Steven ‘Bajo’ O’Donnell and Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen co-hosted Good Game, Australia’s longest running television show about gaming.
12 March 2011
Kamidogu: When did your obsession with gaming first begin?
Steven ‘Bajo’ O’Donnell: I grew up on a small farm in Toowoomba, and my father worked so much that I ended up spending all my time playing video games and looking after animals that hated me. Especially the goats. Goats are mean. But yes, I was not successful socially or with any sort of sport but when it came to games, I was on the high ground due to intense practice. My first game was a Pacman handheld, which died after it fell in the bath with me. I don’t know how I survived that, but I assume it’s some sort of pre-determined videogame kinship.
Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen: The first time I really developed an ‘obsession’ with a game was with a MUD called Lensmoor, when I was about 15. I’ve always been a bit of a fantasy nut and this game literally allowed me to role play and hack ‘n’ slash my way through another world. Games were already pretty graphically advanced by that point — and here I was completely hooked on this entirely text-based RPG. But I was a pretty awkward teenager, you know, so when faced with the option of being myself, or being this badass, tall, elven-raced warrior chick, you can imagine what I chose every time. But then it developed into a bit of an addiction. To this day I have to tell myself not to go back there.
Kamidogu: What were you doing with yourself before Good Game?
Bajo: I mostly worked with computers, and did as much acting as I could on the side. I didn’t have much acting training, but I did a lot of short films and indie features. I think I got work from mainly being available. I also did a bit of TV on a late night quiz show that I don’t like to talk about.
Kamidogu: If you didn’t end up hosting Good Game, what else could you see yourself doing?
Bajo: It’s hard to imagine, I’m so lucky to have found this job with these wonderful people so I guess if I wasn’t hosting the show, I’d probably be trying to find a way to. I also love television, so I’d continue pursuing that career.
Hex: I have a dream of writing a fantasy trilogy one day. I’m determined to make that happen. But…I’m not sure. I’d really love to get into motion capture for games, one day. I think it’d be such an awesome experience, and a great way to combine my love for acting and games. Seeing Andy Serkis’ behind the scenes work on Enslaved really got me thinking about what a great job that would be.
Kamidogu: What does a typical week at Good Game involve?
Bajo: Monday and Tuesday we film, and Wednesday is for extra bits and field shoots where Hex and I usually aren’t required. Wednesday and Thursday are our review days, and during this time we also write and capture footage and check and tweak the previous week’s edits. Fridays the show gets sound mixed and we have a production meeting and read all the reviews and talk about them. Then we log as much footage as we can and it all starts again. It’s a very busy job, making two TV shows a week along with reviewing means there’s not much time for dressing up, but we try to.
Hex: Mondays and Tuesdays we shoot both shows (Good Game and Good Game Spawn Point), Wednesdays and Thursdays we play the games for the week, write the reviews and then capture and log all the gameplay footage for the editors. We’ll also check the review from the previous week’s game that’s set to go in this week’s show. Friday we have a big production meeting, and we have a kind of cool ritual where we all watch the sound mix together. Over the weekend we tend to play a bit more and capture any additional footage needed — then the whole process starts again on Monday.
Kamidogu: What are some of the best and worst games you have ever played?
Bajo: Such a tough question. Recently, I’d say I fell back in and out of love with World of Warcraft, and also spent a lot of time with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 online. As for games I’ve hated, lately it’s the usual Wii shovelware: compilation games and terrible movie ports. Recently, Naughty Bear was pretty terrible…that’s high on my list.
Hex: Naughty Bear is still up there as one of the worst games I’ve ever played. I haven’t played ‘Wii Dare’ yet — but I predict that will be up there as well. Assassin’s Creed II, Uncharted 2, Red Dead Redemption — all great games I’ll recommend to anyone.
Kamidogu: Do you think fighting games still have a place in today’s market?
Bajo: Always. Fighting games will always have a place, they’re fantastic for parties and with friends on the couch, and they’re so rich in strategy…you’ll always have someone better than you to learn from.
Hex: Yeah, definitely. In terms of good, one-on-one gameplay with mates in particular — you can’t go past a fighter. I think the key with fighters too is that they can be fun for noobs to button-mash their way through — but for the better players out there, they have the option to really hone their strategy in a well-made fighter.
Kamidogu: An R18+ classification for gaming in Australia has been a hot topic of debate in recent years. What are your opinions on the matter?
Bajo: It’s troubling that we’re the only Western civilisation that doesn’t have one. That means every other western country believe an R18+ is an appropriate rating, but not us? Baffling. I believe it’s about a simple lack of understanding and education. So few games are actually banned — last survey I read, out of the last three years, 10 games were ‘banned’ and only three of them still are and probably deserve it. Games will still be banned under an R18+; this issue is about informing parents and adults about the content of what they’re purchasing, because right now many of the games shoved into MA15+ have adult content, and yet children are able to play them.
Hex: We’ve tried our best on the show to present both sides of the argument in any stories we’ve done, but everyone here on the show — obviously we’re really keen to get that rating in. It’s really frustrating getting excited about a game for months only to have it refused classification, or have a highly over-censored version of it released. But the main thing we should be focusing on is that our current rating system is inadequate for the games that are currently getting released. This isn’t a good thing for parents, or gamers. Some games which should be R18+ are slipping in under the MA15+ banner, and games that we as adults feel entitled to are getting refused altogether. An R18+ rating would solve all of these problems.
Kamidogu: What is your earliest Mortal Kombat memory?
Bajo: Playing MK1 on my Sega, learning every move, and then discovering Reptile in The Pit.
Kamidogu: Did you get the chance to play Mortal Kombat at E3 2010?
Bajo: No, it’s very sad but we don’t get much time to play games at E3, we’re too busy interviewing.
Kamidogu: It’s no secret that the past few iterations of Mortal Kombat have been overshadowed by other established fighters such as Street Fighter and Tekken. Do you think NetherRealm Studios have done enough this time around?
Bajo: We will have to wait and see! I’m an MK fanboy, always will be. I have never really enjoyed the slow pace of Tekken, and as much as I love Street Fighter (which is a lot) the moves really play more to a game panel than a controller, so I always found learning and mastering MK easier and more rewarding.
Kamidogu: Are all warriors created equal, or does Mortal Kombat have a ‘noob’ in its ranks?
Bajo: I’ve always thought Shao Kahn was a bit of a noob. He just hits hard…learn2play!
Kamidogu: What do you think of the Kollector’s and Tournament editions of the game? Which edition will you be purchasing?
Bajo: I collect figurines, so whichever one has the most of those!
Kamidogu: In your opinion what makes Mortal Kombat so special?
Bajo: As co-creator Ed Boon put it to us once: ‘we have teleporters and fireballs,’ and that’s just cooler than not having them.
Kamidogu: Will you be keeping an eye out for the Mortal Kombat web series later this year?
Bajo: Video game web series are usually horrible, so I’ll check it out of course, but I don’t know anything about it.
Kamidogu: Mortal Kombat was recently refused classification in Australia due to its extreme and highly impactive violence. Do you think it’s fair?
Bajo: I was worried MK would get refused classification first time around, based on the footage I had seen of it. I haven’t played the game, and I don’t know all the intricacies of how the board classify so I can’t speak for whether I think it’s fair. It hasn’t been banned yet, and WB are resubmitting an identical version to the board. What I do think is we need an R18+ rating for games, so that younger gamers aren’t getting exposed to adult themes. It just makes sense. Every other western civilised country has found the need for one, so why haven’t we? It’s a bigger issue about classifying adult content and I believe the only reason we don’t have an R18 is simply because of a lack of understanding and education about what that actually means. Games can and will still be banned with an R18+, and probably deservedly. An R18+ rating will allow current games to be reclassified where they need to be, and for future games to be rated accurately. That’s my opinion.
Kamidogu: What are some hobbies you enjoy outside of work?
Bajo: I love learning about cosmology, but that’s really just watching YouTube videos about space. I am playing a lot of MMOs lately. My list of things to try this year includes podcasts and community radio, short films and some writing but it’s rather hard to find the time when your work and recreational activities blur into one. I’m not complaining.
Hex: I’m always taking on random activities. But I’m a creative person so I enjoy writing fantasy fiction and drawing a lot of fantasy art, too. I have a graphics tablet so I’m trying to make that jump to digital, but I’m still a little old-school when it comes to drawing. I also love horse riding and I do a bit of archery at a local club sometimes.
Kamidogu: What are some of your favourite TV shows and movies?
Bajo: Movies: Jurassic Park and Office Space. Office Space made me quit uni and dinosaurs are just awesome. I love absurdist humour, and enjoy British shows such as ‘Big Train’, ‘Peep Show’ and ‘I’m Alan Partridge’. I watch a lot of Batman cartoons too.
Hex: I’m a huge, huge Battlestar Galactica fan. Caprica, a little bit of a let-down, but I have high-hopes for Blood and Chrome. I mean, I will watch any sci-fi, really. Sci-fi has such limitless possibilities, and yet it still has to stick to a set of theoretically-possible scientific parameters to make it believable to an audience. They’re also making a TV series based the fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire. The series, ‘Game of Thrones’, looks like the first truly good fantasy that’s come to television in a long time. I’m a big fan of the books so I’m literally beside myself with excitement for this. Movies: I love Tank Girl, The Fifth Element, Willow, Labyrinth, Moon, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Kamidogu: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Bajo: Once my friends and I hired out giant teddy bear costumes and ran around Brisbane city for no reason. It didn’t go so well and drunk people just tried to punch us in the face.
Hex: I went to a ‘Maid Café’ in Akihabara, Japan. It was very…pink. Girls in bunny…maid…costumes clapped and sang while I ate food that was arranged in little cutesy animal faces. I had no idea what was going on.
Kamidogu: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Bajo: I often say things that I don’t mean to be a joke, but then it actually turns out to be funny, so I pretend I meant it as a joke in the first place.
Hex: I used to sing in a jazz quartet.
Kamidogu: Do you have any famous last words?
Bajo: I’d probably go with an emoticon, or maybe just ‘…’
Hex: All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.