Gamesmaster (Channel 4, 1992-1998)
As I want to start writing about my memories of playing computer games on here, I thought I would begin by cheating a little and actually writing about another TV show that was all about the world of games. Gamesmaster launched on Channel 4 at the start of 1992 and was hosted by newcomer Dominik Diamond, who would introduce various gaming challenges.
He would be joined by the weird floaty computer-generated head of Sir Patrick Moore who was the Gamesmaster. When the show began the idea was that various people would play computer games, with the exact challenge being explained by the Gamesmaster. Dominik would then commentate on the challenge usually alongside someone from such a magazine as Computer & Video Games. If the challenger succeeded they would win a coveted Gamesmaster Golden Joystick.
As well as this, there would also be celebrity challenges, with a wide variety of people bashing their buttons to try and show that they are good at this gaming lark, but they often weren’t. There was also lots of news about the latest happenings in the gaming industry, and a feature where children would ask the Gamesmaster for cheats and advice on various games.
The format of the show did change somewhat over the years, with each series coming from a different setting, such as a church or an oil rig. For the third series Dexter Fletcher took over as host and the format was changed to a knockout competition. Diamond returned for the fourth series though but by this point the show was often moved around the schedules, and the final series were renamed New Gamesmaster (a sure sign that a show is on its last legs) but it did continue until 1998 and it was enjoyable to watch all the way through.
A pioneering thing I remember happening in one series was when viewers could interact by sending messages from something like telephone boxes with modems in them and then if you went to a page on Teletext the messages would appear on the screen as the show was on air. I remember it being rather odd as the show was happening and things like “this is rubbish!” came on the screen. Such interaction is practically the norm now but remember this was about 20 years ago and very experimental.
I also remember there being some bizarre challenges on the show, including people would said that they could score 99 million points in a game or complete levels in about 15 seconds. After a while a multi-format magazine was launched. I’ve never read it much myself but it’s still going today. Also although it hasn’t been repeated much in recent years just about every edition of Gamesmaster is on YouTube.
After writing about the other computer games shows Games World, Bits and Bad Influence, as I have said before the history of games being covered on TV isn’t a very long and successful one. But Gamesmaster is probably the most remembered and best of all of them, the show definitely helped to bring games into the mainstream and took them seriously but in an entertaining way, and it’s remarkable that there’s so little like this on Channel 4 or anywhere else on TV today.