By John Gaudiosi
When actor Zachary Levi isn’t finishing up the final season of NBC’s spy series, Chuck, in which he plays the title character, he’s taking a break to celebrate his favorite pastime – video games. Levi is also the host of the December 10th annual live broadcast of SpikeTV’s VGAs (Video Game Awards).
As one of the most die-hard gamers in Hollywood, Levi hopes this year’s edition of the show connects more with core gamers like himself. Besides the award show hosting, the actor has also done voices in games like Fallout: New Vegas and Tangled (he also did the Disney hit 3D movie of the same name). In this exclusive interview, Levi talks about his experiences playing everything from GoldenEye to Call of Duty – and why he may not be an actor today if eSports had become popular when he was a kid.
MLG: What’s it been like getting this gig for the VGAs?
Zachary Levi: It’s great. I spent Sunday shooting some promos to lead up to the show and we also filmed the opening sketch. It’s just a lot of fun, inside video games bits and spoofs highlighting some of the top titles of the year and some of the games that are nominated for Best Game of the Year. It’s me jumping around into all these game scenarios and worlds.
MLG: Did you do a lot of green screen work to put you inside these games like Batman, LEGO Star Wars III and Uncharted 3?
ZL: Yeah, we did lots of green screen with crazy outfits, and funny bits. To me, and collectively the whole team, we really want to make this year, maybe even more so than other years…I’m a huge gamer, and I really want to make this about gamers and games and cater to that audience specifically.
MLG: What are your thoughts on the fact that someone can make money today by playing games like Halo, Call of Duty or StarCraft II professionally in leagues like Major League Gaming?
ZL: I think it’s awesome. It harkens back to the little boy dream in all of us. Watching a movie like The Wizard where Fred Savage and his little brother are at a Super Mario 3 competition. As a kid, you watch it going, “I want to be that kid. I want to be playing Mario competitively.” Now, obviously, video games are far more complex, detailed, thorough, and immersive. To be able to sit and watch the elite players go head-to-head playing games like Halo or Call of Duty, and that there is an outlet for that, I think is fantastic. Especially since the world is becoming more and more tech savvy. You have kids that are much more into technology than they are into sports.
MLG: What excites you about how fast game technology is evolving?
ZL: In the next five to 10 years we’re going to have the closest thing we’ve had to virtual reality, where you won’t be holding a controller anymore. You’ll be able to run in your own living room. In order to play Call of Duty, you can hop on with guys that are online and you’ll have a gun in your hand, and you’ll literally be running in place, and you’re going to be tracking guys down. I think that’s really going to start breaking down barriers between just sitting there on your couch and mashing buttons, and actually getting up off your butt and participating in a game in the most interactive way as possible. I’d love to see that competition. [Laugh] I’d love to see a bunch of guys running around, actually having to run after people, crouch, run, all that stuff. I think it’s going to be insane.
MLG: It’s like that Ready Player One rigs that they have in that new book.
ZL: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
MLG: You play games. How good are you when it comes to playing online?
ZL: It’s funny. I was one of those guys who had my bubble burst a little when online gaming started. Before online gaming, I would dominate my friends at gaming. We all gamed, but I was definitely the nerdiest about it with games like GoldenEye. I had an N64, four controllers, rumble pack, and multiple games. I would carry mine in a bag. I’d bring it to my friends’ houses or they’d come over to my house. We’d have GoldenEye tournaments and I’d destroy them; I would wipe the floor with them. They would even go three versus one, and I would still take all of them out. I was convinced that if there was going to be a global stage for it, I would be very good. Then cut to, Ghost Recon. I was never a PC gamer; I’ve always been a console gamer. Obviously, there was a good amount of online PC gaming before Xbox Live. Xbox Live was really the first outlet for me.
MLG: How do you fair when you take on gamers online?
ZL: I was very good. I’m still very good, but I don’t have the time to dedicate the way that some guys will spend 15 hours a day non-stop. Although what’s interesting is that just because you have a 7th level Prestige in Call of Duty, it doesn’t necessarily make you a better gamer. It just means that you spent that much more time playing the game.
MLG: How do you think it would have changed your life if Major League Gaming existed when you were dominating at GoldenEye?
ZL: If that were the case, I may not be doing what I do right now. There’s a good chance that I would have tried to just go and do that as a profession. I love video games; I love them. I love where they’re going. I love that they’re essentially the most lucrative and powerful medium of entertainment out there right now.
MLG: What have you been playing lately?
ZL: I’m only a level 63 right now on Modern Warfare 3, because I always like to go through the campaign first. I’m a purist like that; I don’t believe in just jumping into the multiplayer. I actually like playing the game that the programmers made for us, and then going online. I have to play a little bit of catch-up, but essentially once you’ve got your favorite gun and your favorite perks, then you don’t really need to level up anymore, you just go and get some kills. I put myself up there pretty well.
The 2011 Video Game Awards air tomorrow, Saturday, December 10th at 8:00pm EST on Spike TV.