Recently GamesMaster presenter Dominik Diamond announced a Kickstarter for GamesMaster – The Oral History. A book that would chart the entire history of GamesMaster behind the scenes and give fans an insight into the goings on both good and bad, from its inception and production in 1991 to the shows demise in 1998. So, I took the opportunity to interview Dominik, to learn more about the book and add my own experience from the other side, a trip down memory lane. GamesMaster was without doubt my favourite video game TV show growing up, it had a huge impact on me personally and was a driving force behind my own career in creative media.
But first I wanted to cast my mind back, it’s 1991, I had just seen Terminator 2 at the cinema and had read about a new videogame TV show coming to channel 4. At that time I was playing on my Amstrad CPC 464 and looking forward to getting a Sega Megadrive at Christmas. To say I was buzzing about this new console was an understatement. I would buy my magazines and just pour over every detail, seeing pictures of so many games I would never see in motion. The prospect of a TV show giving us a glimpse of a range of gaming was a mouth-watering prospect. But would it be any good? Did TV companies understand video games and gamers? I remember these questions were already being asked at the time.
The first showing was a big event for gamers, featuring a review of Terminator on the Megadrive, a game that would eventually be delayed for many months but to see it in action was a ball of excitement. Going to school the next day to discuss with friends every detail. The show wasn’t perfect and some challenges were more interesting than others but it was great just to see this all coming together.
Series 2 took everything a stage further, bigger sets, a rival in Bad Influence and the battle for the attention of TV gamers was on. GamesMaster went from strength to strength, Dominick Diamond became ever more popular as the soul of the show and it felt like everyone was having great fun in the process.
I grew up as the show evolved, series 3 was a non entity and rather dull with repetitive challenges, but series 4 was GamesMaster back on track. Funny, edgy, informative, and as the audience got older, so did the approach and humour. Leaving school, going to work and loving every minute of it. We’d tape it on VHS, then watch it again at weekends, laughing at the various innuendo, Dominik always had a way with words.
Not only did GamesMaster grow with the gamers, it grew with the industry, which expanded massively in this period in the transition from 16-bit to 32-bit systems, culminating in PS1, N64 and Saturn. But this was the core time of gaming, maximum excitement, PR and Marketing were all along for the ride, games developers had relative free reign. We were all enjoying the party, and the industry parties were huge. It was great that games were getting out there, that the industry could finally show its value and gamers moved our of that nerdy shadow that had covered mass market opinion for so long. But that’s where everything changes.
GamesMaster’s swift demise was unexpected at the time, and its loss felt like an enormous hole. A time of excitement and wonder was over. The corporate control was creeping in, and over the years that followed that hole was never filled. Gaming was off prime time TV for good, the jokes no longer appropriate, gamers being forced elsewhere for their info and support of their passions. GamesMaster felt like that community talking point which brought gamers together, took the piss out of us, had fun doing it, but ultimately respected gamers more than anyone.
Eventually in the years that followed I had my various forays onto TV but nothing could quite capture that special time and nothing ever will again. But I hope this interview gives an insight into the time that was, while the book enables us to relive and appreciate those special moments, because they’ll never come again.
You can enjoy my full two-hour interview with Dominik below and support the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/darrenwall/gamesmaster-the-oral-history/comments