I’ve Daren at the World of Spectrum forums to thank for bringing this wee YouToob gem to my attention. It opens with some promotional videos for a whole raft of videogames for various home computers circa 1984. Apart from the obvious retrogaming interest side these puff pieces are worth a gander because they look so cheaply put-together, like those adverts that used to appear in cinemas for a local curry house. The joystick ad is hilariously amateurish (you can almost hear the director saying “can you just wiggle it a bit more…”) and many of the voiceovers (the wonderful Tom Baker excepted) sound dreary and pedantic; it doesn’t help that some of the games look like they’d appeal most to the side-parting and NHS-specs crowd.
Five minutes in we move to a documentary called “The World’s Greatest Computer Games” presented by Chris Tarrant, back when he was still considered a yoof-friendly presenter. This is a bit of a promo piece as well but Tarrant proves a much more engaging voiceover and actually manages to make the games sound fun rather than snooze-inducing as the previous promos managed to. And with phrases like “splattered all over the screen”, “before I’d mastered the joystick”, “I’ve got to fly my chopper as far as I can” and “precious booty” (which Chris laments not even getting a “sniff” of) do I detect a hint of under-the-radar innuendo? Or have I just watched too many Carry On films?
On a more serious note, this is a fascinating look into how the media dealt with videogames when they were still a new phenomenon. There’s an interesting point around 11 minutes in where Tarrant talks about the difficulty in fitting videogames into popular culture claiming that they owe something to films, books, board games and carnival games. It’s also easy to see the earliest incarnations of genres which are now slick multi-million pound efforts from RPGs through platform gaming and sports simulators to games based around music. Flight sims seem to have completely vanished from the radar, though, so to speak. There’s also an abundance of the early, eccentric, gaming that was a result of the individuality in the industry at the time and which was stamped-out by the growth of corporate games publishers only to re-emerge in the last decade with the rise of the independent sector.
Well worth a watch if you’re interested in old video games, 1980s media, or even just a young(ish) Chris Tarrant in a rugby shirt.