Evil Empire

Evil Ed leans forward in his chair. He sips his Cuervo shot, then sips his Budweiser, puffs his cigarette, and considers the girl.

"I want to be the hero," he tells her. "I want to save the world."

"When I'm online playing Unreal Tournament against some guy in Tokyo, I'm not only pitting myself intellectually against this person, but also physically -- you sweat during the game, you're grinding it out. It's so much better than chess. Because chess is a representation of a battle. It's the battle of the wits using your rook or pawn or whatever. But when you're playing Doom or Quake, you got your armor, you got your weapons. You can decide the attributes of your character -- strength, wisdom, intelligence, dexterity, charisma, ego.

You come up with a persona, you, and incorporate that persona. It's dreamlike, but it's also a whole world that's receptive to you. You're going to a new place. A different place. And that is the place that is going to win over everything. No presidents. No laws. No nothing. It's just you . . . and the game."

They met five minutes ago. She -- young and shapely -- was walking through the GameWorks bar. He -- obnoxious and dramatic -- hailed her with his monster-truck voice, insisting she join him for a drink.

At her former table, a would-be suitor is giving Evil Ed the evil eye.

"But you're not being yourself," she says, swimming against Evil Ed's wave of pro-video-game patter. "You're not thinking for yourself."

"I'm going to give you my home number," he says. "You're going to come over, and I'm going to show you things and places that you've never seen before."

"I have more in my mind than a computer could ever show me," she says.

"Look," he says, "every person has the desire to do whatever the fuck they want. Video games give a person the one thing they don't have in society -- a free will. In life, if you make one decision that's wrong, then you go to jail or you're penniless. You're totally restricted in our world. In video games, you do something wrong and you can hit Reset. Movies you can't do that! Television you can't do that! Nowhere else can you do that! Me, as an extremist, I want to have everything that's available to me to express whatever I want to express."

She shakes her head. "I would rather read a book."

Evil Ed looks away. "It's only because she's scared," he says in a stage whisper. "She's perfect."

And turns back to her. "I really like you," he says.

Evil Ed is the self-proclaimed "God of Video Games." She is the fourth woman Evil Ed has really liked tonight. Evil Ed acts like he's 22, looks 28, and is top secretly 39. Evil Ed claims he is worth $5.3 million, yet says he has trouble paying the rent on his one-bedroom Mesa apartment. A drunken Evil Ed will readily tell you the retail value of his gold jewelry and claim he is an angel sent by God.

Evil Ed is a celebrity, of sorts. He has a popular game review Web site, "Evil Ed's Video Game Action News" (www.eviled.com). The site is supported by Southwest Television Productions (SWTV) and Bryan Media Group, two Valley-based companies banking on Evil Ed's ability to tap the lucrative video-game fan base.

Two years ago, Evil Ed pitched executives at SWTV his vision for a television show. He told them it could be the first program to exclusively target the massive video-gamer audience.

"The traditional gamer geek, the guy who spends thousands on his system and peripherals, that's about 10 percent of the gaming population," Evil Ed says. "General audiences are what I'm shooting for. I'm trying to bridge the gap between gaming geeks and normal people."

SWTV liked the idea, but balked at producing a full-blown television show. It agreed to fund "Video Game Action News" as a Web site instead. The site has text-based video-game reviews, industry news/gossip and taped video clips produced by SWTV and starring Evil Ed. The clips show Evil Ed partying with famous game developers and flirting with models.

"Putting girls and games together was my idea," he says. "Now everybody is doing it."

Last month, Evil Ed went to a television producers' convention in Las Vegas armed with demo tapes. There he landed an agreement to bring his PlayStation pontificating to two million homes as host of a new show called "Trailer Trash Theater." It's a two-hour showcase for cult films with wrap-around segments hosted by Evil Ed. Think Elvira meets Duke Nuke 'Em.

"He's got a vision for this thing, and he's been plugging away at it for a long time, and we're hopeful that it will happen," says SWTV spokesman Josh Woodard. "There are a handful of stations that are highly interested in Evil Ed."

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James Hibberd
Contact: James Hibberd