Chris Hardwick is a busy man. Nerdist Industries, the company he founded in 2008 on the back of a single blog, is now a sprawling fiefdom within Legendary Entertainment’s growing empire. When The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul are on the air, you can catch him on Talking Dead and Talking Saul, the high-profile aftershows that he hosts, a format that he helped pioneer on AMC. And evidently not one to forget his roots as a gameshow host MTV’s Singled Out and Shipmates, Hardwick also heads up @Midnight, a meme-powered improv gameshow on Comedy Central. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this avatar of geekdom might be too busy to indulge in the passions that drive his career.
At an earlier point in his life, this was in fact the case. There was a moment in his post-Singled Out career that Hardwick had to swear off games (in addition to booze; he’s been sober since 2003) in an effort to get his working life in order. Hardwick talked to us about how his game-wired brain saw him through this tough time, and mused on topics ranging from the potentially catastrophic draw of VR, to the virtues of gaming face-to-face with actual humans.
So, we’ve heard you’re into games.
Yeah, I’ve played a few. I’m old enough to have experienced the initial video game revolution. My dad was a professional bowler, and when he opened a bowling center, he put in this really huge arcade. So I grew up with the video game revolution and also the home game revolution. I had an Atari 2600 and an Intellivision and all the way up through NES, Super NES, PlayStation, Xbox. Now, PS4, and Xbox One. I put an arcade in my house, too. I have two Multicade cabinets, two pinball games… all-in-all, probably 1,500 games between all of them. Shit’s real.
You have a lot going on, with @Midnight, Nerdist and everything else. How do you make the time time to play?
I don’t get as much time to play. The games that I like are involved, quest-driven RPGs. I played Skyrim for like a year and half, literally to the point where I was just making produce errand runs for each of the fucking houses that I had in each town. That’s harder now because you can’t really play those games casually.
What I’ve been playing the most of lately is Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. It’s a Final Fantasy game that was made specifically for mobile. To get ready for Final Fantasy XV, I guess. It’s just a really basic turn-based RPG. Whereas the other Final Fantasy games have been retro-fitted to mobile, this is actually made for mobile and it’s great. I love it. I’ve spent a lot of money playing the game, which I know makes people upset, but I guess I sort of feel like, “you know, I would spend 20 bucks to go see a movie. Why wouldn’t I spend 20 bucks to play a game all day?”
That way lies madness for you, by the sounds of it.
Yeah, because it just takes up so much time. I love it, but I would honestly do nothing else but that if I weren’t careful. I feel like what’s happening is that a lot of my adult responsibilities are getting in the way. I quit drinking in 2003 and I quit gaming at that time for about five or six years. I was not leaving the house and I was blowing off work stuff to play games. I had to straighten my life out, so I had to take a break from gaming to get my life back on track.