Gamer – Nick Akerman

10 Sep

Today sees freelance dynamo, Nick Akerman, take on the 13 questions. With plenty of gaming history to read and an interesting take on 3D visual displays, it makes for a cracking read.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any updates to the blog next week as I will be away and unavailable to post. Stick with us though as we have some cracking content coming in the near future.

Q1. Who the hell are you and what do you do?

My name’s Nick Akerman, and I’m a freelance journalist. You can see my work on websites such as IGN, GameSpot, MTV and a host of others. I’ve recently contributed to GamesTM and also appeared on the pages of NGamer Magazine. I’m a freelance bitch, basically.

As of September 18th, I’ll be attending the University of Leeds for three years, reading Cultural Studies.

Q2. When did you first get into games? How old were you?

Sonic the Hedgehog was released just after I was born, and it was probably the first game I ever played. My earliest memories stem from replaying the Green Hill Zone as many times as my brother’s would let me, and also getting worried that Sonic would drown in the Labyrinth Zone. Similarly, I loved to cram in as much Altered Beast and Alien Storm as I possibly could into my busy toddler schedule.

Q3. Omit nothing, what is your gaming history? Where did it start and how did it progress?

I’ve been aware of gaming as long as I can remember; whether it was my Dad having a quick blast on DOOM or my brother’s arguing over Street Fighter II on the MegaDrive, it’s always been around. Aside from the games I’ve already mentioned, the original PlayStation came out just as I began to understand the appeal of gaming.

I was always one for perfection, so I’d play the first level of Tomb Raider over and over again until I hit everything spot on. As a young’un, I used to be petrified that a wolf or other enemies would leap out, so my method was to learn their entrance points and ensure I couldn’t feel the fear of the unknown. Probably the scariest moment of my early gaming years was the first time I had a smidgen of money to spend. Did I want a replica Death Star, complete with Star Wars figures, or did I want WWF Attitude on PS1? Either way I was a bonafide geek, but at least my choice allowed me to perform a Stone Cold Stunner on anyone who said so.

The first game I ever completed and got stuck on was Tekken 2. I left the PlayStation on for two days trying to beat Armour King, and the elation I felt when he hit the deck set me up for life. Once the game was over, I couldn’t get enough of trying to complete as many games as possible. Final Fantasy VII blew my mind when it was released (I was even impressed it was on more than one disc at this point), and I still fondly remember running round the Golden Saucer like a blocky, text-reading fool.

Having older brothers, I had access to adult titles, so I could enter the mansion on Resident Evil whenever I wanted, and could even roam the top-down streets of Grand Theft Auto when the PlayStation was occupied by someone else. There’s key moments lodged in my mind that sum up that period of my gaming education; the moment the ceiling began to lower itself onto Jill, and the subtlety of the Licker passing the window on Resident Evil 2 provided a thrill that I hadn’t found in films at that age. Even trying to get Solid Snake onto the first elevator of Metal Gear Solid had me on edge every single time I played it.

We often borrowed a Nintendo 64 from friends, so I also had decent access to the less serious side of gaming. It was always extremely fun to see Mario leaping through paintings in a truly enchanting universe, and Starfox was something I remember fondly. My nostalgic cap also sends me to the realms of GoldenEye, a game I was awful at, but loved nonetheless.

Just like most of the gaming press, I loved the Dreamcast. I didn’t need anything other than Sonic Adventure on that bad boy, as I could lose hours sprinting away from angry whales and collecting chaos emeralds. The little Tamagotchi style pet that used to live in the controller was the perfect product for someone of my age. In the end, my brother’s began to trade decent Dreamcast games for even better PlayStation 2 titles, so that’s where Sega’s appeal ended.

When the PlayStation 2 landed, I became infatuated with gaming. All my pocket money would be spent on a single title that I’d play in my spare time. The most significant of these was Killzone, as it kick-started my interest in competitive gaming. The Helghast’s crimson gaze was enough for me to pester my Dad into buying an online adapter for the console, and thus got me involved in clan culture and team-based gameplay. If I hadn’t have moved online, I wouldn’t have found the platform to express my opinion on forums across the Internet, and probably never would have stumbled across the world of journalism. It was also during the PS2 years that I learnt to play Pro Evolution Soccer to a high-standard, something that would come to fruition when the Xbox 360 rolled round.

I purchased an Xbox 360 as soon as I could, and by 2007, I was writing voluntarily. By this point I was consistently in the top tier of Pro Evolution Soccer players, and in 2008 I got inside the world’s top 50. I was invited to an event by Konami and managed to beat the UK number 2; something I’m¬† very proud of. I used to spend all day practising before ‘real life’ got the better of me. I completed all my exams a year early and it was mightily hard to juggle time when all I wanted to do was sit in front of the screen playing games; especially when you have a mother nagging you to study.

As of today, I own all consoles and handhelds. I guess you can say gaming has always been a part of my life in one way or another.

Q4. Why do you actually play games? Is it for fun? Or maybe something else?

Initially it was for fun, but as I’ve mentioned, my competitive streak often gets the better of me. Gaming was the easiest option if I had an injury from playing football, or couldn’t be bothered to go to school, thus pretending to be ill. As a teenager, I used to hate getting up early on a wet, windy Sunday morning to play football instead of staying in bed with my trusty PS2.

Since my writing has been recognised, gaming has become my means of income, so I definitely don’t have as much time to kill on all the titles I want to. Saying that, it’s broadened my horizons tremendously, so being a writer within the medium is a hugely valuable experience.

Q5. If you could choose one game (just one) to give to other gamers, one that epitomises videogames for you, what would it be?

It’s difficult to narrow down something that ‘epitomises’ gaming as a whole, but I’d sling a copy of Bioshock your way if you’d never held a controller before. The world of Rapture is so rich and open to interpretation that it’s something everybody should experience. The descent into the underwater city itself is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen in a game, or even film for that matter. The feeling that you’re heading into the complete unknown, and how that unknown is quickly heightened through such intelligent design is something I see as a benchmark for the industry. Compelling narrative, terrific design from start to finish, and an ending that genuinely stirred emotion, what more could you want?

Q6. What was the last game you completed? Did you enjoy it?

Technically, the last game I completed was Split/Second, but if we’re talking 100%, it was Metro 2033. That game thrilled and terrified me in equal measure. So many times I pondered putting the difficulty down, but I persevered and enjoyed it in the end. The entire game had this ominous feeling that had me on edge, something not many other titles have achieved.

Q7. Now the tough stuff… Favourite gaming platform ever… and why?

Definitely between the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360. While the former got me into online gaming, I wrote my first article on Flatout: Ultimate Carnage for the 360. Both have so many titles I hold dear to my heart too. If I had to pick one, the 360 would just edge out the old toaster.

Q8. Favourite game or franchise?

This is even harder. Streets of Rage 2, Final Fantasy VII, Street Fighter II and IV, Bioshock, Gears of War 2, Resident Evil 4, SSX 3, Killzone and Manhunt are all games I would consider. To actually narrow it down to one of those would be like asking what’s the tastiest Haribo Tangfastic. Quite boringly, my most played franchises are Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA.

Q9. How do you feel about online gaming?

As you can probably gather, I love online gaming. It’s opened so many possibilities for myself, and I still revel in competition from all over the world. If online gaming hadn’t happened, neither would my writing career!

Q10. And motion control?

Ah. I could definitely do without it. While I’m pleased the Wii has expanded the casual market, it hasn’t really met my personal needs. With Kinect and Move on the way, I predict my interest in motion control will catastrophically go nowhere. Am I the only one who wants new AAA titles rather than prancing round my living room like a radioactive salmon?

Q11. How about 3D gaming?

I’ve experienced 3D gaming, and the potential is there. Saying that, spinning round too quickly made it extremely blurry, so there’s a way to go before I would consider 3D gaming on a regular basis. Just like movies, the tech is ready, it’s just a case of making it work. I love Stevie Wonder, so the glasses aren’t a problem either.

Q12. Where do YOU want to see the industry in five years time?

I’d like to see the industry branch out significantly. A new console aside from the three competitors we already have would be amazing. Other than that, we need a slew of interesting new franchises to keep things ticking over. I want to see more thoughtful games like Limbo, and less sequels to franchises that died two generations ago. Just because we loved certain games back ‘in the day,’ doesn’t mean we want to see them resurrected with a visual overhaul and lazy gameplay.

Q13. What does gaming mean to you?

Gaming provides a hell of a lot for my life. It makes me happy, stresses me out, provides me with money, and has taken me on some of the greatest journey’s I’ve ever experienced. Yes, I know that’s what my girlfriend’s for, but she can’t be turned off when I’ve had enough.

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