Well, now that my mighty huge GamesMaster retrospective is done, I can finally cover the most (in)famous of GamesMaster incidents ever! The truth is that I was always going to be covering this anyway. In fact, going back to my original idea for an article, I was only going to be covering this subject, but I got a bit carried away and ended up covering every episode of every series.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to write this article was not to get ‘the truth’ of what happened out there. Let’s be honest, only Dominik Diamond and Dave Perry know the real truth. No, I just wanted to offer my own views of what I think happened. I may be completely wrong with my interpretation of the whole incident, I may be closer to the truth than I think. But the point is that what follows is just my personal opinion on the whole Mario 64-gate incident.
For those not in the know, a very brief recap. Back in series six of the show in 1996, there was a Christmas special, the episode took a break from its usual format and instead hosted a gaming quiz show type thing. Dominik Diamond was the host with four GamesMaster regular co-presenters/reviewers as the contestants. Long story short and Dave Perry, along with Kirk Ewing made it through to the final round of the show. Here, they had to face off against each other in a challenge on Mario 64 (N64) where they had to do the tricky Big Penguin Race stage, whoever finished the race in the fastest time wins. Another long story short and Dave fell off the course and claimed he was set up. It all sounds relatively mundane now, but back then? It was major gaming news for us Brits of a certain age and an incident that is still talked about today. Look, here’s the clip in question and you can see just how pissed off Dave Perry was.
Dave comes across as a bit of a baby over the fact that he lost at a video game. He has also had plenty of ridicule and abuse aimed at him over the years too for his behaviour. Still, I have always wondered if there was more to this story than just Dave Perry being a bit of a dick because he lost a gaming challenge.
As I said earlier, I’m not aiming to uncover the truth, especially as DD’s GamesMaster book is going to do just that when it is released anyway, as Dave Perry is one of the book’s contributors and the whole story is going to be covered. So, that will certainly make an interesting read! This is just me offering my own personal view as an outside observer. So…
I guess the first thing to address is just why Dave Perry was so annoyed over losing at something as trivial as a game challenge? A lot of people put it down to his ego, his persona of Dave ‘The Games Animal’ Perry. See, Dave always put himself across as the ‘greatest games player in the UK’ and several times in the show, he is labelled just that. His being bested in a video game really dented his ego and he just got a bit pissy over the whole thing. There’s no denying that Dave Perry definitely had a bit of an ego, But for me, he never came across as being that childish that he would sulk over losing. I have always felt there was more going on than it just being Dave upset that he lost at a gaming challenge. When you scratch the surface of the whole incident a bit, there is something there worth looking into. Then there is the claim that Dave makes about being ‘set up’. I mean, set up how and why?
First, let’s look at how and why he was possibly set up. From some digging around, I learned that Dave Perry asked to see the answers for the quiz ahead of the recording of the show. Why? He had a gaming book coming out (Dominik slyly mentions it in the above clip) and he wanted to ensure he didn’t get any of the questions wrong as to not look like an idiot, what with his gaming book soon to be released. The producers refused, there was a bit of an argument and Dave eventually relented on his request and agreed to do the show without knowing the answers to the questions. Of course, Dominik Diamond heard about Dave’s request and argument with the producers and so decided to show him up on national TV.
See, according to sources, they rehearsed the final challenge with all four contestants, just so everyone was familiar with the game they would be playing. Only, the game that was used for practise was (I believe) WipEout (PlayStation)… at least that was the game they practised on when Dave was there. When he wasn’t, they all played Mario 64. Giving the other three contestants of the quiz the upper hand as (also mentioned in the above clip), Mario 64 had not yet been released in the UK at the time. So when it did come to doing the show, Dave would be at a serious disadvantage. Plus, the other finalist, Kirk Ewing, had an N64 and a copy of the game on import and had been playing Mario 64 a lot in the run up to recording the episode.
But how could they ensure that Dave Perry would even make it to the final of the quiz to begin with? That was very possibly set up too. Now, I admit that I’ve not been able to find any reliable sources to this claim, but just using what I have witnessed watching this whole thing for my retrospective, it is very clear that there was some animosity aimed towards Dave Perry for quite a while. I’ll mention some instances soon, but for now, I just want to concentrate on this Christmas quiz. See, if you watch the episode in question, you may notice some unfair play.
I mean, there is a point in the quiz, during the Mastermind parody bit, where Dominik askes Kirk Ewing the following question:
“What flightless black and white Arctic bird which gives its name to a famous chocolate bar, an enemy of Batman and brand of paperback, does Mario have to return to his parents on a snow level of Mario 64 and here’s a clue, it looks like this…?”
After which, Dominik holds up a stuffed penguin, as the answer is quite obviously penguin. I mean DD just quite literally gave the answer away. However, Kirk still gets it wrong as he answers with ‘puffin’… yet Dominik says it’s correct and gives Kirk the point. There are other questions that Kirk either gets wrong, or the questions/answers are just utter nonsense, yet Kirk still gets points for answering them. It’s pretty damn obvious that there is some underhanded playing going on here, as if DD is forcing a result. I mean, the four people who take part in the quiz are supposed to be experts in their field, yet they get some of the easiest and most obvious questions wrong. I guess that I’m suggesting there was quite possibly some kind of meeting before the recording of the show that Dave Perry was not invited to, but the others were, where it was possibly planned on letting Dave win to get him to the final… possibly? But also a plan to ensure Kirk also made it to the final as just maybe, he did the best in those Mario 64 practise sessions that Dave was not part of… possibly? Oh yeah before I forget, Dominik and Kirk were very good and close friends too as they were both from Scotland.
There was even a round before this where the contestants had to guess what happened after a clip of a game. The classic Resident Evil (PlayStation) bit where the dogs jump through the window was played… and it was answered wrong by someone who’s supposed to be a gaming expert? Then, when it is Dave Perry’s turn, he gets a clip from Sonic The Hedgehog (Mega Drive) of Sonic running to the end of a level and had to guess what happens next. Now, anyone would say that Doctor Robotnik appears, which is correct and also what Dave answered. However, the clip was edited to show a completely different game. Clearly done to try and screw Dave out of points. The whole thing is a fix.
I have even heard that during the previously mentioned Mastermind parody quiz, Dave was given less time to answer his questions while the others had more. You know what? I checked. See, Dominik Diamond says that everyone gets 45 seconds to answer as many questions as they can… but not everyone got 45 seconds. Oh yeah, I timed all four contestants. The truth is that no one got 45 seconds. One of the contestants got 47 seconds and everyone else got 30-32 seconds. Now, it wasn’t Kirk Ewing who got the 47 seconds advantage, he got the same 32 seconds that Dave Perry did. So while the 45 seconds thing was utter bullshit, it still never disadvantaged Dave at all as he got the same time as Kirk. However, it still shows that there was ‘something’ going on if the 45 seconds rule wasn’t upheld for the quiz.
But let’s move onto the Mario 64 finale challenge that pissed Dave off so much when he lost. See, the challenge was to race to the bottom of the Big Penguin Race stage with the fastest time being the winner. So Kirk Ewing went first and fell off the course with a time of 20 seconds. As Kirk never finished the race, all Dave Perry had to do was last longer than 20 seconds. Even DD himself points out that all Dave has to do is beat the 20 seconds that Kirk set. Dave sets off, comes a cropper just after the first corner and falls off with a time of 14 seconds, failing the challenge. People like to claim that Dave was going for the shortcut, but lost it and fell off. However, I’d like to ask a question here… why? Why would Dave be going for a shortcut when his time was irrelevant, all he had to do was last longer than 20 seconds? He didn’t need to go for the shortcut at all.
In fact, if you go watch the above clip again, the timer starts before Dave even sets off on the slide down. He could’ve just stayed exactly where he was and won without moving Mario a millimetre. There’s also something else worth paying attention to, just how the two start off on the race. Kirk runs right to the start of the slope without even hesitating, clearly he’s played the game before. Whereas if you watch Dave, he is much more hesitant and seems to struggle with the controls, as if he’s never played the game before. Dave Perry himself even stated that he hadn’t played the game as it wasn’t released yet in the UK at the time. A lot of people call bullshit on that, but not me. It’s really quite clear that Dave hadn’t played the game before just from how he started the race with his stuttering start. Seriously, go watch the clip again and tell me that Dave’s start is one of a person who’s played Mario 64 before.
Quick addition here. One of the first questions of the quiz is a picture round and Dave Perry had to identify this image:
Now, Dave correctly recognises it as Metal-Mario from Mario 64. People use this to suggest that Dave was lying about never playing Mario 64 if he could recognise that screenshot as being from the game that he never played. I fail to see how that works, there are dozens of games that I have never played, but could still recognise a screenshot from the game. Plus, Dave Perry worked in the industry, I really don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to believe that Dave had seen Mario 64 and was aware of it (as it was massively hyped and in pretty much every gaming publication at the time) but still never actually played the game. Seeing and recognising a screenshot from a game isn’t the same as playing the game.
Do you remember playing Mario 64 for the first time? I do. It does take a while to get used to the controls, we had only ever played Mario in 2D up to that point and yes, the 3D movement was strange, especially coupled with the rather bizarre N64 controller. Then throw on the fact that this particular part of the game, the Big Penguin Race, is hardly the best place to get used to the controls either. It’s a very tricky part even if you do know what you are doing. Did you clear that bit the first time you played it? I know I didn’t and I had played the game a fair bit before that point to get used to the controls too. The thing is that the controls for that race feel very, very different to the rest of the game. The whole inertia thing as the gravity of the race pulls you down, along with the slippy ice, really does take some getting used to. You know what? I’m siding with Dave here and believe him when he said that he hadn’t played the game before. It’s just so blindly obvious from the first 3 seconds of the challenge and how Dave starts the race that he has no idea what he’s doing compared to Kirk’s start.
This brings me back to the whole shortcut claim. If Dave had not played the game before… then he wouldn’t know about the shortcut would he (that he didn’t even need to take anyway)? If he didn’t know about the shortcut, then how/why would he be going for it? So, why does he slide towards the shortcut then eh? Yup, that is certainly a great question, but one that I think I have an answer to. Remember your first time playing that particular bit on Mario 64, did you slide off at the same point? I did… a few times. I did because (as mentioned) everything feels very different due to the ice slide, etc. I fell off because I slowed down and you just naturally gravitate toward the apex of the corner. Go play Mario 64 now and try it yourself, slow down on that first corner and you will slide toward the shortcut, even if you don’t mean to (that is probably how the shortcut was found in the first place, by accident). You have to speed up on the first corner and only someone who has played the game before will know that… like Kirk Ewing.
Yup, go back and watch the clip and you will see Mario that leans forwards when Kirk plays because he is making him accelerate to avoid sliding off the track. Watch Dave Perry’s attempt and he doesn’t accelerate, in fact, Mario is constantly leaning back and decelerating. Why? Because Dave hadn’t played the game before so was very wary about what he was doing. Seriously Dave’s apprehensive corner taking, coupled with his hesitant start really does lead me to believe that Dave Perry had never played the game before. Just as a quick aside, if you are going for the shortcut on this bit of the game, it’s actually better to speed up as you have far better control of Mario to line him up for the shortcut and not slow down as Dave Perry did.
But there is a difference between Dave Perry not playing a game before and him actually being set up right? That claim is still one with a big layer of uncertainty surrounding it. Look, I may be sure that Dave never played Mario 64 before the challenge (and I am) but his claims of being ‘set up quite badly’ (his words) are not quite as easy for me to outright believe. I certainly think that it is possible especially if the whole swapping from WipEout to Mario 64 without Dave’s knowledge is true. If you want more suggestions of the possibility of Dave being set up, then how about this quote from Dominik Diamond himself during an interview with Eurogamer?
“The way I treated Dave on screen is not something I am particularly proud of. It was perilously close to bullying. As much as we felt Dave was being a dick, with this whole Games Animal thing and thinking the wheel was square before he got his hands on it – I think we humiliated the guy. Yes, at the time, he was a dick. But jeez, no one was a bigger dick during the ’90s than me.”
Or this quote from the same interview?
“I made some disgusting comments about Dave. I did an interview with Edge magazine and said the most reprehensible things; unforgivable, nasty things which he never deserved. I hate the fact I did that. Let’s all just move on.”
I have tried to find that Edge magazine interview (number 143) but couldn’t track it down. Anyway, even DD himself has admitted that he pretty much bullied Dave Perry, has insulted him over the years, etc. Would it really be that much of a stretch to believe that Dave was really set up? I think it is a possibility at the very least. I do just want to bring up that Dominik Diamond is very remorseful of how he treated Dave Perry while making GamesMaster. The two have reconciled since then as Dave is part of the awesome looking GamesMaster book. It is now all water under the bridge and all that.
Still, just going back over GamesMaster and something I most definitely noticed watching all the episodes for this retrospective. Even on-screen, Dominik acted like a complete dick to Dave several times. It all seems to start about midway through series four. When Dave was co-commentating with Dominik, many, many times DD would pull faces, pretend to fall asleep, etc whenever Dave was talking. It was all very childish shit, but it is there. And if Dominik was ‘perilously close to bullying’ Dave (his words) on screen, then what the hell was going on behind the scenes?
Still, you do have to ask just why Dave Perry got so upset about being set up (if he was) and losing the challenge right? I mean, all DD really did was slightly embarrass one of his co-presenters, no biggie. You just suck it up and crack on with your job, take it in your stride. But Dave Perry didn’t. As the episode shows, he behaved like a spoiled brat. Dave did stick around for a couple of more episodes, but ultimately left GamesMaster shortly after that Christmas special. Dave Perry’s ego could’ve been a huge part of it but I think there was much more to it than that.
See, Dave was not just a co-presenter/reviewer on GamesMaster. In a great many ways, if it wasn’t for Dave Perry, then GamesMaster would never have existed to begin with. While the basic idea of the show came from producer Jane Hewland, Dave played a massive part in making GamesMaster the show it became too. He was a pretty big gaming journalist (sorry, marketing manager) back then and held quite a lot of sway in the industry. He had a lot of connections and friends throughout his career. Dave actually called in a lot of favours with industry insiders to get that first series made. At the time, no one wanted to make a TV show based on video games, no one. Still, Dave Perry (and Jane Hewland) made it happen regardless. Here’s a quote from Dave Perry when he did an interview with Classic Replay:
“Dominik and I got on fine in the early days of series 1 and 2. We had a good laugh. Why things changed I don’t know.
My experiences of GamesMaster were a combination of very high, highs and annoyingly frustrating lows. I loved doing the show, as it had been my ‘baby’ from the start. But I always felt like I was on a crusade to keep it true to its original concept, to make sure that when I was onscreen it was always about the games not just a forum for cracking one-liners and childish innuendo. By series 6 I’d had enough. I didn’t feel I could stop the rot and lost interest in the politics. Series 7 showed my decision to walk to be the correct one.”
Now, not knowing exactly what went on between Dominik and Dave behind the scenes, I have to agree with Dave here that the show did begin to rot away. It’s very clear from series five onwards that the focus began to shift from the games as DD became the main draw. Plus, if you do go back and watch all the series and every episode as I did, you’ll notice a very clear shift of power in terms of Dominik Diamond. That first series and DD was clearly nervous, very geeky and more than a bit cheeky in his presenting style. He comes out of his shell a fair bit in series 2, but is still fairly reserved and very much respectful as a presenter. Series three, he didn’t do. Series four and there is a definite cockyness to him now, he’s not cheeky anymore with a larger sense of bravado. With series five and six, Dominik Diamond is just an outright prick now. From series five onwards, the show started to become the ‘Dominik and Friends Show’, it began to feel less and less GamesMaster and more ‘look at me, I’m Dominik Diamond’.
I have zero doubt that Dave Perry had a bit of an ego, but it makes perfect sense that he would be so upset that he was being pushed out (allegedly) off the show that he helped create. So yeah, of course he’s going to be massively pissed off. Wouldn’t you?
Just going back to one of Dominik Diamond’s quotes I used where he said ‘no one was a bigger dick during the ’90s than me’. He was right too. At the time, I adored DD and his presenting of GamesMaster… but I was a stupid teenager back then. Now when I watch the show, I seriously think that Dominik is just a massive prick from series five onwards. Dave Perry had a bit of an ego, no doubt about it, coupled with Dominik Diamond and his own ego. There was bound to be a conflict between the two. They were both dicks during the 90s, it’s just that DD was a much bigger one, as he freely admits.
So, onto my conclusion of the whole incident. I do think that the quiz was ‘fixed’ to force a pre-planned result and get Dominik’s friend, Kirk, to the final. Dominik and Kirk were good friends and the quiz itself clearly shows Kirk getting questions wrong, but still being given points by DD. I think it is more than possible that there were meetings between everyone, except Dave Perry, as they planned to stitch him up. While I can not find 100% proof that the game used in the final was swapped from WipEout to Mario 64 without Dave’s knowledge, it is another possibility. I am 100% convinced that Dave had not played Mario 64 before. It was not available in the UK at the time and yes, Dave most definitely could’ve got in on import and played it (anyone could have). But just because he could, doesn’t mean that he did. Just going back to the clip and watching the two playstyles between Kirk and Dave, it is painfully clear that Kirk had played the game before as he was much more confident. Whereas Dave’s playstyle was far more apprehensive and hesitant. Why would Dave purposely play like that? He didn’t go for the shortcut as he didn’t even need to and as I previously covered, if you do slow down on the first comer (as anyone who had not played the game before would naturally do), Mario loses all momentum and just gravitates towards and drops off art that same point anyway.
But as for Dave’s claims of being ‘set up failry badly’? I think that is a bold claim that could be seen as childish on Dave’s part, certainly. But I also don’t think that it is beyond the realms of reality that he was. Dominik Diamond has already (pretty much) admitted to bullying Dave Perry when they were making GamesMaster. You can see a lot of DD’s childish behaviour towards Dave on the screen too. Dave has said he felt the show was rotting away. A show that he helped to make it to TV in the first place. So yeah, of course he would be upset that the quality was dropping, and it was. I’m not sure if the ‘setting up’ of Dave was meant to force him out of the show, ultimately it did, but I can’t say I believe that was the intention. If the story of Dave Perry asking for the answers to the questions is true, then I can certainly believe that Dominik wanted to stitch him up on national TV, even if just to give Dave’s ego a bit of a kick while inflating his own at the same time. But at that point, Dave Perry had already had enough of the show’s decline. Perhaps he would’ve left even if that Christmas quiz hadn’t happened? But I see it as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For me, I’m siding with Dave here. This is a massive 180° for me as for years and even going into this article, I have always had the belief that Dave Perry was just being a childish little shit. I have always thought that Dave was throwing his toys out of the pram just because he lost at a game. But now? There was clearly a lot more stuff going on behind the scenes than I originally knew. You have to look at the entire episode and not just the Mario 64 bit at the end. Even Dominik Diamond himself admits he mistreated Dave and yes, I can believe that he would go out of his way to try and show Dave up on TV.
Just to finish, doesn’t anyone else found it strange how Dave Perry has been ridiculed for years over his failure at Mario 64. Yet Kirk Ewing, who had a copy of the game for at least a month before, failed after only lasting 20 seconds has had nothing like the trolling that Dave had?
We’ve been laughing at the wrong person for the last twenty-five years…