Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is the bent brain behind “Zero Punctuation,” the hilariously cutting weekly videogame review program that has been the first legitimate breakout hit from the gaming community in recent memory. If you haven’t seen “Zero Punctuation,” well, it’s best watched and not explained. (The latest episode is below.) You might want to turn down your speakers if the boss isn’t a fan of wonderfully vivid vulgarity.
BBG: What’s the typical creative process you follow when making these videos? Are you taking notes as you play the game or do you wait until the very end?
Yahtzee: I usually take a few days to play through the game and I’ll usually finish it, or get as far as I can before I feel I can formulate an opinion. After that I’ll devote a day to writing the script. I don’t take notes, but I’ll usually latch onto maybe 4 or 5 points and get a paragraph or two out of each. I generally compare the text to older reviews then to make sure I’ve written enough. Then comes making the images, which usually takes me 2 or 3 days. I used to record the speech first, but I found that I’d sometimes want to make changes to the script while making the images, especially if I wanted to reword a phrase that I found too hard to visualise. Once the images are done, recording the narration and stringing it all together in Windows Movie Maker is the easy part.
BBG: What was the inspiration behind using the animation instead of, say, your yapping head?
Yahtzee: The inspiration for the animation was me not possessing a video camera or any similar means of recording and wondering if I could make a video out of still images and narration.
BBG: How’d you end up with The Escapist? Have you been surprised by your success?
Yahtzee: I put my first two videos on Youtube and of the many offers of work that would come my way over the next few months, The Escapist were the first. They’re good people and I am treated well with a big sack of money at the start of every month. The success has been pretty surprising, and I’m also doing my best to exploit it as best I can; I’ve gotten two free trips abroad so far and been making decent headway on my main ambition to be a professional game designer.
BBG: What’s your favorite gag so far? Have you felt like you’ve slipped any in that people have missed?
Yahtzee: I think my favourite one is still the illustration of the developers of Heavenly Sword, ‘Ninja Theory’, as a ninja teaching another ninja with a blackboard and pointer. I don’t know why, it just stays with me. And yes, I’m pretty sure a lot of them get missed, most people tell me they usually watch the videos over and over again to catch all the stuff they didn’t see properly. One of my favourite techniques is to flash up more text than can reasonably by read in the time given. It’s like a subliminal challenge or something.
BBG: Do you think it’s easier to pull off all the vulgarity by not being on camera?
Yahtzee: I certainly don’t feel as self-conscious as I would do if I were on camera. I have terrible presenting discipline. I never look in the right way while I’m recording, I usually stare at the ceiling and rock back and forth in my chair. If you listen very hard you can sometimes hear my chair squeaking while I talk. It probably needs some screws tightening.
BBG: What’s your most beloved game?
Yahtzee: I have a well-documented love of Silent Hill 2 for its excellent atmosphere and storytelling, but as for games that balance good gameplay and story I’d say Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and probably Portal, too. I like games that mesh gameplay and story well, not too much one way or the other.
BBG: So what’s next for you?
Yahtzee: I am working on a couple of things. I’m part of an indie game dev team here in Brisbane and we’ve got a couple of projects going, including a rather nice corporate contract I’m not supposed to talk about but which could be the big break we need. I’m also lending assistance to a professional studio here which I probably also shouldn’t be talking about. As for personal projects, not much at present. There’s a couple of ideas I have on the go, it’s just a matter of seeing which one holds my attention for longest.