Interview | Rosario Dawson Discusses Black Ops 3, Virtual Reality, and Zombies

Actress Rosario Dawson loves to play games. When she’s not acting, she has a controller in her hand. So when Activision asked if she’d be up to hand deliver Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 game to some unsuspecting Amazon Prime customers in Manhattan, she was game. In this exclusive interview, the actress explains how she suffered from “Nintendo thumbs” as a kid, and warns that once the Holodeck becomes a reality, she’ll be checking out of reality.

Crave: What’s a favorite video game moment from playing games when you were younger?

Rosario Dawson: We had Nintendo. I was 10 and we were living in San Francisco, and I remember the first time — which is now totally a normal thing — but it was the first time that I was going to school and I had to take a test and my thumb really hurt. I could barely write legibly, which was important — because kids type everything now — but we actually had to write. And I realized, “Oh, so playing Mario Bros. for eight hours every day, or as much as I can possibly get every single day, I had my thumbs permanently bruised.” You know how Barbie’s feet are almost like perm heels, my thumbs were permanently bent out for a while and they were bruised. I had bruised and hurt myself. That was, the first time I got hurt by a video game. So it was really funny.

But you kept playing.

I had to keep playing because things kept happening. Like I was almost towards the end of Mario Bros. and you had to leave it overnight so you can keep playing the next day because you couldn’t just turn it off and save, and my mom unplugged it. It was really upsetting. I remember looking at my mom, I’m like, “Do you know what you did? You’re supposed to be looking out for me all the time. I can’t trust you!”

And now we’re in a day where kids playing games for hours can lead to professional careers as Call of Duty players. What do you think of eSports?

Oh, it’s amazing. I’m trying to get my brother in with Call of Duty because he’s going to play video games all day anyway. He’d be a great professional because he’s acted like a pro for so long. I think it’s remarkable and amazing. My little godson told me he wants to be a basketball player and a video game maker. He wants to be both. Why not?

What do you think of the depth of the video games we’re seeing today like Black Ops 3, which are a far cry from Mario Bros. back in the day?

It’s real, and it’s adult. A lot of people are making games and they’re making really remarkable entertainment for people and it’s immersive. It’s to the point now where I watch movies and I get a little bored. I’m like, “Those are really awesome, but I just feel like I should be able to go right right now and go look over there for a little bit, and then come back for the story.” It’s like, “Why can’t I do that?” And I think movies are being influenced by games in that way, and vice versa. They’re really captivating, exploratory worlds. And because there are such smart, incredible people behind them with such huge experience that have been playing those games since Atari, they’re able to take it to the next level beyond what our expectations are. I wonder what these going to be when we’re really playing Oculus Rift games and all of that kind of stuff and really getting into Holodeck game playing. As remarkable and incredible as these games are now, there is still so far yet to go.

What are your thoughts on the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 3?

When I’m watching the commercial for Call of Duty and the dude’s there strapped in with all his stuff and flipping around and doing all this kind of stuff, I want to do that. I want to holograph my own self in there. That’s what maybe Black Ops 4 is going to be like, you can actually get a little 3D scan of your face with some app that will exist then, and just put yourself there perfectly. How cool would that be?  We’ll be able to actually have the gear and stuff like that almost Wii-style so you can really be physical about it and go. There’s still so much to explore and that’s just really exciting that really great, smart adults are behind it. I grew up with Big and I always knew when I got older I was still just going to be a big kid.

Having played the game at E3 what are your thoughts on the new Black Ops 3 Zombies mode?

I’m a huge zombie fan. I’m like obsessing on Walking Dead right now. I am super stoked about it. That’s going to be the most likely mode that me and my brother will play – just because it’s my favorite thing and I love that. It’s so fun that there are different modes that you can play in these games. Once upon a time you got a game, you played, and then that was it. You got the bad guy at the end and it was over, and you couldn’t even save it.  Now, you can put off finishing out the campaign and go play Zombies or multiplayer or go back and play a different character in a totally different way and make different choices. It’s really affecting how I watch television and movies. I start getting annoyed that I can’t go right. I want to go to do that, that room looked really interesting.

Black Ops 3 also adds co-op campaign, so you no longer have to fight over the controller.

Yeah, exactly, which is important and highly necessary. Maybe that will make people a little bit nicer when guests like me come over and want to play. 

Activision developers like Treyarch have been using full performance capture with Hollywood actors. How have you seen games open up new opportunities for actors?

That’s just so incredible that we’re making everything that much more realistic and that much more immersive. I’ve been able to do a voice on some games (Syndicate, Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure). For my comic book that I did a few years ago, Occult Crimes Taskface, Tony Shasteen took photos and then he worked on them and he would draw everything out and he’d try to make it as photorealistic as possible. Now there are these apps and things like that to make it easier. The creativity that’s being explored right now is just beyond the imaginations of a lot of people, and now we’re here.

It begs the question of what comes next if these are the types of games we can play now. It makes sense that it’s such a huge industry because it’s drawing all types of people. It’s not just for kids anymore. There’s a lot of us who are pushing the kids aside and going, “Do you understand endless lives? Like are you serious. I’m playing this game over.  I’m going to be a stealth ninja. I’m not going to kill anybody. I’m just going to go through and figure it out.” It’s just like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. That’s what these games feel like. You’re not just going left or right anymore.

As an actor are you looking at video games as a potential medium you’d like to explore through performance capture?

One hundred billion percent. I have a comic book, OCT, that I’ve had for a really long time as property and that is my dream. That is like a bucket list. At some point we will be having this conversation talking about this game. The world that we’ve created in OTC would just be remarkable and really amazing to be able to play as a game. That would be literally a dream come true. It’s been a dream for a really long time and I am not giving up. It’s going to happen one day.

What are your thoughts on Oculus Rift and what virtual reality is opening up?

It’s huge. It’s amazing. It’s necessary. It’s the future. The only thing about it that makes me sad is the fact that it makes the old Star Trek feel really old. It’s like Back to the Future, where we’re in the future of the future. We’ve had all of this incredible technology and phones do everything. But the Holodeck was still one of the few things that was would be amazing to have. I feel like we are right around the corner from that and Oculus Rift gets us there very quickly. I’m very excited about that and I feel very bad for all of my friends and family because I will probably not be available much once that Holodeck exists. I’ll just need a feeding tube and I’m good to go.

That’s like Ernie Cline’s book, Ready Player One

Yeah, I know. I can’t wait. I heard they’re making that into a film, right?

Yeah, Spielberg is making it into a movie.

That’s cool.