Six years ago was a weird time, for both myself and the gaming industry. It had been quite a bit of time since any bit of hype had been built up for Banjo-Kazooie as a franchise, with the idea of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts not even being conceptualized yet. I had, myself, become obsessed with a Banjo themed forum – Spiral Mountain (which has since become RareGamer) – where I spent every waking moment of my sad, overweight internet life. I would roleplay as Banjo characters for hours on end, talk about Banjo, hell, I even spent hours transcribing the entirety of the Banjo guidebooks I owned in to a forum post for others.
I would record videos of glitches I found; nothing of consequence of course, simply clipping through areas with the camera and the like.
Either way, my Banjo-craze had hit a fever pitch. It all culminated one very fateful night. I had been browsing my embarrassingly friendless MySpace when I had an idea: search for some of my favorite people. I don’t quite remember what brought me to look up Grant Kirkhope, but I did, and I found him. I sent him a few messages, declaring my love for the games, and told him about myself.
Backing up a bit, I had just recently purchased a Mumbo-Jumbo plush on eBay and was looking to add a bear-and-bird to my collection. Unfortunately, they were expensive.
I shared this plight with Grant, and he shared in my pain.
He said he’d ask around, see what he could do, and get back to me. Get back to me he did.
Good news carried a happy heart, and Grant said a friend of his at Rare had a exclusive developer-only Banjo-Kazooie plush given only to the development team of the Japanese version of Banjo-Toole when it wrapped. He was sending it to me.
To put this in a perspective that even I didn’t understand at the time: a man who had crafted the audio of my childhood was sending me a package. In this package was a plush of my childhood. I had gotten this not through ranting on twitter or getting lucky in a contest, but by finding his personal MySpace page and asking.
The package arrived about a month later all the way from Twycross in a beat up brown box. Inside, the Banjo-Kazooie plush with a note scratched upon Rare letterhead from Grant Kirkhope himself. The package was stamped with a Rare stamp. I left it on the desk in my room, in the box to preserve it of course, and went about my day.
In the weeks after, I would make videos with Mumbo and Banjo. I’d brag on the Spiral Mountain forums over how cool it was that I had gotten it. I was in heaven. I slept with it right next to my bed so I could wake up and see it in the morning. I would occasionally put it away in the box it came in, just to keep it safe when I was cleaning my room.
That was the big mistake. My mother is a cleaning fanatic. She would often throw away things just because they weren’t put away or they “looked like” trash. She once threw away my Xbox 360 because it was inside a desk she was cleaning out and she didn’t realize what it was in the cleaning frenzy. That’s a story for a different time though.
I can only imagine what happened. My mother walked downstairs with a trash bag, saw the beat up brown box, and chucked it. In the years since, I frequently will search for Banjo around the house. Hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe, he ended up getting packed away when we moved.
My searches have come back fruitless. It’s one of the few things that still bothers me to this day. I find happiness in the fact that I was able to talk to a gaming music legend – Grant Kirkhope – casually. It’s not like that anymore, especially not after Project Ukulele and the official announcement of Yooka-Laylee coming. Anyone who wants to speak with Grant has to go through the official channels, and a majority of questions would most likely end with “I can’t talk about that.”
It’s sad, really, but that’s the way the industry is.
I also recall regularly messaging back and forth with Grant via Xbox Live. He was MonkeyNutz. That was funny.
Grant Kirkhope and the old team from Rare are currently working on the upcoming spiritual successor to Banjo-Toole, Yooka-Laylee. You can find it’s Kickstarter here.