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GamesMaster

GamesMaster was a British show, screened on Channel 4 from 7 January, 1992 to 3 February, 1998, and was the first-ever UK television show dedicated to computer and video games.

Origins

GamesMaster began when Jane Hewland, formerly of LWT, who had set up her own production company Hewland International, took an interest in her son's love of video games She put together a pitch for a show that would translate the excitement of games playing into watchable television. It was Channel 4 that became interested in the concept and greenlit production. However, because it had been pitched as a competitive event programme, the show was always under the jurisdiction of the "sports" department amongst shows such as Football Italia, horse racing and Indian volleyball.

Format and hosts

Though it featured reviews of games, most of the show was about challenges where game players would compete against one another for the title of "GamesMaster Champion". Contestants who were successful at their challenges were rewarded with the coveted "GamesMaster Golden Joystick" trophy. Dominik Diamond usually presented the show with Sir Patrick Moore appearing in pre-recorded inserts as the 'Games Master'. During these challenges, Dominik was joined by a host of commentators. These included Derrick Lynch, Kirk Ewing, Rik Henderson, Dave Perry, Tim Boone, Edward Laurence amongst others.

For the third series, Dexter Fletcher became the main presenter; this change was criticised by fans, who saw the new host as over-the-top, and too 'in-your-face'. To balance this, the production company dropped all other co-presenters and gave UK games champion Dave Perry a regular co-presenter slot on every show. Fletcher was more well known for playing an American character called "Spike" in the ITV drama series Press Gang. Without his fake accent, some viewers thought his genuine Cockney slang was actually put on for the effect of making the show seem more trendy.


Review segments

From the very first episode, GamesMaster included reviews of forthcoming titles. In an attempt to give the show some authority and get the gaming press on their side, as well as eliminate the need for extra staff to review games, the reviews featured a host of magazines journalists from the publishing house EMAP. This meant the show could pool the collective opinions of magazines like Mean Machines, C&VG and ACE.

However, by series 5 it was decided that the reviews would be better presented by two of the show's co-commentators, namely Rik Henderson and Dave Perry. It brought a much-needed stability to the format and some interesting banter between the reviewers. Series 6 featured the same two reviewers, while series 7, due to time constraints and Dave Perry having resigned from the show's cast, employed two of its own research staff to present the slot, including Richard Pitt.

One of the earliest know uses of the term "Pants!" was Dominik Diamond's frequent use in relation to degrading something, due to its appalling quality.

Relationship with the games industry

Prior to GamesMaster appearing, games companies had very few TV shows on which to have their titles featured. UK broadcasters had shown sporadic interest in the scene, normally confining coverage to segments within Saturday morning children's programming. From time to time, news programmes would report on one of the very successful British games studios, but in contrast to programming involving films and music videos, there was no regular showcase for videogames.

GamesMaster was first broadcast in 1992, during the fourth (16-bit) console generation - after the launch of the Mega Drive, but before the SNES. 16-bit consoles were regarded as responsible for bringing gaming into UK culture, though it would take the ability of consoles with 3D graphics such as those found on the PlayStation for consoles to become largely popular. Youth culture was probably more focused on the gaming scene than ever before, and even arcades were still a big business, unlike today. That GamesMaster regularly drew in audiences in the millions proved that there was a huge and so far untapped audience.

Despite competition with specialist gaming magazines, the show managed to secure several exclusives over the series, showing games that were months or even years away from being finished. Because GamesMaster was largely a challenged-based show, games studios could, for example, present a single level to be used for these competitive segments. Blast Corps is one example of a game that was demonstrated long before it, or even the Nintendo 64 that it played on, were released.

Occasionally, games studios made levels specifically for use on one of the challenges. Shiny Entertainment were one such studio when they put together a special level of Earthworm Jim. Though this worked out well for both game studio and the show, the experience was somewhat soured when this code ended up being leaked on the internet. It is believed that the only way for this to have happened is that one of the staff on the show must have had links with online ROM crackers. It led to a great deal of embarrassment and likely upset the trust that existed between the production, Shiny Entertainment and their publisher, Virgin Interactive.

Series 2 cold opening

For Series 2, the show began originally as in Series 1, except for it was "plagued" by numerous apparent "technical faults" (a ruse on the producer's part, the "Please do not adjust your set" warning that appeared is a hint to this), with the first challenge being a as-yet-unshown Marble Madness challenge (the contestent's name and town are partly obsured over a technical fault, meaning this was also part of the joke). As the challenger was coming to the podium, the program "crashed", "rebooted" with the new series opener, and a Street Fighter II challenge, the cast acting like the short segment proceeding the new challenge had not happened.

Every series following Series 2 had the original series' closing moments portrayed in the series itself as the previous "Set" being deconstucted in some manner. In the final series, the set was literally dismantled and the studio closed down over Dominik's final words.

Demise

Prior to Gamesmaster leaving UK television, there had been a crisis of confidence in games television over at rival channel ITV. Their children's department had commissioned another videogames show T.I.G.S. to accompany Bad Influence. Then, one series later, they pulled the plug on both shows, deciding that there was no demand for games coverage on their channel.

Gamesmaster was not affected and continued with success. In 1998, towards the end of production for the 7th series, the show was looking set to be re-commissioned; viewing figures were still strong, and the show was finding a new audience, benefiting from the emerging PlayStation culture with the success of Sony's console bringing gaming into the mainstream. The production was also more oriented towards actual games players than the first few series, which had been decidedly light in feature content, and no longer poked fun at 'nerds' and 'geeks', as it was young adults and not children and teenagers who appeared on the show; indeed, they and the publicity-seeking celebrities were now the subject of jokes.

It is believed that Dominik Diamond, along with the show's producers, was wanting to make a more adult programme that would air in a late night, more mainstream time slot. There was also talk of a spin off show being made that would seek to emulate the US talk shows of the time. Whether this would have meant a programme that focused far less on games is unknown. No confirmation exists that any pilots of this concept were ever made; Channel 4 did not see the potential of a gaming show for an older, adult viewership.

However, changes in senior staff at Channel 4 were responsible for taking the show off the air. The new head of Channel 4 was Michael Jackson who had worked at LWT at the same time as Jane Hewland; the two never saw eye-to-eye. Alternatively, having been the head of BBC2, Jackson may have wanted less entertainment programming on Channel 4.

Also it has been rumoured that the GM production team were creatively burned out.

The first series of the show was repeated on Challenge? in 2003, but no further episodes have been shown. Challenge thought the show was "too dated" and "the games being played wouldn't stand up today".

Broadcasting spin-offs

Several gaming shows were commissioned by Sky One in 1993 from Hewland International (one of which was Games World). Due to this close relationship with BSkyB, Hewland International were even successful in convincing them to launch a whole new channel dedicated to gaming, computers, the internet and technology. The Computer Channel launched in 1996 for only BSkyB subscribers, appearing for just two hours every night. Originally, the only gaming show was Game Over, made by some of the same production team as Gamesmaster and Games World. When The Computer Channel was relaunched as .tv in 1998, others shows began to start covering the gaming scene. These included Gear, Roadtest, ExMachina and also Games Republic

The latter show was closest in style and tone to Gamesmaster, featured a themed studio set, studio challenges and the irreverent presenters Trevor and Simon. Though the show did not include any features or VT content, as it was a question based game show based on video games, it was produced by Gamesmaster and When Games Attack Producer Johnny Ffinch. The series unfortunately came into repute from fans after several questions asked in the show had incorrect answers, furiating several contestants over the series. (Incorrect questions about the Dreamcast's Online Capabilities and Characters from Tekken immediately come to mind).

Dominik Diamond returned to games television first as an interviewee in the 1999 documentary Games Wars, in which he commented that boys getting turned on by Lara Croft was tragic and "desperately sad". He then returned to presenting in 2004 with a show on Bravo, called When Games Attack. This programme was largely feature-based and contained plenty of Dominik's trademark humour. Prior to its broadcast, Dominik featured in a sizeable Edge interview, with his long time producer Johnny Finch. Both of them were quite vocal in stating their contempt for other shows about videogames that were doing a bad job.

When speaking about Gamezville, he expressed that: "I have more respect for suicide bombers than I do for the people who are involved with Gamezville... it's all fucking 'Yo mate...' I mean these guys can't even speak fucking English"

Though it did also feature minor celebrity challenges (mainly football players and glamour models), there were never any head-to-head competitions. To date, Bravo has yet to show a second series. However, in November 2007 a repeat of the only series to date was aired.

Gamesmaster was also the first UK show to feature the sport of robot fighting in a news item, which at the time was on Local Public Access Television in the US. Hewland International worked for several years to translate the sport into something for UK viewers. Though they never succeeded, another production company, Initial, were able to get their show concept Robot Wars picked up by BBC2.

Publishing spin-offs

In 1993, Future Publishing began a tie-in magazine, also called GamesMaster, which as of 2008 is still published, headed up by editor-in-chief Robin Alway.

In the Philippines, GamesMaster ceased its publication after three years of publishing. Its final issue was released September 2006. The magazine has a huge following of Filipino gamers and its demise has caused shockwaves in the local gaming community. An online commentary of the magazine's demise, and its effects, has been published recently

Series guide

The following listed is a list of all episodes, by the celebrity who featured on each show. All transmission dates are as accurate as possible. The show was often switched, half way through a series run, between Tuesday and Thursday evening schedules.

Series 1 - The Church

Episodes: 10,
Air Time: Tuesdays at 6:30pm

Location: Church (St Paul's Church, Dock Street, London)
Recorded: 11th - 16th November 1991
Servant: Monk

Episode 01 | (07/01/92)John Fashanu
Episode 02 | (14/01/92)Gary Mason
Episode 03 | (21/01/92)Annabel Croft
Episode 04 | (28/01/92)Eric Bristow
Episode 05 | (04/02/92)Jimmy White
Episode 06 | (11/02/92)Pat Sharp
Episode 07 | (18/02/92) – Wrestling - Featuring Kendo Nagasaki
Episode 08 | (25/02/92)Pat Cash
Episode 09 | (03/03/92)Gary Wilson
Episode 10 | (10/03/92)Emlyn Hughes

Series 2 - The Oil Rig

Episodes: 26,
Air Time: Thursdays at 6:30pm

Location: Oil Rig (Sunbury Pumphouse, London) This was the same set as used in the Red Dwarf episode 'Justice', and the final episode of the 1992 television series remake of The Tomorrow People, in which the main star Kristian Schmid was also a challenger on this series of GamesMaster.
Servant: Diver
(Unaccounted celebrity shows – Todd Carty, Ian Wright and more)

Episode 01 | (01/10/92)Tony Slattery
Episode 02 | (08/10/92)Frank Bruno
Episode 03 | (15/10/92)Vinnie Jones
Episode 04 | (22/10/92)Rory Underwood
Episode 05 | (29/10/92)Take That
Episode 06 | (05/11/92)"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
Episode 07 | (12/11/92)Gladiators
Episode 08 | (19/11/92) – ?
Episode 09 | (26/11/92)John Parrott
Episode 10 | (03/12/92)Richard Norton
Episode 11 | (10/12/92) – ?
Episode 12 | (17/12/92)Kristian Schmid
Episode 13 | (24/12/92)Bob Holness
Episode 14 | (31/12/92)Linford Christie and Colin Jackson
Episode 15 | (07/01/93)Johnny Herbert
Episode 16 | (14/01/93) – ?
Episode 17 | (21/01/93)Cathy Dennis
Episode 18 | (28/01/93)Ulrika Jonsson
Episode 19 | (04/02/93)Vic Reeves
Episode 20 | (11/02/93)Gordon Burns
Episode 21 | (18/02/93)East 17
Episode 22 | (25/02/93)Josie Lawrence
Episode 23 | (04/03/93)Tony Daley
Episode 24 | (11/03/93)Steve Backley
Episode 25 | (18/03/93) – Arm Wrestlers
Episode 26 | (25/03/93) – Ice Hockey stars

Series 3 - The Prison

Episodes: 26,
Air Time: Thursdays then Tuesdays at 6:30pm

Location: Prison (Oxford Prison, New Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire) (until they lost the rights to film there)
Servant: Caretaker

Episode 01 | (09/09/93) – Mortal Kombat
Episode 02 | (16/09/93)Sean Maguire
Episode 03 | (23/09/93)Gabrielle
Episode 04 | (30/09/93) – Gladiators 1
Episode 05 | (07/10/93) – Gladiators 2
Episode 06 | (14/10/93) – Gladiators Final
Episode 07 | (21/10/93)Mary Whitehouse Experience
Episode 08 | (28/10/93)Utah Saints
Episode 09 | (04/11/93)Paul Whitehouse
Episode 10 | (11/11/93) – GamesMaster Live
Episode 11 | (18/11/93)Ian Botham vs Graham Gooch
Episode 12 | (25/11/93)Dani Behr
Episode 13 | (02/12/93) – Feature on GM Team Championships
Episode 14 | (09/12/93) – Start of GM TC. Footy 1 Vinnie Jones Vs. John Barnes
Episode 15 | (16/12/93) – Footy 2
Episode 16 | (23/12/93) – Christmas Special
Episode 17 | (28/12/93)Games Mistress
Episode 18 | (04/01/94)Kris Akabusi
Episode 19 | (11/01/94) – Neighbours star
Episode 20 | (18/01/94)The Bill
Episode 21 | (25/01/94)Ronnie O'Sullivan
Episode 22 | (01/02/94)Randy Savage
Episode 23 | (08/02/94)2 Unlimited
Episode 24 | (15/02/94) – ?
Episode 25 | (22/02/94)Bad Boys Inc
Episode 26 | (01/03/94) – GM TC Final

Series 4 - Hell

Episodes: 18,
Air Time: Tuesdays at 6:30pm

Location: Hell
Servants: Goblins
(Unaccounted celebrity shows - Frank Skinner, Prince Naseem, CJ Lewis, Stars and Stripes, Emmerdale stars, Let Loose and more)

Episode 01 | (20/09/94) – ?
Episode 02 | (27/09/94)Rick Alessi and Lauren Carpenter
Episode 03 | (04/10/94) – ?
Episode 04 | (11/10/94)Ant and Dec
Episode 05 | (18/10/94) – ?
Episode 06 | (25/10/94) – ?
Episode 07 | (01/11/94) – ?
Episode 08 | (08/11/94) – ?
Episode 09 | (15/11/94) – ?
Episode 10 | (22/11/94) – ?
Episode 11 | (29/11/94) – ?
Episode 12 | (06/12/94) – ?
Episode 13 | (13/12/94) – ?
Episode 14 | (20/12/94) – ?
Episode 15 | (27/12/94) – Christmas 'Stars' Special
Episode 16 | (03/01/95) – ?
Episode 17 | (10/01/95)Beth from Neighbours
Episode 18 | (14/01/95) – *Shown 00:35am* Gore Special

Series 5 - Heaven

Episodes: 18,
Air Time: Thursdays at 6:30pm

Location: Heaven
Servants: Angels - Helena Tepper and Tanya Kecskes

Episode 01 | (21/09/95)The Shamen
Episode 02 | (28/09/95)Jadine Doran
Episode 03 | (05/10/95)Stephen Hendry
Episode 04 | (12/10/95)Donna Air and Vicky Taylor from Byker Grove
Episode 05 | (19/10/95)Stuart Wade and Tonicha Jeronimo from Emmerdale
Episode 06 | (26/10/95)Dean Holdsworth and David Kerslake
Episode 07 | (02/11/95)Phil Babb and Graeme Le Saux
Episode 08 | (09/11/95)Dean Holdsworth and Phil Babb
Episode 09 | (16/11/95)Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell
Episode 10 | (23/11/95)Cobra and Panther from Gladiators
Episode 11 | (30/11/95)Ronnie O'Sullivan
Episode 12 | (07/12/95)EYC
Episode 13 | (14/12/95)Whigfield
Episode 14 | (21/12/95)Patsy Palmer and Dean Gaffney from EastEnders
Episode 15 | (28/12/95) – Christmas Special - highlights from previous series
Episode 16 | (04/01/96)Mr Motivator
Episode 17 | (11/01/96)Stewart Lee and Richard Herring
Episode 18 | (18/01/96)Janick Gers

Series 6 - Atlantis

Episodes: 18,
Air Time: Thursdays at 6:00pm

Location: Atlantis
Servants: Mermaids - Theresa Tilley and Leigh-Ann Woodall

Episode 01 | (24/10/96)Samantha Fox
Episode 02 | (31/10/96)Danny John-Jules
Episode 03 | (07/11/96)John Regis and Tony Jarrett
Episode 04 | (14/11/96)Paul Leyshon
Episode 05 | (21/11/96)Uri Geller
Episode 06 | (28/11/96)Richard Rufus and Michael Duberry
Episode 07 | (05/12/96)Chris Armstrong
Episode 08 | (12/12/96)Richard Rufus and Chris Armstrong
Episode 09 | (19/12/96) – Christmas Special - The Gamesmaster Christmas Quiz
Episode 10 | (02/01/97)Zoë Ball
Episode 11 | (09/01/97)Deepak Verma
Episode 12 | (16/01/97)Bear Van Beers
Episode 13 | (23/01/97)Tracy Shaw
Episode 14 | (30/01/97)Phil Tufnell
Episode 15 | (06/02/97)Paul McKenna
Episode 16 | (13/02/97) – The Brotherhood (Band)
Episode 17 | (20/02/97) – Gene (Band)
Episode 18 | (27/02/97)Michael Fish

Series 7 - Desert Island

Episodes: 10,
Air Time: Wednesdays then Tuesdays at 6:00pm

Location: Desert Island
Servants: Castaways - Helena Tepper and Leigh-Ann Woodall

Episode 01 | (19/11/97)Jo Guest
Episode 02 | (26/11/97)Kaleef
Episode 03 | (03/12/97)Ryan Rhodes and Khalid Shafiq - Boxers
Episode 04 | (10/12/97)Sol Campbell and Christian Dailly
Episode 05 | (17/12/97)Emma Harrison (Xmas special)
Episode 06 | (06/01/98)All Saints
Episode 07 | (13/01/98)Sarah Vandenbergh
Episode 08 | (20/01/98)Catalina
Episode 09 | (27/01/98)Debbie Flett
Episode 10 | (03/02/98) – Compilation Look-back Show

See also

External links

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