An Open Letter to Ving Rhames

Dear Ving Rhames,

It was sometime in the late nineties when I read your interview in Empire or Total Film or whatever it was (you were already too mainstream for the good film rags of the time like Neon). You were promoting a film called Rosewood. I remember the interview vividly because not only did the questions deviate away from Rosewood, but you answered these pressing questions with a perspicacity that was inspiring. Until it was discussed, I had never considered that the plaster on the back of Marcellus Wallace’s head had any kind of significance. You made me think about some of the subtleties that I might have failed to absorb in films and opened my mind. After that interview I resolved to watch Rosewood at some point in the near future.

That was over ten years ago. Today I am standing in front of some guy with a worn woolie cardigan. His pregnant girlfriend is sat smoking a cigarette in the chair behind him, and I am listening to him extol the virtues of modern dance music while he grins away, high as a kite on MDMA.

True story: this could be me, only black

It was those frayed elbows that destroyed a small part of me, as it reminded me of how, when I was a teenager,  I would just wear the knees of my jeans away with scant regard for how it looked. Some I knew used scissors to achieve the same effect. The holes in our knees were meant as some kind of symbolism for being down with the working class, or being poor, or… something. The hilarious thing is all of my friends who were much poorer than me all dressed immaculately, embarrassed of their upbringing or too proud to want to look like “a fucking homeless person”.

At the same time we were all playing Mortal Kombat as though it was awesome or something just because it had blood in it and violence was cool. Before I even knew what irony was I was playing Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude. I didn’t know any better at the time, but that doesn’t quash the guilt I feel for knowing I have finished that game seven times.

Let me try to get back to the present day Mr. Rhames. This kiddy, because that is all he could have been, insisted on playing me some Girl Talk that started with Iron Man by Black Sabbath. He mistakenly told me it was by Iron Maiden.

In my drunkenness I despaired that this know-nothing fuckface was now playing me Kula Shaker’s cover of ‘Hush’ without a clue of how terrible it was. Then he slammed on ‘Brimful of Asha’, by one-hit wonders Cornershop. His girlfriend perked up at this point:

“I haven’t heard this in ages!” she said, as though there was any kind of need for a revival of shitty 90s indie tosh.

“There is a reason for that,” I replied. She laughed and then realised I was serious.

It was depressing seeing life through the eyes of someone younger and, in so doing, making your own youth look equally as embarrassing with hindsight and misgivings.

You try and fool yourself that the thirty hours you put into Spawn: The Video Game on the Dreamcast was in some way meaningful. I imagine, Ving, that when you took on the role in the Dawn of the Dead remake you felt much the same way. It was a way to boost your visibility. Really, though, you are just back pedalling on previous statements you have made – hoisted by your own petard, if you will.

We would all like to think that we stand here with some kind of integrity, only to realise that for every heartfelt statement meant in all earnestness about thinking that JRPGs suck (this sentiment might just be my own; I’m not saying that you hate Final Fantasy), you can find yourself dropping over 60 hours on Tales of Vesperia and not hating all of it as you once would have tried to.

Man, me 5 years ago would have kicked my present-day arse.

We might rail on about better music, better films, better games but most of the time all we really want is a better, easier life. Hours of Jersey Shore, Final Fantasy (again, the views expressed by the author in no way reflect yours, Mr. Rhames) and Arcade Fire albums makes it easy for a good man to crack and decide “fuck it, everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t I?”

I reckon I watched that resolve break in you while you co-starred in Piranha 3-D. Did you really need the cash? Surely Michael Clarke Duncan could’ve picked up that one. Even ‘Tiny’ Lister needs the occasional piece of work. But Piranha 3-D was like a festering stomach ulcer: poisonous, painful, and sickening. Whatever you did to justify it to yourself, I hope it doesn’t keep you up at night.

I understand if you have elected to stop reading after I slagged off Piranha 3-D, Ving. You have to understand that I know where you are coming from.

You see, I just played Bulletstorm, and I watched People Can Fly sell the fuck out. The opening sequence was as linear and as handholding as you could possibly get. But Ving, you know what? I think I liked it.

I know, it’s terrible: I’m starting to go soft in my old age. I would suggest that I start wearing slippers and watching safe sitcoms like King of Queens but the problem is I already do (well, I do wear slippers so it makes me feel like I should watch bad sitcoms). I can’t help it, my feet get cold on the tiled floor while I’m forced to listen to those damn kids playing hop-hip [Ed: note that AJ insisted that this was not a typo no matter how much I insisted it was] music upstairs and crashing round like the inebriated fornicators they are. I have to snuggle up in my electric blanket and comfort myself that the game Nier isn’t that bad because the music direction is pretty good. What kind of pretentious nonsense is that?

Any excuse to use an image from Gentlemen Broncos.

Who knows Mr. Rhames, perhaps the next thing I’ll be doing is dropping time on Dragon Quest like the old-man bore that I am.

Well, there’s me waffling on about myself again. I am generally fine and may have exaggerated certain events for comedic purposes. Also my argument is starting to fizzle out (dare I say it: much like your career) as I lose sight of the argument. Seriously, though, I am getting worried that the best has been and gone and I am not going to experience another moment like that interview you gave where I felt like things could be more than they seemed… although that, of course, is (probably) a load of old rubbish.

Maybe I’ll wrap up now and get on with playing some Knights Contract. You must be a busy man and everything.

Best Wishes,

AJ aka The Badger Commander

P.S: I watched Rosewood two days ago. It was pretty racist in its treatment of both whites and blacks throughout. Not to mention the story seemed to be mostly sensationalist bullshit. Shame it took me this long to watch it.


9 responses to “An Open Letter to Ving Rhames”

  1. GordoP Avatar

    Now, now…everybody needs bosom for a pillow.

    1. badgercommander Avatar

      If that is all you derived from that piece then SEGA have mercy on your soul

  2. Dylan Avatar

    Dude, what?! Man, insulting Cornershop is not cool. NOT cool. It seems to me someone is in serious immediate need to learn some lessons from Rocky I – III. Perhaps some heavy soup would help.

    1. badgercommander Avatar

      There are no lessons to be learned from Rocky, NONE.

      1. Dylan Avatar

        When in doubt, punch. If punch isn't strong enough, run a lot and then punch.

  3. Harbour Master Avatar
    Harbour Master


    There's nothing wrong with getting high on a game with smooth execution. There really isn't. So many things have been said and done in games that it's difficult to fight out of the strait-jacket of well-trodden clichés, themes and mechanics. I used to get wound up over "selling the same shit" and thinking the industry was going to the dogs, where the fuck has all the difficulty gone… but it's just not true.

    There is so much exciting stuff being done right now and I think you're just nosing the wrong corners. I am so glad to be gaming right now, even if I don't have the minutes to flirt with any games right now.

    Mainstream is going through some particular upheaval and the rise of the cut-price->free game, fuelled by the ascent of mobile platforms is probably going to change everything. But I have no doubt that good stuff will still be made.

    And if your old heroes no longer match up to what they once were – there will always be new heroes.

  4. badgercommander Avatar

    I definitely agree there is a sea change waiting to happen in the games industry. There are also shit tons of good games out there, I was just having a particularly bad couple of weeks and decided to poke some fun at myself for being such a goddamn curmudgeon. Also, I had just watched Rosewood and these two things seemed to converge.

  5. ShaunCG Avatar

    Kula Shaker and Cornershop… nothing like some boring, hollow music to liven up a party huh. I can understand getting Sabbath and Maiden confused though; they must sound pretty similar in a dubstep remix. ;)

    And… as to the actual argument there, beneath the self-effacing humour and the mild despair and the rest of it… you already know that I feel differently about games like Bulletstorm (actually that's maybe not the best example as for you I think a sense of betrayal, of being caught out by the game's own hype, was a part of why you disliked it so much?) and am often the sort of guy content to play through a game on medium so that I can "experience everything", rather than batter through a game on hard (although I am increasingly pushing myself to play games on tougher modes). [Edit: the reason I mention this was a sort of roundabout way of addressing the question of "accessibility" in games… I'll happily play something obtuse but if it's frustrating that's a major turn-off for me. I play games to evade stress, not generate it.]

    But those personal preferences aside, I think the argument that mainstream big-£££ titles are increasingly of a type, of a design philosophy, of a tried-and-tested marketing stripe is not at all unfair. As mentioned over on I'm brewing up some thoughts on why some such games work and others don't, but the trend is pretty clear. But personally I don't feel hugely offended by this, but perhaps that's because I'm a fairly PC-centric gamer and cut my teeth on that platform. I've always played and had access to a vast variety of game types and genres and indie titles and so on and on, whereas consoles, by their very nature, tend to be a little more limited in terms of what they can offer (they can do RTS, sure, but rarely well) and also the higher-cost games demands a more conservative approach to development. Well, possibly.

    I think HM is right, though, there is a lot of exciting stuff out there and the continued rise of the indie scene, the growth of digital distribution platforms, the explosion of the mobile/SmartPhone market into something that should actually interest core gamers (ugh, hate that phrase) and so on all speaks of exciting things to come.

    Ving Rhames, on the other hand… well, I think his best has come and gone.

  6. […] not to forget AJ’s recent Open Letter to Ving Rhames – a paean to ageing cultural tastes if ever there was one – and Kevin’s interview […]