Jimmy Fallon Talks About Late Night’s Video Game Week

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Like lots of gamers over the years, Jimmy Fallon couldn’t get to E3. He’s got a job he can’t get away from so he just had to kind of watch from afar. But, of course the SNL alum isn’t just any gamer. He’s got his own late-night TV show and, when he couldn’t make it for the annual gamefest in LA, he just brought some of E3’s hottest games to him. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s first-ever Video Game Week’s been happening since Monday and the host’s already had Microsoft’s Kinect, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Call of Duty: Black Ops on the air. But, Fallon’s had a history of featuring gadgets, video games and the geeky side of pop culture on Late Night. We spoke to the funnyman in Hump Day to ask him about dedicating precious network airtime to interactive entertainment. Wanna know what his favorite gaming system is? Just start scrolling.

Why Video Game Week? Why now? How’d you pick these games to feature during these days?

Well, obviously, I love games. I’m a hug fan of video games and think there should be a platform where these things can be shown. And I’m happy to be the platform. They’re making so much money and they’re the biggest thing in entertainment right now.  They’re bigger than movie premieres, some games. I think that they should be respected and heard.

We’re doing it now, because E3 was last week and we’re not in LA. We’re doing live shows from New York City. I can’t get out there. I guess we could send a correspondent. We did that last year and it was okay. But I wanted to see the games on hand so I could ask the questions I want to ask.

It’s also kind of cool because you get to extend the window of awareness about these games. A lot of games, they show at E3 and you don’t hear at anything for months…

Yeah! [Laughs] You don’t hear anything for a year, until the next E3! We put the word out for a bunch of games while they were fresh out of E3 and see what the biggest push was going to be behind. We got a lot of callbacks and that was really encouraging.

Was there any game you wanted to have on the show but couldn’t?

Yeah, I wanted to get the new Zelda but [Nintendo game director Eiji] Aonuma wouldn’t let that happen. If it was up to him, he probably wouldn’t even release it. He’d probably just say it exists just so you’d know that it exists, and then hide it in a safe and bury it under the ocean floor. He’d use it to plug up the BP oil spill. Just plug it up with Skyward Sword. I was like, can we show just a little bit? They were like, nope. Zelda’s probably my favorite game of all time. They might bring the Nintendo 3DS but the cameras won’t pick up the 3D so that’s be worthless. It’d just be lame on the air.  But I’m a big DS guy so I can’t wait to play that thing.

(More on Techland: Nintendo Makes the 3DS Official, No Goofy Glasses Required)

Really? What’re you playing on DS? What’s your game of choice?

I love any Brain Age; I try to play that at least once a day. It doesn’t make me smarter but it makes me better at Brain Age. It builds my confidence, makes me feel like I’m smarter. So that’s something… But I love the Ace Attorney games. They take some weird swings in a lot of DS games; it’s my favorite system, I think.

There’s a lot creativity on it…

Oh my God, it’s insane! Like a “how to be a lawyer” video game? That doesn’t make any sense! But it works and it’s fun.

[Brief segue while I tell Jimmy about Ghost Trick, which is being developed by former members of the Ace Attorney development team. His words: “I mean, c’mon, that’ brilliant!”]

Ok, you like Zelda but what are your favorite recent games?

I like the first Fable. Fable II, I didn’t love that much. I didn’t quite understand it… you compliment somebody, fart, burp… wait, what?

Yeah, some of those systems were a little dodgy. I feel like they’re going to come at it from a cleaner angle this time. Peter Molyneux always promises a lot so we’ll see how much he delivers this time.

Yes, we shall see.

Getting back to the show, you’ve given a lot of airtime to gaming, gadgets and technology on Late Night. Was there any resistance when deciding to take the show in that direction?

When we first started that show, I knew that we had to do that kind of stuff because that would make our show different. I was like, we have to embrace what’s happening in the world. No one’s talking about anything [technological]. No one’s talking about computers; no one’s even talking about an iPod! That [mentality] just seems like it’s from space.

You’ve got a point. If you were to go by the late night TV universe, none of that stuff even exists…

Yeah, they hold it and go, “What the heck is this thing?!” For us, right from the start, we’ve had a lot of gadgets on the show. We’ve had Joshua Topolsky from Engadget as a guest. I think he was even a first-week guest. So we’ve tried to do tech and we’ve had game designers on, too. We had Tim Shafer; we’ve had Cliff Bleszinkski…

(More on Techland: Killing with Skill: Trailer and First Look at EA & Epic’s Bulletstorm)

I actually interviewed Cliff before he did the taping with you guys. [Note: Bleszinski was bumped to make room for Justin Bieber.] And he told me, “I didn’t even know who Justin Bieber was before all this s**t!”

[Laughter] That’s awesome! I love it. We like mixing stuff from different worlds, though. The game stuff, Bieber, none of it’s fake. We love it and it comes from a true place. It’s stuff that happening in the real world and we should talk about it.

You know, the more cynical view would be that you’re just doing it to grab at advertising or something. But it’s a risky because gaming and tech–poking around with a new phone or trying out a new game–don’t necessarily come off as sexy on TV.

No, they’d rather you talk about somebody where their clothes came off and they went skinny-dipping and couldn’t get back into their hotel room. Or something like that. We don’t do that on our show. We try to keep the intelligence level up. We can be as silly as we want but we try to keep viewers’ brains moving a little bit.

It’s funny. We were on Twitter back when the show first started and everybody was like [teasingly] “Oh, look at Mr. Computer Guy on Twitter.” Now everybody’s on Twitter and they’re all tweeting out their monologue jokes, doing what we were doing a year ago. I just love that, because it’s like the new kid has to come in and show you how’s it gonna go. That’s fine with us.

(More on Tecland: First Impressions: Official Twitter for BlackBerry App)

That was very forward-looking on your part.

We lucked out on that one.

So what’s in your pocket now, in terms of phones and gadgets?

iPhone, for me, is above and beyond, I think, everything. Android, I can’t get it. It’s not easy. I don’t get it. If I want to send a tweet, it’s a green robot. If I want to put something on Facebook, it’s a red robot. It’s like, “Wait, why doesn’t it just say ‘tweet’?”

Which Android app we talking about here?

To be honest, I just stopped using it. I’m back to the iPhone. It’s just so simple. At least the icon pictures look like something, so if you understand the picture, you understand what the app does. It’s a picture of a bird so that means Twitter. On Android, it feels like they’re all robots. I’m pressing a blue robot and, oh, that’s for recipes. This makes no sense! Who is doing this? Put a picture of food to denote recipes! Make it idiot-proof. But, seriously, I haven’t checked out Droid X but I think it’s gonna go down with that one.

Surely, you don’t really need the idiot-proof stuff…

Actually, I used to be a computer science major. I switched majors when it got too hard. I knew COBAL pretty well but C++, that’s when it got hard for me. So I decided to be come a comedian after that. PC was my thing so I resisted Macs. I didn’t want t do Macs; I’m not an artist. I’m not making pictures; I thought it was an art thing. Then I just tried one and was like, “Oh my gosh! Can it really be just this easy?” Works great, no viruses. I mean, I was all back up into DOS and the de-frag. What?! De-frag? I’m so away from that stuff now. I don’t do any of that stuff.

Do you do any gaming on the PC still?

Not really, since switching to the Mac. Last thing I remember getting was Spore but I didn’t get into it that much. It’s harder for me to find time for gaming so I do it mostly on the phone and the DS. I do have an Xbox 360 and a PS3, too. The Wii, I kinda walked away from. I haven’t touched that in a while.

Coming off of E3, I feel like the Wii games to watch out for is the new Zelda, of course, and the new Metroid game looks like it’s gonna be pretty good.

Yeah, we got Donkey Kong Country [Returns] coming on Friday.

Saw that! You’ve got Reggie coming on. But, man, based off what I’ve seen, Epic Mickey is going to be freakin’ great.

Now what is that? Is that like the other one with the keys?

You mean Kingdom Hearts? No, nothing to do with those.

[Brief pause as I explain Epic Mickey to Jimmy. His words: “That sounds awesome!”]

So, back to what you’re going to be showing this week…

We’ve got Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit coming. I was getting tired of car games for a while and was kind of feeling “been there, done that.” But this one’s got Criterion involved and I loved Burnout. So this one’s should get me interested again.  Killzone 3’s on Thursday night…

You going to be playing the 3D version on the air?

Yeah. Again, I think it won’t be as satisfying for the viewer as much…

You’re going to have to shoot an episode in 3D; that’s what you’re going to need to do.

Ha, yeah. Those cameras are expensive! We’d need to do a whole bunch of other stuff to make it worthwhile. Hmmm, yo-yo tricks… 3D beer pong? I don’t know what else to do.

“Look, look! It’s coming right at you.”

[Laughter] Exactly.

You’ve beaten two pro golfers at Tiger Woods PGA Tour; one of them was Tiger himself. What was your secret?

[Laughs] It’s the spin. It’s all about the spin. [Mockingly] Clearly, they don’t play the game. In real life, they’d destroy me. But in the game, you gotta have the backspin, or the front spin or the side spin. It’s all about the spin. I was psyched when that stuff happened, jumping around Times Square after beating Tiger Woods in his own game.

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Speaking of jumping around, you had Kinect on the show earlier in the week. We played it at E3 and some of the games still feel like a work-in-progress. It was kinda ballsy to have it demo in front of a big audience. Why do you feel Kinect specifically was so important to have on the show?

I think Kinect’s going to be the biggest thing in the world. It’s the next step; it makes the Wii look ancient. It makes everything out there seem like old technology; it’s like “whoa, this is possible?” It finds your joints and your bones! It’s gonna change everything, It’s gonna get you up and moving. The Wii got so much press for old-age homes and Wii Sports bowling. Old-age homes are gonna flip for this one. I broke a sweat in a race against Kudo [Tsunoda, Microsoft’s Kinect guru], for god’s sake. It’s not only the games, either. As far as video chatting and watching movies and pausing it and having no remote control,  this is really gonna change a lot of stuff. It’s so fun to play. I cannot wait to get it. I’m actually making room for it in my game room.

(More on Techland: E310: PlayStation Move Pwns Microsoft Kinect)

So Kinect’s going to be the latest addition to the Fallon man cave.

I’m married so I don’t quite have a man cave. We both share it; it’s a very wife-ified man cave. I have to take the coffee table out now to get ready for Kinect, which is not a good conversation to be having with your wife. “Honey, I have to remove the coffee table, so I can jump around and, uh, just play dodgeball.”

Not at all gaming-related, but why do you think Black Thought is so slept-on? When people talk about best rappers of all time, he never gets mentioned. That’s just a travesty.

Oh, I agree.

Do you have a favorite line of his from a Roots song?

Well, “Here I Come” is my favorite Roots song and it became the theme song to our show. It’s got that one line that goes, “He said yeah/You better come out with your hands up/We got you surrounded/I’m in the back/Changin’ my outfit .” But then I like the new record, How I Got Over, too. “Dear God 2.0” is a beautiful song. Lots of good lines in that one, too. Tariq [Black Thought’s real name] is good. They’re #4 on iTunes now. I’m so happy for them. A house band with that kind of success? It’s never happened before ever on late night TV.

You can take a victory lap for that.

I’m doing it right now! But, honestly, our show wouldn’t be the same without them. And it all fits perfectly because [Roots drummer and bandleader] Questlove is a geek as well. He tweets more than, like, anybody. They all play Xbox and Playstation and they’ll come up to the office and hang out and play games after a show. So, all of that is just why this isn’t going to be a one-off Video Game Week. It’s just the first of many.

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