A young woman stands on the open hangar door of a spaceship. She is wearing a green beanie hat. Two trusted teammates sit in front of her. They are cats. She holds their fates in her hands. One of these felines can save the planet. The other has secret plans set in motion to destroy everything we hold dear. Which one can our hero trust?
No, this isn't Shura's latest video, but an imagining of how her own, yet-to-be-developed game, Welcome to My Shuniverse, could pan out.
Computer games are important to Shura. So much so, some have actually inspired her music, such as on "White Light" from her debut album Nothing's Real, which she attributes to The Last of Us and Mass Effect.
"Musically it was inspired [by The Last of Us]...thematically it was inspired by Mass Effect. The soundtrack to The Last of Us was something I was really, really struck by. It wasn't a game I actually played. I watched my twin brother Nick play. We take turns, he'll play one game and I'll play the next. With The Last of Us, you can watch like it's a film, that lasts for 20 hours. The soundtrack was done by Gustavo Santaolalla, who did Brokeback Mountain. Very melodic, very beautiful guitar - which is how the extended version of "White Light" starts."
This dynamic of watching or playing is a great example of how games are fast becoming more and more like films. With increased production values, high-end casts and access to Hollywood writers there's definitely a blurring between the two industries.
"The best games for me are games that have cutscenes you can interact with. Mass Effect is great like that, you get choices, and the same with any Telltale Games series, whether it's The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. I prefer games where you can make choices and things are different as a result, I'm not as interested in [linear games]. It's why I like open world games, as you can do stuff in whatever order you feel like. The linear games, whether it's Uncharted or The Last of Us, I prefer watching them".
We then get stuck discussing our shared love of the "clusterfuck" that is Nathan Drake (from Uncharted), good ol' Sully and the possible future star of the series, before the conversation returns to Mass Effect and what exactly in it influenced "White Light".
“I mean in Mass Effect 2, Liara only turns up for five minutes, but it was the best five minutes ever."
"The Asari. I became obsessed with the Asari race. They're the blue aliens. Liara (an Asari) is amazing. Total babe. I was completely obsessed with her. I played as Fem-Shep (female version of the protagonist). I guess Liara is the canon love interest for the series, so I went with her as part of that. I thought it was an amazing idea for a race - they live for thousands of years, they're all female, the way they pro-create is a metaphor for the best sex ever. It's really well done. At the end she's a total badass. It kind of made me wish that by the end that I'd chosen to be a biotic (a character with telekinesis powers). [For my team] I'd always take Liara, and then probably Garrus. A badass girl and a badass boy. It's just a brilliant, brilliant series. It takes that choice making to the next level, because it affects every game in the series you play."
"The script totally varies, and if you're on a mission with your love interest, they have funny little asides, they bicker, and I really like the actor who does the voice of Fem-Shep (the female protagonist), Jennifer Hale. She does a lot in Metal Gear Solid, as she has a really low voice, and the actor who does Liara (Ali Hillis) is also Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. They're both really funny. When they do red carpet events together, they always jokingly flirt with each other saying 'we think that [the canon relationship] really should be Fem-Shep and Liara'. There was a really great campaign for Mass Effect 3 to encourage people to play as Fem-Shep. I always normally pick to play as the guy. Probably just by virtue of being brought up in that environment. And someone told me 'trust me, play as Fem-Shep as the acting is so good. Jennifer Hale is such a brilliant voice actor'. So I took a punt I did it, and I'm so glad I did as she's fucking hilarious."
Jennifer Hale's work in Metal Gear Solid series brings us to Shura's experiences with the latest entry in that renowned 'sneak-em-up' series.
"I've literally got an hour into the new Metal Gear, and I was on tour. It's so fucking hard. It's a tough game. Even on easy, I'm just like 'I've just been spotted again' and that horrible sound starts, and 'now I've got to run away and hide in a bush, fuck you world!" But [on tour] you have to generally pick stuff that's multiplayer. It's not too fair to go 'guys watch me play through this game'. So, normally on the road, we play FIFA. Even if you don't like FIFA you can get into it. As soon as I'm home it's single player games. It's a good way to relax. Getting some snacks, and with games like The Walking Dead you can eat popcorn while playing, as it's like a film and usually there's only one button. You don't have to be amazing to play. I'm not bad, but you don't have to be brilliant to enjoy. It's not about how good you are, but the choices you make. That's the great thing - those are games you can watch someone else play, because they'll do it differently 'What, I can't believe you shot them? 'Are you mental?'"
The Walking Dead games come courtesy of Telltale Games, whose titles also include Game of Thrones, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands series - which Shura has just started. She recommends I try The Wolf Among Us.
"That is fucking amazing. It's hilarious. Snow White is there and the three little piggies. It's fun as it's a grown up reimagining of all these stories you know really well as a kid. One of the pigs is smoking cigars all the time, Beauty & the Beast have been married for ages and are having really bad relationship problems, and he's scared she's cheating, really funny. It's set in rough downtown New York and everyone's smoking and drinking, it's great. I'm so picky about games. I'll get really excited by some and I'll buy them and play them and think 'this isn't what I need in my life'. There's only like 10 or 15 games that I've finished, but I play a lot of games. So I'm very picky about the ones I fall in love with"
“They better not release it right as I'm writing my second album. "
This brings us to our early video game experiences, the ones we fell in love with and those unforgettable moments when everything just clicked for the first time.
"The first time I remember being amazed by a game...well my older brother got a Nintendo 64, and seeing Mario 64 for the first time, seeing a 3D video game, and being like 'holy shit, this is insane!'. And then we begged our parents to get us an N64 and eventually we got one. I think Zelda: Ocarina of Time was my first real love, GoldenEye I loved, Banjo Kazooie too. I really liked RARE as a developer, and then Mario Party and Mario Kart - all that fun stuff you'd play with friends, ending up with a blister from the joystick. You'd lose friendships and make enemies by playing those games. [In GoldenEye] you'd pick Oddjob and no one could see you and you'd just kill everyone with the golden gun in one shot. I actually played it again a few years ago and was like 'oh my god, the graphics are so bad', but at the time, it was amazing. I remember getting the laser watch out and throwing mines on to things. I was a massive Nintendo kid, and then my older brother got a PlayStation and showed me Metal Gear Solid, and that blew my mind, but I wasn't really old enough to play it, but I would watch him play and I really loved how you could kill someone and to avoid getting spotted you'd open a locker and hide them, or you'd hide in a box, and the fact you could smoke a cigarette for no reason whatsoever.
"In Zelda, a moment I remember vividly was playing Epona's Theme on the ocarina (a woodwind instrument) and having a horse arrive was always so exciting for me. And the fact you could grow up, the fact you could become a teenager and be like 'holy shit I look so cool, I'm a grown-up' but it was like only 14, not even a grown-up. And having a love interest that never resolves itself, and fishing - where you can get a massive fish, such a stupid mini-game.
"I also loved Sim City, and I've wasted so many hours of my life on The Sims, and Championship Manager even, as I'm a football fan. Championship Manager tells you how long you've played it for, and you can see you've played for three and a half weeks and think 'I've wasted three and a half weeks of my life on this game', it's mad."
Compared with when Zelda, GoldenEye and Banjo Kazooie were lighting up consoles, there's a ridiculous amount of titles to choose from today, and though this can only be a good thing, it can make it difficult to narrow down the right one that you'll enjoy.
"Something being linear is a problem for me. As a control freak I want to have an impact on how it unfolds. Whereas I can happily watch a linear game if they're good. I watched one recently, a horror game called Until Dawn. It scared the shit of me though. There's a video of me on my Instagram of me watching Nick and this bird comes out, like a jump scare I am just absolutely screaming, it was so funny. Nick managed to keep everyone bar one person alive. I didn't see the twist coming, I should have done, but I thought it was a really fun, creative game. And silly, it didn't take itself too seriously, but that didn't mean it wasn't good".
We get to discussing the effect of the twist and how it manages to slowly reveal itself as the narrative progresses.
"You learnt very quickly that it wasn't a standard psychiatrist, like 'what the fuck, why is he seeing a wacko psychiatrist, and who am I in the scene?'. That's when I started thinking 'there's something going on here...'. And those scenes punctuate it really well, like having the chapters in Uncharted, it's a good place to stop. Whereas in Grand Theft Auto (GTA), there's never a really good place to stop, you end up thinking 'I could just keep stealing cars and pimping them up forever, wait I need money, so I'll go do this'. That's my favourite thing about GTA, modifying the cars, so fun. I just collect so many different cars. It's weird as I don't drive in real life. I love GTA. GTA V (set in LA) was massive. It's really exciting for me now. As now I've been to LA, as I'd not been before and I'm like 'this is Santa Monica, I've been here, I did a drug bust underneath the Pier, actually here'. And everyone's like 'What are you talking about?' and I have to say 'I'm not talking about real life, but Los Santos (in GTA), but it is here, I promise you, it's this place'.
“Welcome to my Shuniverse - a science fiction game where I save the world. With cats as side-kicks."
The increasing power of games to reflect reality gets us to the latest digital frontier - Virtual Reality (VR), which has seen the already released Oculus Rift and forthcoming PlayStation VR offering on the horizon.
"...the industries that I think are going to see the most profit from Virtual Reality are the porn industry and the gaming industry. It's just like 'I can watch porn, and be in the porn, or I can run through the level', imagine Uncharted in VR? I don't think people will want to watch a film, like sat in Virtual Reality. I think you have to be able to interact for it to work. Like Uncharted. They filmed my KOKO London show with VR, so I put on the headset just before and they showed me another show and I felt quite ill actually. I was just looking and thinking 'where are my legs? I don't have any". Very strange. I think it will take a while to get used to it.
"I'm excited for it, but I hope it's not like 3D. 3D film is shit, I'd rather see it in 2D. I hope it's not like that with games. I hope that the graphics look just as good. If it doesn't there's not really a point. I don't want to make the quality worse to enjoy something that's a bit of a gimmick. But I'm looking forward to trying it and excited to see what happens"
With VR though, there's the danger of losing the narrative and how much control and choices you'd have, and how they'd script it, especially for longer games.
"I don't think [the narrative] would be that strong, as there's [so many] possibilities. I really like, I thrive off my video games being like really good films. That's why I like Grand Theft Auto, it's scripted well, it's acted well, and it's really fucking long. Uncharted for me is 20 hours too short, I mean c'mon I need more of this. That's what's great about Mass Effect, it's really long."And also now, we're getting Hollywood movie stars, and there's a lot of money in video games now. You've got Ellen Page doing Beyond: Two Souls, and even though she was definitely basically in The Last of Us, though voiced by the girl from Recess. I'm amazed they got away with that. I'm really looking forward to the sequel. I actually haven't got through The Last of Us add-on, "Left Behind". I look forward to seeing that, I might make Nick play when I go home tonight".
At this point I have to mention the forthcoming E3 games conference in Los Angeles. The venue which will see the unveiling of a major new trailer for the new Mass Effect game, Andromeda.
"I really want to go to E3 one day, or any conference like that. I went to a Star Trek one once, not that I'm a massive Star Trek fan even, but it was really fun. My friend was working on it and got me in...there's a Simpsons episode where they do this, so I had to do it. There were like Klingons walking around. I love people that are passionate about stuff, I don't care what they're passionate about, whether it's Warhammer or computer games, or TV series. So much of being cool for so long was about looking like you didn't give a shit, like you didn't care about anything. But now, it's cool to just really like something, and it doesn't matter what it is. I mean most music producers are all really nerds who are just into production. They have girlfriends now as they're famous, but before they didn't as they were just fiddling around with Ableton (production software)."
"I'm glad you told me about the trailer, I'm going to be refreshing my news feed regularly. Every three months I'll just Google 'Mass Effect 4' for some news and maybe a screenshot or something. I don't want them to change anything, I want them to bring back Fem-Shep. There better be some good romances in there. I lived for those romances, they were so good. I mean in Mass Effect 2, Liara only turns up for five minutes, but it was the best five minutes ever, [even though] she's pissed off with you".
I mention that the game's release date has been pushed back from late 2016 to early 2017.
"I'm so annoyed. They better not release it right as I'm writing my second album. I'm just going to have to take a week off".
“I love people that are passionate about stuff, I don't care what they're passionate about, whether it's Warhammer or computer games, or TV series"
When you worked on Nothing's Real, did you have any games in mind it could soundtrack?
"No, I was more thinking about making my own game. I keep trying to @ Telltale Games [on Twitter] in the hope they'll want to collaborate on Welcome to My Shuniverse - a science fiction game where I save the world. With cats as side-kicks. There's always a cat in good science fiction films, there's always a cat."
Alien...The Fifth Element...
"I think there's a cat, oh wait it's a dog in Independence Day. But I'd love to make a game. I'd love to soundtrack part of a game, or have a sync with it. Jungle had a sync on Tales from the Borderlands with "Busy Earnin'", it was amazing and works so well. I thought a lot about a film actually. The song "Nothing's Real" has quite epic disco strings, and almost like trying to do a Bond theme. I wanted to do something really big, but in a bedroom way. There wasn't really a string quartet, we just had a few people come in and overdub stuff. It was an attempt at a theme tune to a film."
When you're writing, how visual is the creative process?
"Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. When I was writing "Touch", coming up with the concept of the video was almost an extension of the writing process of the song. As soon as I'd finished the latest single, "What's It's Gonna Be?", I knew I wanted to do a music video that was like a John Hughes' movie in 3.5 minutes. I am visual, but not always. I take inspiration when it comes and try and figure out how to get it if it doesn't.
Have you ever had a scene in a video game that's seeped into your creative process, aside from "White Light"?
"I think that's the most obvious one. Not necessarily scenes, but it can be anything, whether the theme or the music, I'm just inspired by whatever I'm doing at the time, watching a film like Interstellar, or watching Nick play The Last of Us. I was playing Monument Valley (a mobile puzzle game) on my phone and I got taken with the idea of this girl wearing a dunce hat trying to figure shit out - and I wrote a song called "Figure Stuff Out", it's not on the record, but we play it live a lot and I just like the idea of the innocence of all of us just trying to figure life out - and this game is a beautiful metaphor for life like 'for fuck's sake, I've just done this, why do I have to do it again? Even bigger and more complicated' and you feel like an idiot the whole time, with a hat.
It's a good metaphor, and you have a hat too...
"I have a hat so it's perfect really. So when I do a game with Telltale, you'll be able to customise the colour of my hat to suit your mood.
They'll be a canon hat?
"Of course there will, it'll be the Shura merch beanie, just to try and sell a few more. But, I'd like to actually make a proper game, even if it's only one episode. I'd want it to be like The Walking Dead, the comic book style with choices."
Would anyone die?
"I think I'd die frequently."