In the 90s, the largest figure in video gaming on telly was the giant cyborg head of Sir Patrick Moore, the president of the British Astronomical Association and a Commander of the Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire. I swear this is not some twee British joke. The show was named GamesMaster, and now Channel 4 are looking at 'rebooting' it with a focus on celebrities battling to win that coveted Golden Joystick. But which celebrity baldie can fill the role of GamesMaster this time?
Channel 4's Sales site announced last week that they're looking for a brand partner for a potential reboot of GamesMaster (as VGC spotted). The plan is for a weekly show where five celebrities would battle it out in different games until only one remains, with other gaming bits and pieces scattered throughout. Sounds like, as in the original, it might balance celebfights with previews and cheats and such. The show would be "social first", they say, then broadcast on E4 and gathered on All 4.
Given that Dexter Fletcher hosted the show for a bit, I think the logical choice for a new GamesMaster cybronic slaphead would be his Lock Stock co-star, Jason Statham.
For more on GamesMaster, Ellie Gibson gave an oral history of it on Eurogamer years back. Oh hey, she was later on that there Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit, the other TV show with comedians playing video games.
I do wonder what audience they're aiming for as they reboot a show which ended 23 years ago. While GamesMaster was maybe the best of its contemporaries, part of the draw was simply that it was novel to see video games reflected in wider culture. While games are still quite rare on TV because TV doesn't know what to do with them, the changing media landscape makes that irrelevant. Games are so big that films and TV shows are falling over themselves to advertise in Fortnite, and with the Internet we can watch and read personality-driven gamegab 24/7.
As much as Twitchers are celebrities in their own rights these days, mind, I do think the clout of TV can still draw celebrities from wider culture that today's kiddywinkles might like to see playing games on the telly. Could work. Dunno. Curious.
The other approach would be nostalgia, I suppose, aiming for the budding pensioners who watched GamesMaster then and now enjoy riling their kids by pretending they don't understand Twitch and think it's called 'TikTwotch'. Someone has to comfort these lost souls, after all. Other than us, I mean. We shouldn't have to carry that burden by ourselves.
I think my favourite video games TV show is Consolevania (featuring former RPS columnist Rab Florence). Even Statham handing out tips couldn't compare to Ask Kenny. Consolevania also recognised that the media have a public duty to rip the piss out RPS co-founder Kieron Gillen.