In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Between shooting new episodes for the third season of Raising Hope during the week and voicing the lead character in a new Pixar film called The Good Dinosaur on the weekends, Lucas Neff has a pretty full work schedule. But he still took a few minutes to talk to The Gameological Society about how he spends the free time he does have—dunking on his friends in NBA Jam and brushing up on his math skills.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Lucas Neff: I recently got a Super Nintendo again. I’ve been hitting up NBA Jam quite a bit. Not Tournament Edition, sadly enough. It’s just regular old NBA Jam. I’m definitely playing with my early ’90s Chicago Bulls, a little Scottie Pippen-Horace Grant action. Pippen is averaging between 55 and 70 points a game right now.
Gameological: You sounded a little disappointed when you said it wasn’t the Tournament Edition. Other than the rosters, was there a big difference between the two on the consoles?
Neff: Honestly, I can’t really remember, but I think there’s a little better dunking action. There’s like some cooler effects or something. Getting on fire was a little bit cooler. I remember there was a “Big Head” code.
Gameological: Yeah, that’s right. The first one had the cheat where you could plays as Clinton and Gore in the home version.
Neff: I’ve been a little too lazy to look up all those cheats yet, so I’ve just been enjoying trashing my friends with good fundamental basketball: steal, turbo, dunk, violent assault, steal, turbo, dunk. Just good solid basketball the way Abner Doubleday imagined it.
Gameological: Was that a game you played when you were a kid?
Neff: Yeah, I wasn’t a huge gamer. My parents just refused to buy video games. We didn’t even have a TV for a few years. I played a lot of sports, but I sort of saw video games as a spectator sport. I would go watch my friends play Killer Instinct and Turok, which was real popular around sixth or seventh grade. Obviously, Mario was enormous for Nintendo. I remember watching these big Mario tournaments with like tons of people, and I would just sort of sit in the back and eat Cheetos. I was also a big fan of Super Mario Kart. I loved to play simpler games.
We had open campus lunch in high school, and there was this deli/cafe called Fat Moe’s, and they had a Mortal Kombat arcade machine. We would play that for hours. We broke it. It just wouldn’t work anymore because we played it so much. We just wore it out.
Gameological: Now that you’re an adult, do you feel like you have to make up for all the time you lost because you didn’t have your own Super NES?
Neff: You know, the saddest thing is that my biggest hobby right now is doing math. I got two chalkboards: a big one in my living room and a smaller one at work in my trailer. I’m going back over algebra and working my way through calculus, and the idea is to get all the way to the math of theoretical physics. That’s sort of the dream right now. I’ve become lamer as time has gone on. I also read a ton. One of my hobbies is that I have 27 different books, and I try to read at least 10 pages of each book every day.
Gameological: That’s not lame at all. That’s probably the most productive use of someone’s spare time I’ve ever heard.
Neff: Last week, I wrote a screenplay in between camera setups. I finished it in about 12 days. It’s semi-autobiographical. A lot of it is from my days of being a really broke dude in Chicago post-college. Just like slumming it with part-time jobs for a while and mixing in some other things, like, I was sort of living off a friend’s couch for a while. Everything was real shitty, and it was just imagining if things had gotten worse as opposed to getting better—like just getting blackout drunk every night, substance abuse, making terrible mistakes with your personal life and just a very shitty family life. Then everything gets worse. It’s an existentialist piece like how we deal with tragedy, how we continue. When tragedy happens, I don’t think that a lot of movies are very truthful. For the sake of being a film experience, a lot of movies choose resolution or big life lessons. Sometimes we just sort of keep living and we don’t really know what to do with our grief. We just sort of keep moving forward, sort of inexorably, just stumble blindly onward.
Gameological: Do you plan on shooting it or selling it?
Neff: I plan on shooting it in the next year. I’ve written a lot before. I’ve written a lot of plays. A play of mine was produced in Chicago about a year and a half ago. If you can write, sometimes you owe it to yourself to do it. Do you ever complain like, “Aww, man, there’s never a movie I want to see at the theaters,” and you’re a writer? Well, then it’s your own fucking fault that you haven’t written a movie that you like to see. What right do I have to complain about there not being any good things to see when I have the ability to sit down and write exactly what I want to see? Now if anybody else wants to see it, that’s a totally different story. [Laughs.] I could have created the biggest fucking dinosaur turd ever, but we’ll see.
Gameological: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you’re also doing a voice in a Pixar movie.
Neff: Yeah, it’s called The Good Dinosaur. Certainly, I feel like this is one of the luckiest moments of my life. It’s a dream come true to work for that studio. They tell stories that I love. WALL-E, Toy Story, Ratatoullie, Finding Nemo—the list goes on. They’ve made a lot of incredible films, some of the best films that I’ve ever seen. I love WALL-E. Toy Story changed the way people thought about making animated films. Toy Story was an epically pivotal moment for a lot of kids who saw that movie. It’s amazing to be a part of that, that sort of environment. It’s like I’m Charlie in the chocolate factory, and sometimes you’re like, “Shit, am I Augustus Gloop? You know, other kids made it in. Maybe I’m not Charlie.”
Gameological: Have they talked about a game spinoff?
Neff: They talk about everything. It’s Disney, man. They’ll be making like—I don’t know, sponges.
Gameological: Will you be voicing the sponges as well?
Neff: Yeah, I’ll be voicing the dinosaur analog clocks that you can purchase. I’ll be doing the ticks and the tocks. Tick, tock, tick, tock. That’ll be me.
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.