When it comes to worthy and quality gaming TV shows, there aren’t that many worth remembering. They usually lacked substance or even a basic understanding of the gaming world. Here in the UK, we had a few gaming shows through the 90s and most of them were complete pants. But one stood out in the rather small crowd. A show that had humour (often both very adult, near the knuckle and childish), gaming news & reviews, challenges, celebrity guests, hints & cheats and above all… it had respect for games and the gaming community.
GamesMaster ran for 7 series (seasons for my American readers) between 1992 – 1998. With a total of 126 episodes. It was massively popular among British gamers such as myself and the millions of viewers who tuned in week after week to watch, what was, at the time, the UK’s first and only dedicated gaming TV show.
At first, I thought about doing a short-ish article just looking at how GamesMaster began, grew and ultimately ended. But after reading what I had written, it felt unworthy and disrespectful to what was, quite easily the greatest gaming TV show ever made. So I decided to do something more in-depth. A proper intro (this that you’re reading right now), a look at every series, every single episode and right up to the end of GamesMaster and it’s influence and impact.
There a hell of a lot to cover here and this is just the beginning. So here we go. My in-depth retrospective look at GamesMaster, from it’s origins to it’s end including every episode and as many interesting tit-bits I can find and cram in along the way.
Just a quick aside. When I do these large retrospectives, I usually pre-write the whole thing in advance and publish each part one after the other. Due to a lack of time, other writing projects and more than several other distractions. I’m writing and publishing this gargantuan retrospective as and when each part is done. As I aim to cover every series and every episode (and a few bonuses along the way), so this will take a while. So please do bear with me as there will be gaps of days, even weeks as I write this epic, multi-part retrospective.
So with that out of the way, onto GamesMaster… all of it.
Origins And Format
GamesMaster was the brainchild of Jane Hewland, who founded TV production company Hewland International. While watching her young son playing video games, she began to wonder why this increasingly popular form of entertainment is not represented much on TV. Jane put together a pitch for a new TV show that would not just cover new games, but also work in an element of competition via gaming challenges. Channel 4 caught wind of the pitch and offered to push ahead with the production and so GamesMaster was born.
Interestingly enough, because the show had a competitive angle, it fell under the jurisdiction of the sports department of programmes. So I guess GamesMaster could be considered the first foray into what we now call e-sports.
The format of GamesMaster took ideas from popular gaming magazines of the day. It would feature news and reviews, but the main thrust of the show would be the challenges where members of the public (and sometimes celebrities) would go up against the latest games and compete to win the coveted golden joystick trophy, which was just a cheap computer joystick spray painted gold.
The show would have a main presenter who introduced the games, challenges and spoke with the contestants and often joined by a co-commentator, who would be an industry insider or gaming journalist, comically talking about the games being played. Then there was the titular GamesMaster himself. Played by the legendary Sir Patrick Moore, who would introduce the game challenges as well as offer his endless wisdom as the GamesMaster to provide hints, tips and cheats for the latest titles.
Each series had a theme/location and even a continuity linked story for the presenter as the series “story” evolved… more of which I’ll cover with each series write-up.
GamesMaster’s format was structured but also felt very fresh and exciting too, with a little anarchy thrown in. This was the first time games and the gaming world had a dedicated TV show. Aimed at older children/teens, but with some more than risqué adult humour. GamesMaster aired at 6:30 pm, before the watershed, how they got away with some of the sexual innuendos, references and jokes was hilarious and it was that blending of gaming and near the knuckle humour that made the show such a hit.
First airing in 1992, during the 16-bit generation of gaming with the Mega Drive and SNES and being the first dedicated gaming TV show had developers and publishers eager to show off their latest games. The GamesMaster production team built up a very friendly and close relationship with many gaming studios at the time which was beneficial to all involved. GamesMaster got their millions of viewers watching for the latest games and the developers/publishers got their games in front of the millions of avid viewing gamers with parent’s money to spend on their software. Due to this close working partnership with developers and publishers, on occasion, GamesMaster could show off titles well in advance of their release date and often getting the edge over popular gaming magazines at the time.
During it’s run, GamesMaster was THE TV show to watch at a time before the internet took off proper and gaming culture was everywhere.
So with the intro out of the way, I’ll kick things off with a look at the very first series and every episode of GamesMaster.