Iain Lee has had a varied and interesting career. He has done everything from stand up comedy to presenting TV shows. Whilst I had watched him on the 11 O’Clock Show and The Big Breakfast, it was an ill fated gaming show, Thumb Bandits, that brought him to my attention. Now Ten years later, he still has his fingers in a few gaming pies and I thought it would be nice to catch up with him and ask a few questions about what makes his gaming heart tick.
YARS: How do you go from stand up comedy, to Thumb Bandits, to writing in Retrogamer magazine?
Iain Lee: Thumb Bandits came about because I’d just finished presenting the 11 O’Clock Show. I had a slight media presence and was a big gaming fan. I loved Bits and somehow managed to wangle it so I became friends with Aleks Krotoski. I have no idea how this happened but I was very star struck when I first met her. It was at some retro gaming thing. Anyway, I got talking and we said it would be fun to do a show together. Bits was coming to an end. And it happened.
RG came about because I love that mag. I approached them and asked if I could write for them. They said yes. I love it. I keep waiting for them to tell me they’re bored but they haven’t yet
Y: Had you always been into games, or did that come from doing Thumb Bandits?
IL: I’ve always been into games. I had a Dragon 32 when I was 9 and have been obsessed ever since. Before TB I did a documentary about games called Thumb Candy. That was great. I got to travel the world and meet all the important games designers.
Y: I read that you would get pressure from big games companies to be nice. If that is true, did it actually affect the way you talked about their games?
IL: Yes, we did. I got a terrible bollocking for slagging off Max Payne. I thought it was awful and said so. Well, that pissed off so many people and loads of companies threatened to not send us early review stuff if we were going to be rude about it. The producers put a lot of pressure on us but Aleks and I stood firm. It came to a head when we had to review a WWF game. Aleks was due to do it, but it was bollocks and she could not say otherwise. I bit the bullet and did the review. I tried to make it as neutral as possible without selling out too much.
Y: It seemed like a good format, why do you think it only lasted 13 episodes?
IL: I didn’t really like it. I was told it would be a serious gaming joe with good guests, no speeded up footage and no shit sketches. Mid way through, they ran out of money so we ended up doing speeded up bits and shit sketches. I found it very depressing. History has been very kind to people’s memories and I still get lots of nice people saying they enjoyed the show.
Y: Given the opportunity, would you go back to presenting a gamin show?
IL: Yes, of course. But I’m probably too old now. I’m nearly 40.
Now a few short gaming ones
Y: What is your first video gaming memory?
IL: Playing Alcatraz on the Dragon 32. It was a migraine inducing game but I loved it.
Y: What was the first Computer / Games system in the house?
IL: Dragon 32. No, actually, before that we had a Binatone.
Y: What was the first Computer / Games system that you personally bought?
IL: That was a C64 that I bought in Cash Converters for a tenner in 1995. Shortly after that I bought a Playstation.
Y: What is your favourite retro game?
IL: Elite. BBC model B disc version
Y: What is your favourite current game?
IL: Halo Wars
Y: What is your favourite system?
Y: Do you prefer arcades or home gaming?
IL: Japanese arcades are amazing. In the evening there is such a diverse mix of people and a really friendly atmosphere.
Y: If you were only allowed to play one game for the rest of your life, what would it be?
IL: Rainbow 6 Vegas
Y: If you had the choice between playing music or playing games what would it be? (I may have to plump with music as I love my guitar!!)
IL: Guitar Hero!
A Huge thanks to Iain for taking the time to answer these questions, I hope to follow up at some point in the future!
Iain Lee is presents a show on Absolute Radio, can be found writing columns for various magazines (RetroGamer for example) and gigging with his band Boomhauer.
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