Singer Ne-Yo Knows 'Tekken' Better than 'Madden'

Ne-Yo publicity 2010 P
Sacha Waldman

The Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter knows how to deliver virtual punches in the Tekken and Street Fighter games.

Shaffer Chimere Smith is best known by R&B fans as Ne-Yo. And to gamers, he may be their worst enemy if they happen upon him online in a game of Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken. The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter recently took to the real gridiron to play flag football in the EA Sports Madden NFL 13 Pigskin Pro-Am alongside Brett Favre and other football legends on NBC. The singer loves to play games when he’s not writing music or singing. He talks about his gaming prowess in the exclusive interview below.

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The Hollywood Reporter: What was it like for you to be part of the NBC EA Sports Madden Pigskin Pro Am?

Ne-Yo: It was exciting. We had NFL Hall of Famers out there. The fact that I shared the field with them was super exciting.

THR: How big a Madden video game player are you?

Ne-Yo: I’m good, but not great at Madden. I have friends that their whole life is based around this video game. A shout out to them; they’re extremely jealous that I played in this game and they didn’t. I’m good at the game, but I’m more of a fighting and adventure games type guy.

THR: So what do you normally play?

Ne-Yo: I’m heavy into Max Payne 3. That’s a good one. I like any of the fighting games and all of the Tekken and Street Fighter series. They just did Street Fighter X Tekken, and I’m huge on that one right now. Undefeated, currently.

THR: Who’s your go to fighter?

Ne-Yo: Ryu for Street Fighter, and for Tekken probably Paul Phoenix.

THR: And they’re coming out with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 this year, too.

Ne-Yo: I heard. I’m looking forward to that. I’m sitting in front of the store with everybody else waiting on that game. Oh, yeah. Um-hum.

THR: When you do play Madden, who’s your “go to” team?

Ne-Yo: Let me see; I normally go with the Falcons.

THR: Do you have a secret strategy that you like to use?

Ne-Yo: Not necessarily, which is probably why I’m not as good as the other guys at the game. I just go in and go for it, pass the ball, and pray that the guy I’m passing to catches it. That’s pretty much it.

THR: Do you use the video game as preparation at all for the Pro Am game?

Ne-Yo: No. Actually, I went hard for a few weeks getting my knees right, and making sure that I can still catch and pass, and all that. I hadn’t played football in a few years. I’m pretty quick. I think I was one of the quickest on the field, so my plan was to just outrun everybody. High knees; that’s what it’s all about.

THR: At what point did you feel like Madden went beyond being a video game and became part of pop culture?

Ne-Yo: You know what? Madden is the closest thing to actually being on the field yourself. It’s so ridiculously realistic. Before I play it, I honestly didn’t understand. “What’s all the hype? It’s a video game.” Then I sat down and played it, and you feel like you’re on the field. It’s that incredible. Kudos to the designers and programmers, because they did the most with this one. Absolutely.

THR: When it comes to looking back when you were playing as a kid, do you have a favorite Madden memory you can share with us?

Ne-Yo: No, a lot of losses. As I said, I have friends whose lives are dedicated to Madden. I play them in their game and let them beat the hell out of me, and then we play one of my games, and I win.

THR: What role do you feel video games play in music these days?

Ne-Yo: I feel like the two are starting to go hand-in-hand. The right song in the game might just make you play a little bit better; you never know.

THR: Would you like your music to be in any of the Street Fighter or Tekken games?

Ne-Yo: Come on, man, I’ll write a song specifically for it.  Let me know. Just make me a character in the game; the strongest character. Make me one of the bosses in the game, and I’ll write a song for the series. I’ll do it.

THR: That’s a message straight to Capcom and Namco.

Ne-Yo: If you’re reading this, come on, I know what I’m doing. Trust me.