Featuring in a new BBC Radio 4 documentary about video gaming, While My Guitar Gently Bleeps, and with a TV adaptation of their original live show, Go 8-Bit, to be hosted by Dara O’Briain and air on UKTV’s entertainment channel Dave this autumn, comedian and regular videogames commentator, Steve McNeil, and his tech wizard side-kick and coding king, Rob Sedgebeer, have announced a UK tour of their exciting new live and interactive show, WiFi Wars.
We were lucky enough to have the chance to interview Steve and Rob ahead of their UK tour which starts this September.
Tell us a bit about your new show? Where did the idea come from?
WiFi wars is a live interactive video gaming comedy show. It all started about 3 years ago when myself and Sam Pamphilon went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We weren’t exactly prepared as we had been working on a sitcom. Then we hit upon the idea that maybe getting our drunk comedian friends together and asking them to play Mario Kart would probably be fairly entertaining.
After our Go 8 Bit show, where comedians battled each other at retro video games, a very clever man called Rob Sedgebeer came over and said, “I’ve invented this thing you might like to use in your show”. That ‘thing’ was an interactive version of one of the earliest arcade games, Pong. From that day on he became part of the team.
Rob invented a very clever concept whereby, people come to a theatre, login a wifi network that we build, then using some sort of wizard magic, Rob beams controls, games, and quizzes and all sorts of fun things into all of their phones.
The game became a regular in our Go 8 Bit shows. WiFi Wars really happened totally by accident. The Royal Institution approached and asked if we could come and do the interactive version of Pong as part of the Christmas Lectures? At the time, we only had about five minutes worth of stuff and we had to do an hour-long lecture but we said yes anyway.
Do you think it’s going to be the future of video gaming?
Well, if it’s not I’m screwed, ha ha. But Yes, I really do. It’s the ultimate in audience interaction. No other live show demands you keep your mobile phone switched on.
What kind of games do you play?
Well we started with the classic arcade game Pong, but we also have Track and Field, Whack-a-Mole and Enigma. The second half of the show is more experimental with the audience flying spaceships and (attempting to) avoid asteroids. Rob’s continually improving the games and inventing new ones but it’s by no means for hardcore gamers, if you have a Smartphone you can join in. It’s fun for all ages, and with kids growing up with the likes of Mindcraft now, they love it. People’s competitive instinct really comes out.
What’s your favourite part about doing the show? Do you prefer the comedy side or the gaming side?
Well I feel very lucky, I get paid for being silly and playing video games. Rob does all the technical bits and I get to fill the gaps with comedy! It may sound very silly really, but it’s really really fun to see the entire audience, as many as 400 people at any one time, using a device that they’ve got in their pocket and playing games against each other to win prizes.
What’s your favourite classic game?
Ah that’s a hard one, there’s so many. I’d have to say Super Mario World – it’s the best platform game ever.
Have you ever had something not go to plan during one of your shows?
Hmmm [laughs], yes we have had a few things. When we were filming the show for TV we were at a studio in Wembley and they had an issue with static electricity. There must have been a cable touching the floor or something, and everyone was getting static shocks, which subsequently fried all Rob’s kit we were using for the tech side of the show!
We had a similar situation in Edinburgh where we weren’t given power from a clean source so the laptop and main router from Rob’s kit didn’t work. This left me having to fill for 25 mins while Rob frantically tried to get it sorted. A woman in the audience had a Ukulele so she played that and I rapped!! We actually got a 5* review for the show so at least I’ve got a talent to fall back on!
What is it like to be a world record holder?
The whole experience was amazing. We broke the Guinness World Record for “Most People Playing A Single Game of Pong” at our 2nd annual Royal Institution lecture. The previous record was 251, we managed to get it up to 286! The BBC came along and filmed it too.
Did you go to university? If yes, what did you study and where?
Yes, we both went to University. I went to Bath Uni to do a management degree and Rob went to Loughborough to do a computer science degree.
How did you get into your career?
Well, I actually started my career at Proctor and Gamble but I hated corporate life. It wasn’t for me. I decided I didn’t want to be a grownup! From there I went to the theatre company Chickenshed and my career started from there.
You drive around getting paid to play games. Do you have any tips for students looking for jobs in tech or gaming?
If you want to do it, do it. But you have to be prepared to start really low down and work your way up. For me, I was far happier doing something I loved, than something I got paid more for but hated. Now we can’t believe driving round the country to play computer games is our job and we’re enjoying every minute of it! You have to have something to get you out of bed in the morning.
Do you have any tips for students in general while at university?
Work hard, do the thing you love and follow your dreams.
So, whether you’re a joystick veteran, Angry Birds addict or a complete noob, this retro gaming experience is an inclusive, highly addictive group activity, proving that anyone can be a gamer. A unique night out, full of fun, excitement and comedy, that is not to be missed – so book your tickets now. Tickets for WIFI WARS are available at venue box offices and through ticketmaster.
For a full list of tour dates please check wifiwars.co.uk
#WiFiWars #AllHailKingRob #LetsDoAGaming