The Return of GamesMaster

Ben Parfitt
The Return of GamesMaster

Rob Saunders – Head of Communications, Nintendo UK:

As a young teenager, it was fantastic to have my passion for games fuelled by a slightly irreverent
TV show.

From an industry perspective, it allowed PRs to get their products featured on a national TV platform, but also for the wider industry to show games were a popular and credible past time. Our industry has been missing a TV platform for far too long now and it really shouldn’t be that way in an industry like ours.

It’s most obvious strength was that in the pre-internet age it was the only real place other than arcades, in-store demos and friends’ houses, where you could see games running in all their glory.

The lack of a successful show since then might be partly due to the fact that TV has always been wary of video games and kept them at arms length, because we’re rightly or wrongly perceived as a threat to TV in terms of competing for time and attention.

Secondly, I don’t think anyone has been able to find an exciting and viable format in which to showcase games on TV. It’s pretty boring to just sit there and watch someone play. I’ve been approached by and had countless meetings with people wanting to re-create the Top Gear format for video games but for reasons unknown to me it just never seems to gain momentum.

Games are simply too big and too much a part of everyone’s lives these days not to be fairly represented on TV.

The gaming demographic is also arguably far wider than it was back when GM first aired and it’ll be a hard task to create a show to appeal equally to kids, teens and adults alike.

It also really needs to come back to a terrestrial TV slot on a decent day and at a decent time – 1:30am on a Tuesday won’t cut it. Whoever brings the show back has a real opportunity to do a lot of good for the image and reputation of games, and I hope they realise that and not waste it.


Tim Woodley – Head of Global Brand, 505 Games:

As a punter I remember the original series fondly as one of the few places you could get weekly broadcast coverage of new games releases, but in terms of content, it wasn’t exactly the best made show in the world.

It’s been tried several times over the last ten years to bring games back into the broadcast realm, and they’ve never really been able to hold an audience for very long.
There’s very little a weekly show can tell them over and above what they already know from content online.

That said, programmes like The Gadget Show would ostensibly suffer from the same issue, so maybe the segment they’re going after, and that GamesMaster should be trying to attract, is naturally more casual and later adopters.

If it does come back, I think it needs to concentrate on covering more games. 

It should also take advantage of the modern-day trend for audience interaction, either through consumer Q&As or polls, or even some viewer-generated content such as user reviews.

If the production company recognise that they are not there to appeal to the hardcore, but rather the secondary gaming audience, then I think it will be alright. They need to have a good handle on what kind of information that segment is after.


Clare Hawkins – Channel Marketing Manager, Sega
:

As successful and relatively enjoyable as the original might have been, it was very narrow in relation to the industry’s much broader market appeal now.

I’d like to see it taken down the route of something like the overhauled Top Gear where they have moved from straight reviews and road tests to a magazine and lifestyle format.


Alan Duncan – Marketing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment UK
:

I loved GamesMaster. It was like Tiswas but for video games; a kid’s show packed full of adult humour.

As a gamer the biggest benefit was being able to actually see games being played. Specialist mags remained the font of all knowledge, whereas GamesMaster was more of a showcase, which created excitement.

Almost every other gaming show before and after has tried to shoehorn games into an existing format; basically one which the commissioning editor would buy into.

GamesMaster was not only an original format, but one which celebrated the gamer and all their traits rather than trying to hide or polish them into a mainstream offering.

Since then, well, the Gameswipe pilot came closest. It was great for an older gamer but was too nostalgic and introspective to be a workable format.

If GamesMaster returns, Future should make the most of the opportunities its network brings, especially user-generated content, combined with the attitude
of GamesMaster.


Jon Murphy – European PES Team Leader, Konami:

GamesMaster wasn’t really aimed at me. I think it was more for the 12-year-old SNES owners, really. But Dominik Diamond did have a heaving sack of double-entendres…

While most shows up until then had showed you how to get the most out of a BBC Micro, GamesMaster was about games and being good at them. It wasn’t poking fun at people who enjoyed them, it was celebrating it.
At its heart, GamesMaster was a competition, and good games often make you competitive.

The celebs were there to be thrashed at Mario Kart or whatever by some kid from Sutton, and those that were good at games were rewarded – which made a nice change from all the usual lazy ‘games are bad for you’ headlines in the media at the time.

It also had a good balance of tips and reviews – and Patrick Moore with a colander on his head. What more could you need?

Other shows focused more on reviews and contrived hilarity. Games World on Sky tried to take the GamesMaster concept further, but became too reliant on silly gags and in-jokes, with the games taking second place.

On Bad Influence, Andy Crane clearly didn’t enjoy games like Dominik Diamond did – he was just there for his paycheques.

New GamesMaster should keep challenges at its core – especially now that online multiplayer is pretty much standard. Get the celebs back in for ritual humiliation.

TV has changed since GamesMaster was on, and I am not sure where it would sit in the schedules. T4 is a bit adult, and there are no more Saturday morning kids’ shows for it to be a part of. If it can find a place in a schedule and entertains, I am sure it could work.


Rich Eddy – Director of Communications, Codemasters
:

GamesMaster was the big gig, our Top of the Pops.
It was a great moment when the call went round – ‘we’ve got GamesMaster’ – and we’d set the VHS to record.

But, God, the kids loved it as my younger relations would testify: ‘Have you met Dominik? Can we ask GamesMaster a question plllleeeeease?’

It benefited from a safe teatime slot, which gave gaming at that time the perception of being accessible and acceptable to kids and the family overall: everyone knew what GamesMaster was.

There’s definitely an argument for the reboot to air as a two-show vehicle, rather than a single weekly episode.

You could have one back on at teatimes and a post-watershed extra edition for the 16 and 18-rated titles. The spectrum of gaming can’t be simplified into one.

The VGA Awards show in the US has become a red letter day in the gaming calendar for first runs of unseen footage and video features from publishers and pulls a great audience – I reckon this is absolutely what a re-booted version of GamesMaster could tap into.

Today, celebrities would add real content to the show – rather than the occasional puzzled-looking hopeful boy band that the old series would sometimes entertain.


Murray Pannell – UK Marketing Director, Ubisoft:

GamesMaster, hmmm. I seem to have vague but nonetheless fond recollections of a monocle.

From a PR point of view, it was probably ahead of its time. The ‘industry’ back then didn’t really deserve a dedicated TV show.

It was located in people’s garages and was about as much of an ‘industry’ as today’s West Country Cheese Rolling Commission is.

Video game shows generally don’t work because watching a bunch of moody teenagers mumbling incoherently about how much they like FIFA doesn’t make the best telly.

But, yes, I’d definitely like to see GamesMaster back. The new version should replicate the feel of BBC’s Total Wipeout whereby the contestants are publicly humiliated in defeat.

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