Arguments amongst fans over greatest characters in gaming will always rage on. Tomorrrow InnerSPACE, an entertainment talk show on the SPACE channel, will throw their opinons into the mix. Recently we spoke to InnerSPACE host Ajay Fry about their upcoming Top 25 Video Game Characters special. Here’s what he had to say.
CGM: How long have you been involved in gaming?
Ajay: Oh man, that’s like asking me how long I’ve been eating food. How can I put a start date on something that’s been such a big part of my life since the beginning? If you mean videogaming specifically, I’m sure I had an Intellivision controller in my hand as early as three or four years old.
CGM: When did you get started at SPACE?
Ajay: It’ll be five years in July. My first assignment was Comic-Con. I went from hosting a kids show on YTV where I was all alone in studio making things up, and then I found myself on red carpets interviewing the likes of Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman, Kristen Stewart and even Paris Hilton.
CGM: What are some of your personal favourite games?
Ajay: Of all time? Monkey Island, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Quake, Dungeon Master, Warcraft, StarCraft, Portal, Team Fortress. Presently? DayZ, Hero Academy, Minecraft, League of Legends.
CGM: How did the idea to do this list come about?
Ajay: It was two producers who pitched the idea of doing a list of the most iconic video game characters. We’ve been doing countdowns of the sexiest sci-fi stars for the past few years, and they thought ‘why not list video game characters?’ They’re often even bigger and more iconic than the celebrities who eventually play them in the movies. Video gaming is a bigger, more profitable industry than film these days, so they deserve their own special.
CGM: Is the countdown open to characters of all generations, or just the current one?
Ajay: It’s a full on historical battle royale. We include current stars and classic characters.
CGM: How many people were involved in getting this list together and were there any heated arguments to fight for a particular character during discussions?
Ajay: Very heated! So heated at one point the idea was to have our two producers in the background of the special with bruises, torn clothes, and ice packs applied. It was basically the three of us, I advocated for some changes in ranks and some missing characters but basically in the end it was the producers decision.
CGM: Are there any characters on the list that surprised you? Characters that fans generally wouldn’t expect to be on a list like this.
Ajay: There might be some controversial decisions, especially when it comes to pulling certain characters from franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat that have an endless well of fantastic characters. Narrowing it down to one character to represent such iconic franchises was hard. I think fans may be caught off guard by our top five as well. You may think you know exactly who they are, and what order they’ll show up in, but prepare to be surprised.
CGM: What makes a character great? Is there a rubric? To get on this countdown, what did the team look for?
Ajay: We threw the obvious names out there right from the get go: Mario, Pac-Man, Master Chief, Link, Lara Croft. But from there we tried to look for iconic franchises that maybe didn’t have such a standout character and then challenged ourselves with how to present it. There’s one character on the list who you never actually see in any of the games that he fronts but he’s such an important part of gaming history, he just had to be there.
CGM: Could a great character from a bad game make the cut?
Ajay: Yes, and one I can think of for sure did. His most recent game was so awful I couldn’t play more than the first hour or so, but his legacy and impact on gaming earned him a spot.
CGM: Were there any characters you love, that aren’t necessarily widely popular, that you pushed for?
Ajay: The aforementioned never seen character was one I was pushing for, also the character we chose to represent Street Fighter was one I advocated for. I don’t want to spoil anything but when you see her pop up on the list, you’ll understand why.
CGM: Recently there’s been a lot of discussion on the portrayal of women in gaming and the community. Which female characters break the mold and would contend on this list?
Ajay: Well of course Lara Croft is on the list. With her upcoming reboot she’s going to be the talk of the town for a little while for sure. But for me hands down the best female character in gaming is GLaDOS, the antagonist from the Portal franchise. She was magnificently menacing with her megalomaniacal manner in the first game, but in the second you learn about her backstory and began to sympathize and even empathize for her. That’s the mark of a great character, regardless of gender, and I’m hoping the gaming industry takes a note from Valve and what they’ve done with Portal in both terms of character and storytelling.
CGM: Does Mario make the list?
Ajay: Ye he does, but is he number one? Maybe, but maybe not. The face of gaming isn’t what it once was back in the 80s and 90s when Mario was in his prime, so could there be a new chief in town for number one?
InnerSPACE’s Top 25 Video Game Characters airs Jan. 25 at 6:30 pm ET.