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Ice-T: Words With The Original Gamer

by Matt Helgeson on Feb 16, 2011 at 08:30 AM

I used to call myself “The Original Gamer” in the magazine in tribute to Ice-T’s 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster, so I was excited to find out, via his many postings on YouTube and Twitter, that the gangster rap legend and actor is a devoted gamer. I recently got a chance to speak to Ice-T about his lifelong gaming habit, and he proved to be every bit as perceptive and entertaining as I hoped.

Whenever we talk to athletes, they all seem to game. Is it like that in hip-hop now?

What people don’t understand is that the video game industry broke right alongside the hip-hop industry. Video games, hip-hop, skateboards; all that kind of broke during the ‘80s. I had everything – the Ataris, the Segas. We grew up with it. The other thing they forget is that a lot of musicians spend their days on tour buses. If you’ve ever been on a tour bus, there’s nothing much to do. In the back of the tour bus, they’ll have a video game system. You start to learn to play the games. I’ve seen cats start a tour where they don’t really game, and by the end, they’re trying to get you to play them. You get hooked.

Obviously, it’s a lot different now, because games have become so mainstream. But back in the ‘80s, games were perceived as more of a nerdy thing.

I don’t think so, though. I guess in the nerd world, it was considered that. But there’s a lot of mistakes [people make] with hip-hop. People watch us and they might pick up the low-riding and all that, but they miss the humor. We’re still kids; we’re just like y’all. We still f--- around; we still do pranks – all that same stuff is a part of our make-up. So, we don’t really look at it as nerdy, we look at is as something to do. Go into a crack house, and they might have a video game! There’s nothing I’ve found that really burns time like video games. I’ve always said that if you put games in the prison system, cats would get out of jail and be like, “Hold up, I gotta go finish this level.” [Laughs] So, I’m here to say that it’s an absolute misconception that gaming is nerdy. I’ve been in some dangerous *** spots and there’s been a console there.

Do you go back to the Atari 2600 and arcade days?

Absolutely. My first game system was an Atari, and I had a Nintendo. When I first started making money, if you see my episode of MTV Cribs, I had the actual video arcade games in my house. I had the first Mortal Kombat, the first Virtua Fighter, the first NBA Jam. I bought the arcade games because I found a place in L.A. where I could buy them. They were like $5,000, but I had them down in my studio in my house. But back to the nerd stuff, I think there is a nerd side to it when you get too deep into it. One thing they do now, I’ve noticed, is they have these platform wars, like “Xbox is better than PlayStation.” That’s nerdy to me. What the f--- is the matter with you?

The weird thing is people are defending these huge corporations.

They could give a f--- about you! [Laughs] That’s nerdy to me. Also, people get too deep into the games. I have a clan on Call of Duty, and when you start telling me your kill/death ratio – I don’t give a f---. You really going to pick up a b---- by telling her your kill/death ratio? That doesn’t really matter. I think there’s a nerd element where you can get too deep into it that no one cares. But you can get nerdy with cars; you could start telling me the cubic displacement of an engine. At any point, you can go into the nerd world if you want to go deep. One of the key things about nerds is that they like to correct you. They get off on correcting you. That’s the part that we kinda fall back off of – we just want to play the games, we don’t need the heavy details. How many ounces is the controller? Who gives a f---? [Laughs]

Do you play with other rappers you know online?

Absolutely. Snoop and them are big Madden fans. Warren G is in my clan. A lot of football. Early hip-hoppers mostly stick to the sports games. I never really went for the sports games because, early on, you couldn’t play them online. That required you to have people at your house all the time. I’m not really the type of person that wants a bunch of dudes on my couch drinking beers and playing Madden. That’s too much male bonding for me. But when the ‘net came out and you could play with people online, that revolutionized the game. I play with Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian – he’s in SMG. Xzibit is in SMG. Warren G is in SMG. There’s different people from all over the world. The leader of my clan, he’s named Coleman, he’s from Liverpool, England. I got some kids from Boston – white kids, black kids, it doesn’t matter. My son plays. My son lives in L.A., and we get to bond. I wouldn’t be on the phone with him all day, but I can be on the game with him for five hours. It’s really cool.

SMG is your clan, right?

Yeah, “Sex, Money, and Guns.” That’s what makes the world go ‘round.

You’re a huge Call of Duty fan, is that the main game you play now?

It’s the only game I’ve been able to get into and actually feel a skill curve on it. A lot of the games I’ve played – Battlefield or Medal of Honor – have great single-player, but when you get into the multiplayer I personally don’t feel like I’m getting better. Call of Duty, the way it’s set up, you can actually get better. The game that really got me hooked was Resident Evil back in the day. I was always into Mortal Kombat and s--- like that, but once I got into Resident Evil I really got hooked – survival horror, all that s---. Then I got into all the single-player adventure-type games. I love the Max Payne games. I loved to play by myself and challenge myself.

Are you playing any single-player games right now?

The last one I really got into was me and Coco played Army of Two. My girl loves playing games. She has a theory of games, a one-sentence comment: “At least you know where they are.” [Laughs] You wanna b---- about your man sitting in the house, but there’s a lot of s--- he could be doing. Have him put that controller down and I bet he hits the door! She started learning how to play with me. I used to play Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I’d have her watch the map, so I wouldn’t have to take my eyes off the action. So, she’d be like, “Left! Left! Right! Turbo! Turbo!” Also, sometimes, if I’m stuck I’ll be like, “Coco grab the cheat book!” and she’ll give me little clues. Being married, we also have code words that let me know it’s time to stop. She’ll go, “Okay, I’m going upstairs…” That’s where our bedroom is, so I’m like, “Okay, last game.” [Laughs]

You have to have priorities.

I think that’s where guys lose it with their girls. Find a time when she’s reading a book or doing something else and get into it. Don’t let it override reality, or you’re gonna pick your game over your girl and that’s gonna be a bad move. Then, you’ll have full-time to be f---in’ gamer nerd. You’ll be talking about your kill/death ratio with your buddies. F--- that.

You’ve also appeared in several games – San Andreas, for one.

Yeah, I was the last guy. Mad Dog I think his name was. I was in Def Jam: Fight for NY. I was in Scarface and San Andreas. Recently, I was in Gears of War 3.

How did the Gears of War 3 thing happen?

F---ing with Jace Hall. Jace Hall has a web series called the Jace Hall Show. He’s a brother, kind of a big guy. A long time ago, he did a video game and I did the voiceovers, it was called Sanity. That was back in the day. So, he came back to me and had this show. He said, “Ice, I want to interview you, people don’t know you’re a real video gamer.” He did this show at my apartment where he interviewed me and Coco. During the show, he told me that he was in Gears of War, and I was like, “Bull----, how you get in Gears of War?” He said, “I know the owner; I know Cliffy.” I said, “Call Cliffy, tell him I should be in the game.” So, on the show we did this thing where I told Cliffy, “Why the f--- is Jace in the game, no one knows who the f--- he is, use me instead.” So, Cliff says, “You never know, maybe in Gears 3.” Now, this was just a skit – this was bulls---, we were just f---in’ with it. But sure enough, the game came around and I got a call saying “would you be interested in doing voice work?” So, a joke turned into reality.

Is doing voiceovers different than doing things like Law & Order?

Not really, because I’m a musician. I’m used to being in a studio and taking direction. These guys are masters at what they do, so first you see the script and say “read it like this.” Then, the guy will say, “No, more angry.” Right? And I’ll say it again, then they’ll say, “No, you’re f---in’ mad right now!” They direct you, and then they’ll say, “That’s the tone, now f---in’ freestyle it” and you go in. My character probably swears more than anyone in the history of video games; Griffin is a bad motherf---er. Cliffy B and all the guys from Epic were first-class.

Push comes to shove, what’s your favorite game of all time?

Honestly, I have to say that I’ve spent the most time playing the Call of Duty games. I didn’t really like World at War, but I loved Modern Warfare and the new one. I’ve spent the most time playing those. But, from a classic perspective, I think the first Resident Evil in the mansion. That was the coolest s--- ever because it was new. I play the new Resident Evil, but it’s not the same. [But] the O.G. Resident Evil – I’ve never been blown away by anything like that. That’s a classic game.

For more on Ice-T go to his official site and follow him on Twitter.