For many, this year has been a chance to dive into video games as we look for a way to pass the time at home and escape the world, even if ever-so briefly. Across the spectrum of gamers, from the casual to the hyper-competitive, we’ve seen more and more people diving into the world of gaming this year, and the release of next-gen consoles this holiday season has only further opened up the opportunities for immersing ones self into a game.
Olivia Munn is among the few that’s probably played fewer games this year than normal, as she typically gets her gaming done from her trailer on set as she passes the time between shoots, but she’s recently gotten the chance to dive into Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla as part of LG’s “Zero In” series.
We got a chance to talk with Munn, who happily admits to being in the casual gamer category, through LG last week about representation in gaming, loving video games for the escape and storytelling, getting through this year, and much more.
What have been some of your favorite games you’ve played this year?
This year? Well, do you know the game Hearthstone? I mean, I love Hearthstone. That has been a game that has been really easy to keep in my life, because you can just pick up your iPad at any point and play a quick game. It’s quick and you get taken out pretty quick, as I can often see myself doing. But this whole year … see I usually get most of my game playing on set. I’ll put a console in my trailer and so I have not been on set this year, but being able to play Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was the first time I’ve really been able to sit down and play a game. It was the best. It’s been Hearthstone all year and then Valhalla.
It’s funny because being in quarantine — I’m just now putting the math together — it’s funny how it’s now Thanksgiving, and I remember when we had to go on lockdown. And I remember in February when we were talking about the pandemic and how many months have gone by, and I guess I could’ve been playing the whole time. But you’re just kind of on alert the whole time, like what’s going to happen? I guess I’m just now I’m putting the math together on how much of the year we’ve lost. So, thanks, Robby.
Sorry. I didn’t mean for this to become so existential.
It’s crazy to think about how much you didn’t do. Remember at the beginning of quarantine when people would talk about, “You know what, take this time to be creative. Write this script. Do this, do that.” I just want to survive. Can I just do that?
I feel the same way, because people were like, “Oh, back in the day people wrote great novels.” And I’m like, look, man, if I stay sane, like, I’m good. I don’t need to do something great. We’re all just trying to make it.
[Laughs] I love that, I don’t know why that made me laugh so hard. “Back in the day,” any of this is the same as back in the day, guys. Nobody in this lifetime has survived this. I’m like, everyone expected us to come out of this with East of Eden, and I’m like, you’ll be lucky if I learn to do a reel. That’s what I got. If you get a reel out of me, it’s been a good year. Don’t even think of East of Eden out of me.
[Laughs] I guess we should get back to the topic at hand. With Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and this partnership with LG, what have you enjoyed about that game? And when you do look for games to bring on set, what are things that draw you into games and are your favorite genres?
Well my favorite genres have been the fantasy first-person shooter. The Assassin’s Creed games I’ve loved, but I think Ubisoft has done a great job of making it user-friendly. You know, I’m not the best gamer. I never have been, but I really do love it. And games that make it easy for you to pick up and have fun at the drop of the hat without having to spend hours and hours to get into it are the games I gravitate towards and always have. But Assassin’s Creed, WoW, Call of Duty, Zelda on Switch has been really fun, [Super] Smash [Bros.], but being able to play the new Assassin’s Creed has truly been such a light in my life during this quarantine. My brother-in-law and I, we get together and play Assassin’s Creed over the holidays and stuff like that. So I was able to tell him I was getting Valhalla ahead of time and he was just so excited and able to live vicariously through me.
But it’s just really cool because for this one, specifically, for Valhalla you get to become a viking raider and, you know, you’re part of a viking raiding party, which is pretty epic. And there’s so many qualities to the game that you’re learning and being able to play it on this new LG OLED TV was truly an experience. Cause, electronics have just increased in their abilities, like every month there’s a new iPhone or new something and you start to have a hard time, at least for me, seeing the differences. You’re like, why is this better? Why am I upgrading? But as soon as they flipped on the TV and I got the game going it was so clear how immersive you get to be, because it truly is the best experience with the LG OLED TV. It’s like these 8 million self-lit pixels — and no, I don’t know what it means to be self-lit — but I do know that I was like, this looks really, really crisp and rich and you could really tell there were very deep black levels. Which you really need doing viking stuff like going through the waters, you can really see the different depths of water and stuff like that.
I remember pointing that out, like, wow that is so rich and look at that deep black, and you see how crisp it is. And they’re like, well that’s because there’s all the self-lit pixels, and I was like, “Mmhmm. You did it! Like, you did it!” Whatever LG did it really was a huge difference in how I’m seeing my TVs, but it’s like when all of the HD came in everyone was like, “Oh, ok” and there was a huge step up. This is a huge step up and it has that 4K resolution, right. Again, the numbers and letters always kind of go through one ear and out the other, but this experience was so good I was like, “OK, let me clock what that means,” and I still don’t really know what it means, I just know it looks really amazing.
Something I thought was interesting and I relate to a lot is like, I’m pretty terrible at a lot of games. I’m good at sports games and that’s where I lean on, but I like to dabble in stuff but I’m not a great gamer. And on top of that, for women in the gaming space, I feel like there’s a lot of gatekeeping that happens and it’s similar to how women are treated in the sports world and you are asked to be some historian of sports to prove your knowledge and people are always challenging you. But we need to be accepting of people who just kind of want to come into the space. And I wanted to know what you think of the importance of being able to say, there are a lot of people who enjoy gaming and we need to be representing them and targeting them as well as the super avid gamer.
I think there are so many more people who are below-average at gaming than there are people who are making huge livings at gaming. So the majority are more like me, and representation matters. Being an Asian woman in Hollywood is very isolating at times, and it has been, but at the same time it’s a path that I have to keep walking down to forge forward because representation matters. So the more you talk about things and show things that are reflective in other people’s lives, that’s how they can see themselves and see this is possible. Sometimes you don’t know something’s possible until you see someone else doing it — sometimes you don’t know something’s OK. Sometimes you don’t really know that you’re more normal than the world might make you believe. There are so many women who game and girls who game.
Like, last year, there was a woman who won the Hearthstone championship, VKLiooon, and I died. I couldn’t believe it. It was just so exciting to see her get to that level, and I just think there’s going to be so many more women coming to the forefront and so many more girls coming up and being real competitors on that big level. I won’t be one of them — it is a dream to become a Hearthstone champion. It’s on the list, but I’m well aware that I’m going to die before that happens. But I do … I see myself. I saw VKLiooon win the Hearthstone championship and I was so inspired. She’s an Asian women, I’m an Asian women. It inspired me. I thought, I should first spend more time playing Hearthstone, maybe I could do it. This is actually so cool that someone else who I feel close with or I think looks similar to me is getting to high levels on something I love so much. It was just super validating, and I think that’s what we’re going to see more and more. The more people who talk about it and get to really high levels, it will inspire more people to keep breaking boundaries and going those lengths.
And of course, there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t the best gamers. Like, I, whenever I play, I have to invert my Y-axis and even then it’s a little wonky for me. Every, maybe, 20 minutes I’ve got to be like, “wait, hold on, let me get my brain back around what I’m seeing.” And it’s hard, but I love it. It doesn’t really make for me to be the best gamer, but if more people just talk about how fun gaming is — because really gaming is for the masses. You don’t have to be the best. It’s made for us to become our own storytellers, especially games like Valhalla, where you get to choose your own adventure. It’s escapism at its best. It really allows us to delve into another world, another character, and just pretend for however long we have, and that is the essence of gaming. It’s not about being in eSports or an Overwatch team and being paid tons of money to play video games — I mean, that is really special. But I do believe that gaming is for mostly people who are just trying to escape.
And being part of a partnership with LG on the Zero In series, for you what it means to be part of that and be part of that representation of women in gaming, saying, I might not be the best but this is still something I love to do?
Yeah, it was really fun to have them reach out and to hear about the other people who were involved in it. And I was very clear, like, I love gaming but if you’re looking for someone who’s going to be able to compete at a high level, I’m not your girl. But they were like, no, this is just about people who love the experience. So that was a really fun thing to be able to be brought into this group of people.