GamesMaster

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GamesMaster
GenreEntertainment
Created byJane Hewland
Presented byOriginal series:
Dominik Diamond (Series 1–2, 4–7)
Dexter Fletcher (Series 3)
Revived series:
Robert Florence
Frankie Ward (Co-Presented)
Ty Logan (Co-Presented)
StarringGamesMaster:
Sir Patrick Moore (Original series)
Sir Trevor McDonald (Revived series)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series7
No. of episodes126
Production
Running time30 mins (Original series)
60 mins (Series 4 "Gore Special" episode, Revived series)
(inc. adverts)
Production companiesHewland International (Original series)
Future Studios (Revived series)
Release
Original network
Picture format4:3 576i (1992–1998)
16:9 1080p (2021)
Original release
  • Original series:
  • 7 January 1992 (1992-01-07) – 3 February 1998 (1998-02-03)
  • Revived series:
  • 21 November 2021 (2021-11-21) (E4's YouTube channel)
    24 November 2021 (2021-11-24) – present (present) (E4)
Chronology
Related showsGames World

GamesMaster is a British television programme which originally aired on Channel 4 from 1992 to 1998. In 2021, it returned for a new series on YouTube and E4. It was the first UK television programme dedicated to video games.[1]

Dominik Diamond was the host for six of the original seven series while astronomer Sir Patrick Moore featured as the GamesMaster. He was replaced in 2021 with Sir Trevor McDonald. The show's format consists of a mixture of game reviews, small "features", tips and challenges. Challenges form the biggest section of the show and generally consist of "average" players and celebrities, often competing against each other for the coveted Golden Joystick. The show was a hit from its initial series with high ratings and an audience made up mostly of adolescent boys, tuning in to hear Diamond's double entendres and sexual innuendos.[2]

Origins[edit]

GamesMaster began when Jane Hewland, formerly of London Weekend Television, who had set up her own production company Hewland International, took an interest in her son's love of video games.[3] She put together a pitch for a programme that would translate the excitement of games playing into watchable television. After some rejection, Hewland put together a video interviewing her son's friends about why they loved video games.[2] It was Channel 4 that became interested in the concept and approved the production, though they only provided an initial budget of £10,000 per episode for a 10 episode first season.[2]

Format and hosts[edit]

Although it featured game reviews,[4] most of the programme was about challenges[5] 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.[6] Dominik Diamond usually presented the programme[4] 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, Julian Rignall, Rik Henderson, Dave Perry, Tim Boone and Neil West 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 episode. Fletcher was better known at the time for having played an American character called "Spike" in the ITV drama series Press Gang.

Review segments[edit]

From the very first episode, GamesMaster included reviews of forthcoming titles. In an attempt to give the programme 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 programme 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 programme's co-commentators, namely Rik Henderson and Dave Perry. It brought a much-needed stability to the format[citation needed] and some interesting banter between the reviewers. Series 6 also featured Rik, who was now joined by Ed Lomas, while series 7, due to time constraints and Dave Perry having resigned from the programme's cast (after complaining on-air about being "set up" during a Super Mario 64 challenge), employed two of its own research staff to present the slot, including Richard Pitt.

Relationship with the games industry[edit]

Prior to GamesMaster appearing, games companies had very few TV programmes 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 video games.

GamesMaster was first broadcast in 1992, during the fourth (16-bit) console generation - after the launch of the Mega Drive, but before the SNES. Sega's success in the early 90s (with both the Master System and Mega Drive, as well as the huge hit game Sonic the Hedgehog) helped cause a video game console boom in 1991, bringing gaming into mainstream UK culture, which would only increase following the arrival of consoles with 3D graphics such as those found on the PlayStation. 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 programme 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 challenge-based programme, 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 programme, 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 programme 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 producer, Shiny Entertainment and their publisher, Virgin Interactive.

Gamesmaster sponsorship[edit]

Series 2's cold opening[edit]

For Series 2, the programme 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 purported Marble Madness challenge (the contestant's name and town are partly obscured 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 preceding 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 deconstructed in some manner. In the final series, the set was literally dismantled and the studio closed down over Dominik's final words.

For each location in which the series was set, a plot device occurred in the style of that series. Series 2 was set on an oil rig. Diamond's Auntie Marisha blew up the kitchen at the end of series 2 which led to the rig's evacuation. Diamond was later revealed to be burnt to death while trying to escape, giving way to Dexter Fletcher to present series 3. In reality, Diamond had in fact left the programme. Diamond would later return in series 4 onwards which was set in Hell and then in Heaven for series 5,[7] continuing on from his whereabouts after his death in series 2 (although the opening title sequence of the fifth series offers an alternative "death", with Diamond being run over by a bus and flat-lining while in hospital). In the opening credits to series 6 Diamond was portrayed as falling from Heaven. The series 7 titles were a dream sequence in which Diamond travelled to the series' island setting.

Demise[edit]

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 video games programme T.I.G.S. to accompany Bad Influence!. Then, one series later, they pulled the plug on both programmes, 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 programme was looking set to be re-commissioned; viewing figures were still strong, and the programme 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 programme; indeed, they and the publicity-seeking celebrities were now the subject of jokes.

It is believed that Dominik Diamond, along with the programme's producers, wanted to make a more adult programme that would air in a late night, more mainstream time slot. (Series 8 was going to be set on a pirate ship with buxom wenches as the Golden Joystick assistants.) There was also talk of a spin-off programme 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 programme for an older, adult audience.

However, changes in senior staff at Channel 4 were responsible for taking the programme 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 BBC Two, Jackson may have wanted less entertainment programming on Channel 4.

The first series of the programme was repeated on Challenge in 2003, but no further episodes have been shown. Challenge thought the programme was "too dated" and "the games being played wouldn't stand up today".[8]

Broadcasting spin-offs[edit]

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, other shows began to start covering the gaming scene. These included Gear, Roadtest, ExMachina and also Games Republic.[9]

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 under fire from fans after several questions asked in the show had incorrect answers, infuriating several contestants over the series. (For example, poorly researched questions about the Dreamcast's online capabilities, and characters from Tekken).

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.[10] This programme was largely feature-based and contained plenty of Dominik's trademark humour. Prior to its broadcast, Dominik featured in a sizable Edge interview, with his longtime producer Johnny Finch. Both of them were quite vocal in stating their contempt for other shows about video games that were doing a bad job.

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.

In 1999, the BBC filmed two pilot episodes of a new TV show franchise dedicated to video games titled Bleeding Thumbs - with Gamesmaster's Rik Henderson as assistant producer and initial commentator. The series would have run between 1999 and 2000 alternating with the hugely successful "Robot Wars", hoping to emulate the success GamesMaster achieved in the process. Two pilots were filmed and were hosted by Dermot O'Leary and Kate Thornton, and then Terry Alderton accompanying Thornton, the commissioning editor decommissioned the show claiming that "People want to play games, not watch them".[11]

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, Mentorn, were able to get their show concept Robot Wars picked up by BBC Two.

Revival[edit]

In February 2021, Channel 4 announced that they were looking for a brand partner for a potential reboot of GamesMaster.[12] According to the description of the format, celebrities will "undergo challenges, races and fights in virtual battle across all genres of gaming under the watchful eye of the all-knowing GamesMaster". On 29 September 2021, Frankie Ward, Robert Florence, and Ty Logan were announced as the new hosts.[13] Episodes will first appear on E4's YouTube channel before broadcast on the E4 television channel.[14] On 25 October 2021 it was announced that Sir Trevor McDonald would be the new GamesMaster. The new series of three episodes were filmed at Crossness Pumping Station in Abbey Wood, London from 4 to 6 October 2021.[15]

Magazine[edit]

In January 1993, Future Publishing began a tie-in magazine, also called GamesMaster. In the May issue of 2010, Editor-in-chief Robin Alway announced that Future Publishing were 'looking into' reintroducing the programme to British television, and promised that he would keep the readers of the magazine informed of any future details.[16] The magazine ceased publishing in November 2018, having outlasted the TV series by more than twenty years.[17]

Series details and celebrity guests[edit]

Series Start date End date Episodes Air time Setting Servant
1 7 January 1992 10 March 1992 10 Tuesdays at 6:30pm Church (St Paul's Church, Dock Street, London) Monk - Dave Perry
2 1 October 1992 25 March 1993 26 Thursdays at 6:30pm Oil rig (Sunbury Pumphouse, London) [N 1] Diver – Sarah Whisker
3 9 September 1993 1 March 1994 26 Thursdays then Tuesdays at 6:30pm First Half: Games Academy (Oxford Prison)
Second Half: Team Championship (Clerkenwell House of Detention)
Caretaker – Richard Baynham
4 20 September 1994 14 January 1995 18 Tuesdays at 6:30pm Hell (St Paul's Church, Dock Street, London) Goblins – Mark Lyle, Rob Umm, Richard Wright, Natalie McCloskey, Elizabeth Hyde, Victoria Hyde and Tim Colman
5 21 September 1995 18 January 1996 18 Thursdays at 6:30pm Heaven (Hewland International's TV studio in Brixton) Angels – Helena Tepper and Tanya Kecskes
6 24 October 1996 27 February 1997 18 Thursdays at 6:00pm Atlantis (St Paul's Church, Dock Street, London) Mermaids – Theresa Tilley and Leigh-Ann Woodall
7 19 November 1997 3 February 1998 10 Wednesdays then Tuesdays at 6:00pm Desert island (Hewland International's TV studio in Brixton) Castaways – Helena Tepper and Leigh-Ann Woodall
8 21 November 2021 (E4's YouTube channel)
24 November 2021 (E4)
5 December 2021 (E4's YouTube channel)
8 December 2021 (E4)
3 Wednesdays at 10pm Power station (Crossness Pumping Station, Abbey Wood, London) Gatekeepers – Lucy Frier and Matt McNaughton
  1. ^ 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.

Series 1 – 1992[edit]

Series 2 – 1992/1993[edit]

Series 3 – 1993/1994[edit]

Series 4 – 1994/1995[edit]

Series 5 – 1995/1996[edit]

Series 6 – 1996/1997[edit]

Series 7 – 1997/1998[edit]

  • Episode 1 – Jo Guest – 19 November 1997
  • Episode 2 – Kaleef – 26 November 1997
  • Episode 3 – Boxers Ryan Rhodes and Khalid Shafiq – 3 December 1997
  • Episode 4 – Sol Campbell and Christian Dailly – 10 December 1997
  • Episode 5 – Emma Harrison (Christmas special) – 17 December 1997
  • Episode 6 – All Saints – 6 January 1998
  • Episode 7 – Sarah Vandenbergh and Carryl Varley – 13 January 1998
  • Episode 8 – Catalina Guirado – 20 January 1998
  • Episode 9 – Debbie Flett and Emma Noble – 27 January 1998
  • Episode 10 – Compilation look-back show (the final episode) – 3 February 1998

Series 8 – 2021[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Langshaw, Mark (6 September 2009). "Feature: 'GamesMaster' Retrospective - Gaming News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Jack, Malcolm (5 April 2021). "'It had to be slightly weird': how we made GamesMaster". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "OFF THE TELLY: Factual/Stand by for a Data-Blast". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b O'Connor, Alice (29 September 2021). "The new GamesMaster's host is Robert Florence". Rockpapershotgun.com. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  5. ^ "GamesMaster reboot will be released this year as show confirmed to be coming to E4". Thesixthaxis.com. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Classic gaming show GamesMaster returns to TV later this year". Nme.com. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Gamesmaster". Ukgameshows.com.
  8. ^ "Challenge Forums - GamesMaster". Challenge.co.uk. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  9. ^ "Games Republic". UKGameshows. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  10. ^ "When Games Attack Season 1". Trakt.tv.
  11. ^ "The state of UK videogames TV". Pocket-lint. 27 August 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  12. ^ "4Studio Seeking Brand Partner for new project". 4Sales. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  13. ^ Tyrer, Ben (29 September 2021). "GamesMaster hosts announced ahead of classic TV show revival". gamesradar. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  14. ^ Stanton, Rich (15 September 2021). "GamesMaster is coming back". Pcgamer.com. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  15. ^ "Sir. Trevor McDonald has been confirmed as the new 'GamesMaster'". Nme.com. 25 October 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  16. ^ "GamesMaster TV return being 'explored'". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  17. ^ "GamesMaster and GamesTM magazines to close next month". Metro. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.

External links[edit]