Hameed and Ann-Marie, how are you?
Hameed: I’m well, thanks for having us on here!
Ann-Marie: Iʼm excited!
You have your gaming podcast “Afro And The Eye”. Who came up with the concept, and how is it going?
Hameed: From how I remember, we kind of both came up with the idea of doing something we would put up. I think I came up with the idea for the podcast mainly because we already had all the equipment we needed, and then the YouTube channel kind of evolved from there. I still have the notes where I noted down a few names, I think “Two Scarred Gamers” came up, but “Afro and The Eye” seemed a lot more catchy.
Ann-Marie: yeah, I remember that we both talked about this stuff already anyway and we thought it could be nice to evolve it into a podcast or something as a way to share it.
Even just knowing that we have good friends abroad and that we can still find ways to share our enjoyment of games. Itʼs nice. The podcast and the YouTube channel are just some other ways to do that.
Youʼve both played games on different platforms, whatʼs your favourite?
Hameed: Mine at the moment is definitely the Nintendo Switch – I think it’s the missing link I’ve been waiting for for some time now. Especially because I’m able to play proper console games on the go rather than having to play smaller games on more “portable only” consoles.
Ann-Marie: Was that a Zelda pun?
Hameed: Of course, do you expect anything less? Historically, I’ve really liked the Playstation, but I have a soft spot for the Original Xbox. Surprisingly, when that came out it was more powerful than a PS2. The only downside is that
it was released late into the PS2’s life cycle, so a lot of people didn’t see the need to buy an Xbox. I still have an original though, and a few games for it.
Ann-Marie : Yeah I think mine is the PlayStation. Specifically the PlayStation One. I liked my SNES console but there are just so many little memories attached to the PlayStation One. I love PS1 Harvest Moon Back To Nature. When I was a kid, I invited a friend around to play it. We sat there and played for hours. She wasnʼt hugely into games but I remember we played so long that day that she actually hurt her thumb. Thinking about it now, that would have been fairly challenging because itʼs a pretty gentle game. Either way we were both happy with the farm! I remember playing Crash Bash and Crash Team Racing into the night with a group of friends and then someone coming in to tell us that we should have been asleep and that yes we really had to turn
off the PlayStation. It just makes me really fond of that console. Also it just generally had some great games!
Whoʼs the most competitive?
Hameed: Me. I think I’m less “competitive” though, I just like making sure that I do well on challenges.
Ann-Marie: Iʼll admit it – Iʼm competitive, Iʼm just not always that good. Heʼs also competitive.
Hameed: I’m not competitive. I’m just good.
Whatʼs your favourite handheld games console?
Hameed: Surprisingly for some, but not for Ann-Marie, it’s the Neo Geo Pocket Colour. It’s semi-rare, it was sold a lot in your normal stores, but then ended up going out of fashion relatively quick. Compared to the Game Boy Color, it was much more advanced, able to show way more colours, and the controller is one of the most unique I’ve tried. The controller feels a bit like a mini-Arcade joystick with some lovely microswitches that are just great. You can still get them used for quite cheap on the internet. It’s also the only console I’ve played where I’ve been able to win in a football game. True story.
Ann-Marie: The Gameboy Colour because it made travel fun! It had all those cool accessories like the magnifying screen and the light. Oh, and those button covers to make the buttons bigger for some reason. I donʼt really remember playing many games on it though outside of Pokemon. I played those over and over. I also remember being sat in the back of the car, in the dark on the motorway and the light on my magnifying screen flickering because the batteries were running out. Glad that isnʼt an issue now.
What singular piece of technology in your opinion revolutionised the way you play games?
Hameed: Cartridge saves. Do you remember not being able to save games? It was amazingly awful. Back on the SNES and NES, unless the game you had could save onto the cartridge, you had to play the game all in one sitting. Else, you’re starting again the next day. Someone turns off your console? Sorry, you’re playing again. Accidentally trip over something? You’d better have another 3-4 hours. That’s almost why games were a lot shorter back in the day. You couldn’t save, so you didn’t want a game you couldn’t play in one day. When cartridge saves were a thing, everyone could make games that were way longer and more complex, because you could save your game, turn everything off, then come back and continue where you left off. It’s such a simple mechanic that we take for granted now. Nowadays you don’t even need to worry about storage, you can save into the cloud. I remember having a PS1 without a Memory Card and somehow completing Rayman on it as a kid. It must’ve been during summer break, because I wouldn’t have had the time otherwise.
Ann-Marie: Mine isnʼt as big as that but I think it was the Transfer Pak for the Nintendo 64. I thought about it and the obvious choice going down that route would be the Gameboy Colour Link Cable, right? But I donʼt think I really started transferring Pokemon with friends until way later once it had moved to other consoles. The Transfer Pak was an attachment for the Nintendo 64 controller that was used for Pokemon Stadium and allowed you to move Pokemon from the Gameboy Colour Pokemon game into this big screen, 3D modelled arena. It was just super cool to see your Blastoise that you had trained up for hours in the car suddenly be fully 3D on the screen. The Rental Pokemon – Pokemon with set moves that the game
provided, they sometimes just werenʼt as good as you wanted them to be. This Pak allowed you to play the Gameboy Colour game on the TV too. So we would just sit and play Pokemon Blue on the big screen and it would just make it more fun. It also just got more of us involved in a game that was often played alone.
What would you both like to see happen in the future with gaming?
Hameed: That’s a really hard question to answer but I definitely know what I don’t want in the future – VR. It’s a good concept, but VR in its current state isn’t as good as it could be, and to have a really immersive experience becomes expensive enough that people can’t really get into it without investing a lot in a setup for it. Graphically, I think games are pretty much there nowadays and will only get better in the future. More of the focus has to go onto gameplay though. The best I would think in the future is that you have something that feels a lot more immersive than the 70% of games we have right now. Something that has the thought put into the story like Ni No Kuni does, like the best films do, but with hours and hours of gameplay as opposed to 10 minutes. What might be good would be to have some of the best fantasy authors work with the best development teams and essentially make an adventure that would last you 3 or 4 months.
Ann-Marie: I donʼt really have something that I want to happen because I think we are generally in a pretty good place with how much choice we currently have. We have multiple platforms, multiple ways to play, new releases frequently and more international releases. Equally I actually donʼt have something I donʼt want to happen because I like that. Some people didnʼt like the Wii console controls but that is what would have fed into the Nintendo Switch which a lot of people support now. At the moment VR has a certain point of entry but even then it seems like itʼd be pretty good for racing games and stuff. Iʼm not about to go and buy letʼs say, A Playstation VR set up but Iʼm excited to see where it might be taken. I think Iʼd actually like more games to move away from a typical open world style because sometimes they are just a bit overwhelming. I spend ages on them and feel Iʼve not progressed.
What games are ones that you find yourselves going back to constantly?
Hameed: Mostly games with great stories – One of my favourite series to replay is the Kingdom Hearts series. We’re actually recording my 3rd completion of the second game in the series, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on the Youtube channel. It’s the most annoying one of them, but it’s worth playing just because it matches characters I like with a story that I like to rediscover, especially because there are smaller nuances that make a lot more sense after playing the rest of the games.
Ann-Marie: Games that are easy to jump in and out of I guess. Stardew Valley is one. Itʼs basically all I want from Harvest Moon and more. Sometimes I want to play but I donʼt want too much challenge or I just want to relax and Stardew is perfect for that. For anyone who has never played it, saying that itʼs fun to buy and grow plants, go fishing, talk to Non Playable Characters, collect eggs from your chickens and then make that into mayonnaise…. it sounds simple but honestly itʼs so involving. Especially when to make that mayonnaise machine you have had to cut some trees, gather some rocks and go mining first. The other is Pokemon because I donʼt really care too much about the story anymore but I still enjoy buying it and creating a team and getting to the end game so that I can focus on trying to make an even better team. I was working through completing the PokeDex in Pokemon Moon but I got a little stuck trying to catch a Politoed and then I lost focus. I like those games though. They feel comfortable. I know what to expect.
Hameed: See, I’m almost the opposite – I like having a huge challenge, so I always play games in hard mode. I like games that are difficult to play, but end up feeling rewarding once you do it. Devil May Cry is a good example, those games are easy enough to play through, but reward you if you get high hit combos and get through bits quickly. So you just look for ways to be more efficient, even if it’s difficult.
What is your favourite computer game character of all time?
Ann-Marie: I think itʼd be Jak from The Jak and Daxter series. Thatʼs mainly because it was a character that seemed to go through an actual arc and one of the first that I hugely remember experiencing.
Hameed: For me it’s Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series. Even though the series ends up a bit convoluted, he’s the character that’s really quite….well…solidly written. There was such a clear concept as to who he was and how he was, that you can pick up any of the Metal Gear Solid games and you’ll understand him without much issue. I think in the way they made him play in the video games as well, he was a good character to teach gamers the lesson that it isn’t a good idea to rush in all guns blazing, because it would just get you killed.