There are certain characters who loom large over the decades and are uniquely able to reveal how games have changed over the years. Duke Nukem is arguably the foremost of them all, having gone from an unknown, silent hero to a first popular, then ostracised parody known across the world.
In order to understand how Duke’s changed and where the line falls between personality and reality, we talk to Jon St. Jon, who’s been providing Duke’s voice since 1995 and who knows Duke better than anyone. We discuss how Duke’s legacy has defined Jon’s career for better and worse, what Jon thinks of Duke’s controversial quips and more.
Unlimited Hyperbole is a short, weekly podcast about videogames and the stories we tell about them. The show is divided into seasons of five episodes, each with a topic that’s used as a prompt when interviewing special guests. This season we’re talking about “Matters of Character” – and to find out more about the production of this episode, read after the jump.
Duke Nukem is an odd franchise, I think. It’s one of those games which we all know is important but which nobody above a serious threshold of seriousness wants to talk about in a positive light. Instead of remembering how Duke’s interactive environments and anarchic level designs helped establish how we create convincing simulations, we apply these ideas to Half-Life instead. Duke meanwhile gets glossed over; dismissed as proof of immaturity in the medium.
In reality though Duke Nukem 3D was a hugely influential game and it’s impact can be seen in everything from Deus Ex to Serious Sam.
Chatting with Jon, he intimated that part of that may stem from a holier-than-thou opinion some people have of Duke nowadays and – though I think DNF is terrible for many objective reasons – there may be some, minor truth in that. Mainly though, I think it’s a mixture of short-term memory and self-aggrandisement: we don’t think Duke Nukem 3D was as important as it was because we don’t want to believe how little we’ve advanced since then.
As Hotline Miami (a game I think we’ll be discussing for years and which no reviews have understood yet) also proves: there’s nothing to say that the really important games have to be pleasant ones.