Gareth Jones Interview:
Question 1 – You have worked on many TV, radio and Internet shows, both in front of and behind the camera. How does directing GamePad rank in your career?
Pivotal, Violet was instrumental in encouraging to direct the whole series which was the first time I’d had the job at the very top of the programme. In doing so I learned a great deal about making television which has kept me in work for the last 10 years and I learned a fair bit about gaming in the process.
Question 2 – GamePad came at a time when there was lack of video game TV shows on the air. Did you see a gap in the market and take advantage?
Not exactly, Violet had presented a gaming show called Game Spot on Bravo. It was a re-versioning of an American show, the same team had a go at making an original show instead, already called Game-Pad, but it proved to be more difficult for them to make than they realised. So instead of simply being a hired presenter Violet offered to take over the programme as the producer, pull me in as director, and make it all ourselves through our company WhizzBang. We felt we could do a better, more original show and so we pitched for the slot keeping the name GamePad but it was now an entirely new programme.
Question 3 – GamePad was a great show which was made “by gamers, for gamers”. Did you purposely look to make a more mature show than had previously been on air?
Violet really, really knew a great deal about gaming back then, and she’s a smart cookie, so the whole culture of GamePad was essentially Violet’s mind-set, albeit slightly messed-up by me.
Question 4 – GamePad lasted for four series. Were you disappointed that the show was not renewed for another series?
Yes, we were disappointed because we already had plans for what the next series would involve (Violet is a very good planner) however being responsible for EVERYTHING on a production requires lots of time at work, we had 2 very young children at the time, so in some ways we were actually relieved when GamePad didn’t happen, we had an inkling that it might vanish because Bravo had just engaged a new programme commissioner who wanted to make her mark with new ideas that she had brought to the station rather than the re-commissioning existing programmes on the channel. So we just throttled back a bit from work for a while and concentrated on the important stuff, the two little balls of energy who were bouncing around in our lives.
Question 5 – Have you always been a gamer?
I got into gaming in the late 80s through my job as a children’s TV presenter, I wasn’t really a gamer before that, although my father had a TV and radio shop when I was growing up and I remember him bringing something like Pong home for me to play in about nineteen-seventy-something, I played it for a while, but got bored with it so went off to learn the guitar instead.
Question 6 – What is your favourite video game of all time?
Drop 7, I play it on my phone every day, I love its trance-inducing Zen-like quality.
Question 7 – Were you a SEGA, Nintendo or Amiga man?
I got into gaming via the Game Gear and the Amiga, so I feel a slight allegiance to those brands. I know this is controversial, but I’ve always thought Nintendo were deeply uncool, far too cute for my rock ‘n roll sensibilities.
Question 8 – Do you still play video games today?
See answer 6
Question 9 – Violet Berlin made her name as one of the most respected video game presenters in the UK. What is it like to be married to such a big gamer?
I have no idea, we are not actually married! But we have lived together since 1999 and have 2 teenage children, so I guess we are stuck with each other now, you know like Ratchet & Clank. Violet doesn’t have much time for playing game these days, apart from those she writes, and she usually gets our children to test them.
Question 10 – Do you play video game together and who usually wins?
We’ve not played games together for a long time now, when we did Violet would usually beat me, unless it was a driving game when I’d win, that was my speciality.
Question 11 – How exactly did WhizzBang.tv come about?
Violet & I had written a format for a children’s programme called Try This which we submitted it to ITV – when they showed a lot of interest in it they asked “Who will make this?” we said we would ourselves, and so quickly had to form a company. This gave us the confidence to tackle GamePad together. In the end we never got to make Try This, because of a change of commissioner at CiTV (that sort of thing happens a lot), but it launched us firmly into the world of production.
Question 12 – Have you got any future plans to make / present a TV show on video games?
Nope, not at the moment – Violet is busy writing games and interactive installations for museums, and I’m busy on car-related projects just now.
Question 13 – Do you feel there is a current gap in the market for a TV show dedicated to the video game industry?
Yes, but it would have to be a truly original take on the subject, give it to Charlie Brooker then it would be entertaining.
Question 14 – What are your views on the video game industry of today?
If I’m being honest (and I always am) from the position I am in right now my view of the gaming industry is quite distant, ask me about cars, or rockets, Wales or Slade and I could talk all day, all week, all month.
Question 15 – What are you currently working on at the moment?
Alongside appearing on a Welsh-language comedy show on S4C called Caryl A’r Lleill (Caryl & The Others) I’m still making Gareth Jones On Speed – a car and motorsport podcast I’ve produced for 10 years now. I’m also making Race To 24 a 12 part documentary series that starts in March 2015 about a team choosing a driver to race for them in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. I’m also doing some stage acting for the first time in my career, I’m playing Tommy Cooper’s manager Miff Ferrie in a touring production called the Tommy Cooper Show, which is turning out to be a bit of a hit.
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