Spike, Sunnydale's resident vampire, takes his PlayStation everywhere, loves 'The Witness' and is waiting for Bioware to fix 'Mass Effect: Andromeda'
20 hours ago by Rachel Weber
If you're a woman who grew up in the 1990's, there's a good chance the that James Marsters' name is tattooed on your heart. Masters played Spike, Sarah Michelle Gellar's bleached blonde vampire love interest in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He's remained a geek culture fixture since, with roles in shows like Smallville, Torchwood, and Caprica. These days, Marsters, now 54-years-old, is busy with the upcoming Marvel Hulu series Runaways, which will air in 2018 (he plays Victor Stein, father to teenage superhero Chase). But he still makes time to keep up with games.
Marsters travels with his PlayStation, he risked divorce over Horizon Zero Dawn, and has even turned his habit into a web series: Vidiots, which he co-hosts with his friend and fellow actor Mark Devine, between filming and attending fan conventions. In our interview, we talk games, The Witcher 3, Buffy and how his obsession with Guerrilla's Horizon Zero Dawn became a problem.
How did Vidiots come about?
I travel with my good friend Mark Devine who's in the show. We often go and do conventions together. For years, he's helped me out at the table with the fans, and after the convention, we unwind by playing video games. Mark is the funniest person I have ever hung out with in my entire life by a mile, but he's also the worst gamer I've ever played with. He's funniest when he's getting slaughtered – he's just hilarious because he does get frustrated.
If I go on YouTube, I can see someone who's very good at gaming and not perfectly good at jokes. I thought, what if we were really good at humor, but really bad at gaming? That might be interesting and also easy to do. [So we] started doing that and we were having a lot of fun.
We were in Paris one beautiful spring day, but in our hotel room, the curtains were drawn and we were playing Assassin's Creed: Unity, which takes place in Paris. It just struck me how obscene that was – that we were in Paris, pretending to be in Paris. I thought, "This is ridiculous! Let's go out and see the town!" So we used an iPhone and started filming ourselves on the streets and we got some good stuff.
One of my favorite shows of the past few years in An Idiot Abroad. It's a Ricky Gervais thing with Karl Pilkington, who, if you gave him a choice, he wouldn't leave the three block radius of his house. We ended up getting something that was like An Idiot Abroad, except you get two idiots for the price of one. The show just kind of expanded from there.
You play some Witcher in the more recent episodes…
Oh my god, what a game. What a great game. Absolutely fabulous and the DLC got best game of the year. How many games can say that?
I didn't know what to do with myself when it ended.
Play Zelda. It's so good. Very different of course from Witcher, but it's the same open world and you're fighting goblins and stuff, so it's a little bit the same.
How do you decide which games to feature? Is it just what you're playing?
Yeah, just whatever we're loving at the moment. Whatever we play seems to kind of go the same way. I usually have played the game before, so I come off as a better gamer than Mark. It's funny to just throw all the buttons at Mark and watch him try to do it.
I tend to go for AAA games, to tell you the truth. I love really good graphics, man, and I love the large world you get with a AAA game. I started gaming back when the graphics really were not very good. I remember Pong. It's always been, "Oh my god, check out this game, the graphics are better!" I'm still like that. I'm a graphics junkie. I know a lot of people now are turning towards a retro feel, but I'm still looking for better and better graphics.
You play a bit of Job Simulator in the series. What do you think of VR as a whole?
It's weird. I played Resident Evil 7 and I started on the screen. It was terrifying in normal 2D and then I started playing it on VR and it was really impressive but strangely less scary. For me, because the aiming mechanics for the VR were a lot easier – you just had to stare at their forehead and shoot, headshot – there was something about those horror games where you feel like you're fumbling with the gun and can't quite get it where you need to.
The tricks that they used to build an environment were clearly revealed as tricks in VR. I remember going up to a piece of pottery with dirt in the bottom, and in 2D, that would have looked totally real. But in VR? It was apparent it was just a flat pane of dirt, painted to look like a 3D mound. It was just, "Oh, I'm in a video game, I'm not going to get killed." That kind of thing made me more comfortable. It was still exciting and I finished the game in VR and I loved it, but it was actually more scary for me in 2D.
I feel like we're going to see a huge leap in VR in a couple of years.
Yeah, there's not that much to figure out. Just let me walk around the environment and shoot things. I kept reading that they're trying new interfaces and I was like, "No." I don't particularly need that. The Resident Evil 7 experience was just what I always wanted and I don't mind having a controller in my hand. I still feel immersed. I don't have to be pointing guns. In fact, I'm broken-hearted because the Fallout 4 VR port is just going to be for Oculus and not for PS4.
Do you mainly stick to PlayStation?
Yeah, man, plug and play. I'm not a computer guy. Getting all that setup is a little bit daunting for me.
So you've got a PlayStation, a Switch...
I've got my Xbox One, too, because I wanted to play Halo. But I mainly stay with PlayStation Pro, which is doing me all sorts of good.
Especially with the 4K. Horizon Zero Dawn looks so good.
It almost got me a divorce, that game. I wouldn't stop playing it. My wife just lost me, she was like, "I'm a widow to Horizon Zero Dawn."
Actually, what was wonderfully, surprisingly romantic for her and I to do was The Witness together. I tried it on my own and I bombed out real fast. Then I played it with my wife and there's a puzzle that I couldn't figure out, and she was, like, "The answer is in the trees." I had never looked at the environment around me, just the puzzles themselves. She opened up the whole thing.
Let's rewind. You mentioned Pong. Were you a kid that fell in love with games right away?
I fell in love really early, but my family couldn't afford them. So when I went to visit my dad, he had Pong and I played that all the time. When I went to college, I couldn't afford to buy video games, and then after college, I was a poor theater actor and I certainly couldn't afford any video games.
I'm looking forward to them fixing Mass Effect. I feel like they're going to fix it and I'm just going to wait until they do.
Then one winter, I was in Chicago and my former wife and I bought Super Mario – the Nintendo – back in 1986, 1987. Because in Chicago, you really don't go outside in the winter. Find something to do indoors, guys! So we thought we'd just pass the winter with this game. It was great. We just played that game all the time. I think my ex-wife tired of it before I did. I loved it.
Then it was the drought again because I was poor. I couldn't afford any video games until I came to Los Angeles and started in TV. At that point, it pretty quickly grew to the point where I really don't watch television because I game. People asked me about TV shows and I'm like, "I don't know."
How do you fit gaming around filming and travelling?
I used to love playing the PS Vita. That was a great road machine. But eventually, I just [went through] all the games I was interested in. After you do Borderlands and Resident Evil: Revelations 2... no offense but I'm just not that into Japanese games. So the Vita just ran out of steam. Right when it was losing it, the Switch came along. But it's easy to pack a PS4 in your luggage. If you put it in hand luggage, it's not going to get bumped around and it's actually very portable. You just have to hope that the hotel room you're in has got an HDMI, and that you can hit the input button.
Sometimes you can't, so what you do is call down to the front desk and say you've got a problem with your television. Then when [the engineer] comes up, you're super nice to that guy and he'll help you fix it. Sometimes they'll bring up a television from the store room that works. They'll really help you if you're nice.
Otherwise, my schedule is a lot of work and then periods no work. That's good because I have to rest. So then it works pretty well. Right now, it's work, so I look forward to playing some Zelda at the end of the day, but the clock being what it is, I get about 10 minutes and then I have to go to bed. But I think in about a month I'll get a week off and then I'll get back into something.
You did Spike's voice in some of the Buffy games. Did you ever play them?
They did, but I got stuck on the first level! I got frustrated and just stopped. It was horrible. Then I remember talking to a fan and they said there's a walkthrough. I said, "A what?" Because I didn't have a computer at the time. They came back and they'd printed out the walkthrough from the internet and it saved me. I went on and I beat the game.
What else are you looking forward to playing?
Oh my god, all of it really. I'm looking forward to Splatoon, Mario Kart, Outlast 2, and I'm looking forward to them fixing Mass Effect. I feel like they're going to fix it and I'm just going to wait until they do.