After spending his early twenties moving back and forth between Essex and Peterborough because, as he describes it, he “wasn’t wanted in either of them,” author and podcaster Richard Bass settled down, got married to a woman he met at a Buffy convention and had a pair of children. Along with friend Kevin Chapman, a former financial advisor, Bass is the host of the popular comedy podcast Best Thing From and the UK’s number one independent gaming podcast, The Mature Gamer Podcast.
In 2014, Bass and Chapman published Best Thing From, Volume 1, in which they irreverently tackle topics such as Doctor Who, Twitter, football and banking. They have and since followed it up with Volume 2 and Volume 3.
Pretty good, I’d say. Looking back, my parents were quite happy to let me explore my options; they’ve always supported my hair-brained schemes, endured my mishaps, and helped me keep my options wide open. When I tell them I want to do something, they’re always behind me, meaning over the past 10-15 years, I’ve worked in a ridiculous variety of roles — 12 by my count — including training to be a nurse, becoming an IT teacher in a secondary school and lots of sales and customer service bits in between. I think this has made me quite rounded, with lots of different experiences. When I want to do something, I get cracking.
What made you initially decide to start a podcast?
I met Kevin at university, and it didn’t take long before he was giving me lifts to and from classes. We hit it off quite well when he refused to call me Richard because he already knew someone with that name, and I accepted the new name Steve. I think we’d exchanged some kind of calling card that showed we both had broken brains, and it pretty much went from there.
Podcasts came into the picture on one of our trips home. He introduced me to The Complete Guide to Everything, a show he had been listening to religiously for weeks. We passed a sign from a company called “Alan’s Potatoes” which claimed they were “The best potatoes in Lincolnshire,” and a debate was sparked. We couldn’t see how Alan could possibly make that claim without trying every other potato in the county, so we began talking about how we’d go about testing them all to prove him wrong.
Like most of our conversations, we moved away from the original idea of testing spuds within seconds, and started talking about the best thing from Lincolnshire overall, then the best thing from every county in the country. By that night, Kev had bought and setup a website called Best Thing From, and every Wednesday from then on we drove around the nearby counties trying to find the best thing from all the places we visited so we could spend the next evening talking about our adventures.
We did that show for several months before we became completely broke; petrol costs were killing us. So we took a long break before deciding we could probably hold our own talking about videogames. Mature Gamer was born, and the unexpected success of that show has given us the impetus to restart Best Thing From in a new format, and begin really flexing our creativity.
In what ways are you and Kevin Chapman most similar? And in what ways are you most different?
I think we’ve both spent our lives going from one crazy idea to another, trying to strike it lucky with whatever interests us at a given moment. Once we’d met and realised we were both a little bit mad, the projects have flowed freely and we’re constantly finding ourselves in ridiculous situations that we have no business being part of. If one of us has a crazy idea, we send a text message or an email; if it’s me, it’s usually at some ridiculous time of night when I’ve woke up because I suddenly had a plan. Sometimes they’re duds, but with the regularity of us throwing out ideas, we always have something new on the schedule.
The differences make it work all the more, because Kev loves to get obsessed with a specific and focused topic and he devours all mention of that topic until he has mastered it. I tend to focus on the bits I need to know, and try my luck at reaching out to people for help, support or resources as I go along, which is where we end up involved in unusual circumstances or fluke scenarios. An example that still makes my brain hurt from last year is when I read an article discussing the closure of the video and gaming rental company LoveFilm. I wondered what they’d do with a warehouse full of games, so I emailed them to ask and sounded the email off with a cheeky request for any leftovers they might like to donate to our community. Within a couple of days, I had a response offering us thousands of games. We set up a “sharing the love” library and have spent the months since distributing these games for free all over the UK via post. Our community were really grateful and excited, all off the back of a silly email I sent out of curiosity.
I think my flights of fancy and his obsessions work quite well together; I’d burn out too quickly without the amount of research he puts in to avoiding mistakes, and I think he’d get bored if there wasn’t the chance that something lucky might come around. The fact we’re both working on it in different ways keeps it going long enough that when we’d normally stop, there’s enough momentum and support to keep us going on the days we feel a bit low.
What expectations did you have for the current console generation, and have the Playstation 4 and Xbox One lived up to them?
Before the next generation kicked off, we talked about how a generation is usually a good ten year slog, people often forget that, and at the moment it feels as though the world is a bit upset that they’ve spent all this cash out on an Xbox One or a PS4 and there’s not a library full of classics waiting for them from the get-go. The whole thing kicked off too early, meaning lots of games have been postponed to give them time to improve, or aren’t as polished as they could be. As someone involved in videogame journalism, what should be quite a fun and exciting time is often marred with unhappy gamers who rightly or wrongly want more for their investment. I think this generation will be amazing, like they all are, there’s too much potential for either console to flop. People love to think that one side is winning over another, but as long as we’re getting ground-breaking efforts from either platform, the gamer wins.
What Gamsecom announcements did you find most exciting or interesting?
It was an interesting year for Gamescom. The Tomb Raider announcement sent everyone into a frenzy, but it was quite obvious from the get-go that there wouldn’t be a permanent exclusivity deal in place. I think Microsoft wanted to generate as much fuss as possible so that the type of gamer who doesn’t really read the news would hear Tomb Raider was an Xbox-only game, and then not be around to pick up the later news that it was only for a short time.
I thought it was interesting that the Xbox Kinect and the PlayStation Vita were not mentioned in the slightest by either company. It seems that gamers may have killed the Kinect with their cynicism towards it. The Vita seems to have become an indie handheld machine, judging by the response from Sony on Twitter, which is very cool, but also slightly concerning as I wonder whether there’s enough pull in the 100+ titles they’ve got in the works to help the Vita thrive.
The rest of the talk seemed a bit too focused on the types of games that everyone already knows about. For me, it seemed silly talking about FIFA and Call of Duty because 99.9999% of gamers already know full well that these games will be there every year, time after time.
What are your thoughts on the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus and their eventual role in the world of video games?
Great question. I find the whole VR headset movement fascinating; it has the potential to be amazing. Before Facebook took over Oculus Rift, I was concerned that it might be yet another niche technology which would die by the wayside along with many other attempts at VR headsets. It seems as though they have faith in it by the fact they’ve spent billions to grab control. Under Zuckerberg, I can see the headsets costing next to nothing, and offering us the Earth. He plans to have them replacing phones, replacing working in an office; there are heaps of potential uses there that mean we could be interviewing folk from home, going to the cinema, the football, the theatre, all from our sofa. I’d love that, but then I’m a bit of a stay at home hermit sometimes I guess!
What’s the most enjoyable video game you’ve played recently?
My answer to this changes all the time, as you can imagine. Time flies so quickly I was thinking back through the big games I really enjoyed and realised that 3-4 of them were from last year! Beyond 2 Souls, The Last of Us… they were two really powerful games that I really loved. Lego Marvel Superheroes was another game I didn’t expect to enjoy, but absolutely loved. I have a guilty love for Simpsons Tapped Out which is bordering on obsession. Mature Gamer listeners are sick of hearing me talk about it, when it’s essentially just a click and collect time sink. I’ve spent the past month or so playing XCOM Enemy Unknown until the late hours of the evening; now that I’m back at work, I’m finding it difficult to balance the gaming, the writing, and the full time job of being a teacher. So everything takes a bit of a step back for a couple of weeks while I find my feet again.
What’s the best piece of clothing you own?
It was a tough choice, mostly because I’m terrible at fashion. But another example of my ridiculous emails coming to fruition is from a few years back when Kev and I organised a charity walk for a girl who was going to America for special treatment on a brain tumour. Whilst emailing companies for items we could give away during a raffle, I began to go on a bit of a tangent, trying to find a company who would support us with discounted hiking gear so the group could complete the walk safely. I emailed a man about helping us out, and he was so happy to help that he sent me an extremely comfortable pair of walking boots that I’ve worn pretty much every day since because nothing has ever fit me better. I’ve even slept in them once or twice whilst staying in a mouldy hostel or camping out. They’ve inadvertently become part of my (not at all appealing) look.
If you could travel back in time to any point in history and get to hang out for a week or so before being transported back to the present, where in time would you choose to go?
We talk about time travel on a very recent Best Thing From episode. I think there are too many periods to pick just one. I’d be spoilt between spending a week with long dead family members, and adventuring through history learning about dinosaurs or figuring out whether religions are right or wrong. I’d possibly stump for a more selfish plan and go back far enough that I could invest in some of the best companies of today, and write some of the best songs, books and films, ready to sell them on. I’ve often felt going forward would be the best option, going far enough into the future that technology has found a way to overcome death and I’m set. It’d be nice to go forward and see how everyone’s stories have panned out, although I’d want to avoid the ending because that’d mess with my head a little!
Just out of curiosity, what are the best potatoes you’ve ever had?
It may seem odd to even have an answer to this, but it took me half a second to think of Sacrewell Farm just outside Peterborough. We once subscribed to a thing called Riverford, where they send you a box of vegetables every week, and they’d come straight from the farm still covered in dirt, etc. I never knew how much flavour potatoes, carrots, and what not had until I’d tried them. The cheap stuff in supermarkets doesn’t compete in the slightest, but because it’s cheaper I’m kind of stuck with it now.
What are you working on next?
Currently Kev and I are working on a new series each. We planned and wrote the framework for two stories and then swapped over to flesh them out. We’ve just finished that phase and we’re on to reading each other’s efforts, ready to hack and edit them into a releasable novel. I have the responsibility of editing a novel we’ve discussed and planned for the past four years about a mature student who tries to balance his stagnating married life as a grown-up with the exciting changes in his new life at university surrounded by teenagers he doesn’t like. We’re due to release in mid-September, so the next few weeks are going to be very busy!
Kev has just taken on the responsibility of editing our second story, born out of a conversation we were once had about how we’d deal with the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse in our hometown. It covers the first week of a man and his wife trying to survive with two of their mates, in a very down-to-earth and realistic setting. No guns, no fantasy nonsense, just a viral infection spreading around a small British town. Zombies often get a bit of an eye roll because they’re ten a penny now, but it’s a theme we both love and something our fanbase seems to enjoy, as they’ve had us do two different episodes based around zombies and The Walking Dead in the past few months, so we think they’ll love this.