If a new video game hits the market and there’s a need for an expert opinion on the product, don’t overlook actress and former TV correspondent Alison Haislip to contribute to the discussion. In fact, she just might take it personally if you pass her by.
“I actually get kind of sad if people don’t come to me,” said Haislip, 33, the ex-host of TV’s “Attack the Show!,” which once aired on the now practically vanished G4 Network. “I grew up playing video games. I can’t remember how many times my parents tried to convince me to stop playing or focus on other things. Now that I’ve basically made a career playing video games for so long, it’s nice to know my entire childhood wasn’t wasted.”
Haislip gets the opportunity to wax philosophical about all things video games and delve into the history of the medium in the new documentary “Video Games: The Movie,” which recently hit VOD and select theaters across the country.
During our interview, Haislip and I talked about her earliest memories as a kid playing video games, whether or not she thinks it’s OK for an adult to spend 10 hours a day in front of a screen and how the term “nerd” has changed in the last few decades. I opened the interview by bringing up a video Haislip recently Tweeted – a film her and her cousin made as kids in 1993 featuring the video game “Street Fighter” with narration by a pre-teen Haislip herself.
First of all, congratulations on your new film that you just released, “Street Fighter.” It was a million times better than the Jean Claude Van Damme version.
(Laughs) Right! (Laughs) I couldn’t believe my cousin found that. He’s been digitizing all of our home videos. He asked me if I wanted to post it. I watched it and was like, “Is that me talking?” I didn’t even recognize my own voice. I’m pretty sure we [made the movie] the day after Christmas one year, maybe 1993.
So, did you always pick Chun Li like most girls?
(Reluctantly) Yeah. (Laughs) She was the one I related to the most. I was either her or Blanka because he was a really good button masher.
Besides entertaining me with your “Street Fighter” movie, I also wanted to thank you for teaching me something new this week. I heard on the Pointless Podcast that you recently found out that a Narwahl is a real animal. I had never heard of such a thing, so I looked it up. I was shocked.
Isn’t that insane?! We used to talk about Narwahls on “Attack of the Show!” and I really thought they were just mythical creatures. Then one day I was hanging out with [actresses] Clare Grant and Rileah Vanderbilt when we were shooting [the short film] “Sabre III: [Revenge of the Threesome].” Rileah started singing this Narwahl song and then she pulls up a photograph online and I was like, “What is that? Narwahls aren’t real!” Then I went down this black hole of Wikipedia articles about Narwahls. I didn’t understand. Most creatures in this world make sense to me. Narwahls look like they were made up. I don’t understand what they use those horns for! I don’t get it. I wouldn’t imagine they have enough thrust power to spear something with that thing.
What is your earliest video game memory? Did it all start when you woke up one Christmas morning and there was an NES wrapped up and sitting under the tree?
It was much earlier than the NES. My parents had an Atari before I was even born. As soon as I was old enough to know how to move a joystick and push some buttons, I was playing games in our basement. I was around four or five. I definitely remember my favorite games like “Cookie Monster.” Well, I really don’t know if it was called “Cookie Monster,” but that’s what I called it. There was also a Strawberry Shortcake game and “Empire Strikes Back” and “Combat,” which I called “Tanks.” Those were my favorite games to play growing up.
When did the NES come into your life?
I got a Nintendo when I was probably around eight for Christmas. I clearly remember it was Christmas and opening up a present and seeing that it was a Nintendo and losing my mind. One of the games that came with the Nintendo at that time was “Duck Tales.”
Really? Mine came with “Super Mario Bros.” but it wasn’t even the cartridge that included “Duck Hunt.”
That sucks! Mine came with that Olympics game where you had to run on the Power Pad (“World Class Track Meet”).
Would you cheat and use your hands to run faster?
Oh, I would put a chair off to the side and sit on the chair so I could move my feet really fast. Yes, I cheated!
Well, you weren’t the only one, so that’s cool. Then the Game Genie came out and everyone cheated anyway.
Oh, I know! But let me tell you, the hardest freaking game on Nintendo, without a doubt, was “Adventure Island.” I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past the second level of that game. I have no idea how the game ends or how many levels there are. It always made me so angry because there were never any cheat codes for it with Game Genie.
Would you play video games for hours on end as a kid?
Yeah, until our parents kicked us outside, but for the most part we would live in our basement. I always thought the coolest thing was when I got to go to [my childhood friend] Nicole Reed’s house because her brothers had a Sega Genesis. I was like, “Oh, this is new!” She was the only person in my entire middle school that had a Sega Genesis.
It’s one thing for a kid to spend 8-10 hours playing a video game, but do you think it’s healthy for an adult to come home after work and stay up till 3 am playing “World of Warcraft?”
I think anything in moderation is fine as long as those eight hours aren’t taking away from being healthy or being social. Play away! Video games are an amazing way to remove yourself a little from the stresses of reality. I went on a USO Tour back in December and I can’t tell you the amount of gamers we have in our military. They spend their whole day going through training and doing the stuff they do and then when they have free time they go back to their bunks and play “Call of Duty.” (Laughs) I’m like, “But that’s your life!” To them, they’re getting to do the stuff they’re training for every day through video games. If it was me, I would go home and play “Mario Cart” or something so far off from what I’m doing in real life. These guys actually use it as a release.
I know a few women who wished their husband or boyfriend played a lot less. Have you ever dated someone that played video games too much?
No, anyone I’ve dated who also played video games, I would just make sure they were playing games I could play with them. I’ve dated guys who don’t understand video games. I’ll sit there and play and they’ll watch me and be like, “I don’t get it.”
How do you think the term “nerd” changed in the last 20 years?
You know, I think a “nerd” back in the day was just someone who was really into tech and that kind of stuff, not so much gaming. Tech has grown so much in the last 20 years and has become so much more easily accessible. Back then, it was more of a fringe interest. Now that technology is engrained into so many peoples’ lives, so many more people play video games because of that. I think that’s why the term “nerd,” when it comes to gaming, has sort of subsided.
Are you nostalgic about video games or are you more about keeping up with trends? Do you always want to try out the latest thing to hit the market or do you find yourself revisiting old-school stuff?
I go old school a lot. I’m not one of those people who pre-ordered an X-Box One. For me, I want the contents to come out. I don’t need to be the first kid on the block to have the new, shiny toy. I want it when I have enough actual games to play. Also, I feel like mobile gaming has become such a great source these days. As many times as I’ll go back and play “Left for Dead,” I’ll also sit down and find some sweet indie game to play on my iPad. There are some incredible games I can play for 80 hours or for three hours.
Is there anything you own in your personal collection of video game memorabilia that you’re attached to the most? Maybe something that has sentimental value?
Well, I have all of my Nintendo Power [magazines] – about three years worth – that I keep displayed in a bookshelf so you can see all their bindings. That’s probably one of my favorites. Then, my cousin, who is probably one of the biggest reasons I got into gaming in the first place (this is the same cousin who I made the “Street Fighter” movie with), has a home theater in his house that he built specifically to have enough hook-ups for every gaming system our family has. So, he has all of my old systems. They’re all hooked up, so whenever we go to his house we can just play whatever we want.
You mentioned mobile gaming, so are you the type of gamer that will download anything just to try it once? If so, have you played Kim Kardashian’s new mobile game where she challenges you to live the life of a celebrity?
When it comes to mobile games, especially the indie ones, for me it’s based on recommendations. I don’t go hunting for the highest-rated games. The other day I Tweeted about finishing “Device 6,” which is an incredible game. It’s so innovative. Someone randomly Tweeted me back and asked if I had played “A Dark Room.” So, I looked it up and was like, “Oh, I can give this a shot.” It was a completely different type of game and it was awesome. I just finished shooting a film and it was the game I would play when I had downtime in my room. So, word of mouth is what gets me to the best games out there.
So, I guess it’s safe to say you’re not going virtual shopping with Kim Kardashian anytime soon.
(Laughs) I really just try to avoid anything that involves the name Kardashian, so I doubt I would play one of her games.