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Stuart Ashen Interview

Interview

For anyone that’s excitedly waltzed into a high street store, coolly surfed the Internet or even shrewdly broken into their neighbour’s home to get their hands on the delights of current generation gaming, there’s an unknown, seedy underworld waiting to be explored. Forget your quality made, high-priced HD consoles and ultra-cool handheld selection, there’s a universe of lightweight, barely playable gaming abominations ready to be examined by those who can stomach the horror. Fortunately, that task isn’t down to us, as YouTube’s satirical funnyman Stuart Ashen regularly dissects these travesties before our eagerly awaiting eyes. Turning the tables, I sit down to examine the Doctor and, more importantly, to shed light on his surge from average Brit to the Internet’s slightly funnier and well known English Gent.

Firstly, for those who haven’t witnessed your videos before, can you briefly explain what you’re all about?

I’m some idiot in a cheap suit who makes silly videos. They frequently involve me talking rubbish about a cheap electronic device which I throw about on an old sofa. Lots of people find that amusing, which is nice.

Were you always planning to create the ‘Dr Ashen’ persona, or was this purely down to your early success?

I didn’t put much thought into it, to be honest. (As you can probably tell by the way I use my real name…)

I’ve always used the suit and red tie for Internet stuff. Everything else developed naturally from what I was doing. So… It’s just me arsing about in a suit really.

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How did the quest for reviewing cheap Asian rip-offs of the PSP, DS etc start? Do you see an end to the madness?

Someone on a forum I used to frequent spotted the original POP Station on Ebay. I bought it and ad-libbed a quick video to show it to other forum members who were interested. One of them presumably sent the link to B3ta, who put it in their newsletter the following week.

As I only expected about 20 people to watch it I didn’t actually brand it in any way or even say who I was. One of the main reasons I produced a second review was to prove I’d made the first!

I don’t see an end to knock-off tat any time soon. In fact it seems to be increasing in number – nearly every major product has two or three barely functional clones within days of release these days.

“One of the main reasons I produced a second review was to prove I’d made the first!”

Do you always keep the audio from the first recording of your reviews, or is it added on afterwards?

I never dub any audio for a review – it’s all done live and in-camera. And it’s painfully obvious there’s no script, so if I dry up I have to start again. It’s all very low tech.

How did an appearance on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe come about? Do you think it will lead to other mainstream TV work at all?

The Screenwipe producer sent me an e-mail asking if I’d appear in my terrifying Noseybonk mask. I said yes. Not a very exciting story, really.

I can’t imagine it leading to anything else as it was just a tiny cameo where you can’t see my face and I had no lines. I’d probably need a bit more to launch a glittering TV career…

Do you think your Internet media work is taken seriously by industry ‘professionals’?

It wasn’t until fairly recently. It’s all down to the numbers – if you regularly get enough views then people do start to take notice.

Out of everything you have reviewed, which is the worst product?

Probably the Tilt Games, which were little LCD things housed in fake Wii remotes. You can’t see the screens and the motion sensing doesn’t work at all. They were about as much fun as chewing on a towel. A burning towel.

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Can we expect to see more POP-related videos soon? What does the next year have in store for you?

I’ll keep reviewing the POP-Station related gubbins as long as they keep releasing them. I did refuse to do any more of them at one stage, but people love to see them for some reason.

What does the next year hold? I’ve just joined up with ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, which will give me a bit more freedom with what I can include in videos. There’s also some fairly exciting news on the horizon but tediously, I’m not at liberty to say what this stage. (It’ll probably go tits-up anyway.)

“I’ll keep reviewing the POP-Station related gubbins as long as they keep releasing them.”

Onto gaming, how often do you play?

I haven’t really played anything for over two months due to being hideously over-busy. I’ve had a quick look a handful PS2 games for an upcoming video but that’s about it really.

Things should calm down soon, so I should finally be able to complete Fable II and have a proper go at Street Fighter IV.

What’s your verdict so far on the current generation? Are you a PS3 or 360 man, and have you got love for the Wii?

I only have a 360 at home. I did get a Wii on the day of release, but it was rarely used and I sold it a year later for a terrifying profit. I don’t even know anyone with a PS3. Well, actually I do know one person but he lives about 200 miles from me, which isn’t very handy.

“I did get a Wii on the day of release, it was rarely used and I sold it for a terrifying profit.”

Do you own a properly made, quality produced handheld that rivals the Neo Double Games and POP Station?

The Game King I reviewed is surprisingly well-built for something with such low specs. And it has a proper cartridge slot and everything!

I have a minor obsession with proper handheld consoles. I had a Gameboy and a Lynx, and later picked up a Game Gear second hand. I bought a GBA on the day of release, and also a GBA SP at release so I could actually see the games I was trying to play. I had a NeoGeo Pocket Colour too. These days I just have a DS Lite, Gameboy Micro and PSP.

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What’s your favourite game this gen?

Hmmm. In terms of play time and just plain fun, it’s the budget-tastic Earth Defence Force 2017. I think it helped that I hadn’t played the PS2 version with more features beforehand, though.

What’s your favourite game ever?

Er… Probably Chaos Strikes Back on the Atari ST. But that’s ignoring hundreds of other wonderful games.

As it’s nearly time for E3, who do you think will announce the biggest shock, and what do you think it’ll be?

I have absolutely no idea. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if I’m even vaguely interested in a single announcement.

If you likened yourself to a gaming character, who would it be and why?

That pirate who swings around on the chandelier in the Scumm Bar in The Secret of Monkey Island. He’s amusing at first, but soon becomes irritating – then he’s suddenly gone without a trace. I imagine my career will take a similar path.

“I have a minor obsession with proper handheld consoles.”

Name one game-based film we should watch (if you can think of any).

That’s easy! I can only think of one that isn’t utter rubbish, and that is Press Start. It’s a genuinely funny, low-budget independent film which pokes fun at gaming conventions.

If you had to completely banish one current gen console from the Earth, what would it be and why?

Ugh. I hate destroying things. I suppose it would have to be the new 3000 series PSP, because the games are generally rubbish and you can’t even mod them to play anything decent like you could with the old ones.

How would you accomplish such destruction?

With panache. And hammers.

Finally, can Thunderbolt have one of your action figures, and do they work as a means of inflicting damage upon you in a voodoo doll fashion?

The action figures are now reserved for special occasions only. Pleasingly they cannot be used to damage me via ritualistic voodoo – any such injuries are transferred to actor John Simm, as the figure actually bears his likeness.

Thanks very much to Stuart who took time out of his busy schedule to meet my pestering request. For all his latest reviews, be sure to check out his YouTube Channel and of course, his regularly updated Twitter page. His DVD, Ashenthology 1, can be bought direct from his website. Expect to see a full review soon, as we throw his brown-sofa related shenanigans into our number-crunching machine to see what it spews out.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

Gentle persuasion

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