you like the name 'Wii'?

Not at all, but at least it makes small children giggle.

19. Who do you think's going to win the next-generation battle - do Nintendo stand a chance at taking back the market?

I think they at least stand a chance of staying in the market, and in the tricky games industry, thatís enough of an achievement. While Microsoft and Sony battle over whoís got the biggest, fastest, flashest machine, Nintendo seem to get along fine by doing their own thing.

20. Finally, please review the following footage... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zWNKHe6nSs *we wait patiently as Violet watches*... Not only does Steve from Kidderminster say hello but also, would you give Mario Kart DS 8 out of 10?

Probably, actually, good guess! Itís better than a 7 and there are certain features missing that Iíd like to give it a 9. Iíd hoped that like the original SNES game that the coins that speed you up would make a re-appearance. Díyou remember? You collected coins, and the more you had the faster you went. However, if you got hit, you were slow again. (Did that really happen, or am I imagining it?) Anyway, whether it did or not - Nintendo should bring it back.  

By the way, Steve from Kiddie, hi again. I have fond memories of that Acorn User show... Halcyon days ;-)

Thank you so much for your answers Violet - you've honestly made our Chrimbo (and no-doubt Steve's as well)! Indeed yes, I totally agree - Nintendo need to bring back the coins in Mario Kart and get rid of that silly waggling power-slide nonsense! And don't worry you weren't imagining it; as you were hit, you lost coins and therefore speed. They don't call me Captain Mario Kart for nothing. Actually that don't call me Captain Mario Kart at all, but it is my favourite game! Our best wishes to you over the Christmas season... can we come play in your loft some time?

If any of our readers wish to catch up with what Violet's been up to over the years, check out her site here - http://www.whizzbang.tv/violetberlin.htm

Captain Commodore

22nd December 2006