As I look back at the notes I made yesterday while watching 'Go 8 Bit's premiere episode on UK TV channel 'Dave' (Mondays at 10pm GMT), I can barely recognise my own writing. Exhausted from the day-and-night rigours of being a father of newborn twins, the ink in my notepad resembles chicken scratches, rather than words. Chicken scratches with the occasional backwards tick and wonky, smiley face. With two needy cherubs to attend to around the clock, I have to be very choosy about what I use my precious, spare time on. Television is rarely my first pick. Other than football and pro wrestling (yeah, I'm one of them), the biggest screen in my flat is usually devoted to the Mario brothers and not the Mitchell brothers.
Perhaps it was nostalgia for video games shows of my childhood. You know this article wouldn't be able to reach its conclusion without mentioning the excellent GamesMaster. There, I mentioned it. Perhaps it was the morbid curiosity for what could a car wreck of a show. Perhaps I was desperately scrambling for something to write about this week.
I'll be honest, I was cynical going into the show. An hour-long celebrity game show with video games acting as the "challenges" didn't excite me, bearing in mind how video games and their players have been presented on television in the recent past. The one element I could pin some hope on was the inclusion Dara Ó Briain, a comedian whose work I have always enjoyed and is known to slip gaming references into his routines, with an air of actually knowing what he is talking about.
The setup is simple. Two teams of two players compete in a series of gaming challenges, most points at the end wins. The show opens with a head-to-head challenge of Tetris. Makes sense to kick-off with a game everyone knows. What impressed me here was not only the fact that the contestants had to compete blindfolded (which I did find really amusing), but that out of all the versions of the game to choose, they went with Tetris Party on the Wii. Reason being that this version presents itself very well for spectators, the action being clear, colourful and easy to follow. They've done their research.
Contestants Susan Calman and David James (the latter of which is a celebrity I know, because he either wore a football kit or spandex) got to pick their respective games, namely Tekken and Chucky Egg. I love that Chucky Egg got a loud, ironic cheer from the audience when it was announced. They even got having the right spectators for the show correct, great job! It's important to note that if you are looking for displays of genuine skill and gaming prowess, it isn't to be found here. We have Twitch for that. But what you will see is a group of like-minded individuals having fun with a games controller in their hands, competing for the sake of entertainment - and it IS entertaining. There are no "oh I've played one of these game thingies with my daughter once" soundbites to be found. The participants love video-games, the live audience loves video games and the viewer's intelligence is not insulted for feeling the same way. Even GamesMaster was guilty of this, at times.
I did a bit of research (it happens) and it turns out that the team captains, Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon actually created the show originally for the stage and was played at Edinburgh Fringe Festival with great success. The pair does a good job of creating the sense of rivalry on-screen while keeping affairs light-hearted. The feud even continues off-screen on Twitter, which plays well into my pro-wrestling sensibilities! The closing challenge saw their faces converted into controllers by Makey Makey - getting slapped providing the "fire" button for Bust-A-Move. To further the pro-wrestling analogy, the lads are willing to endure pain for our entertainment.
To round off the cast, we have Ellie Gibson (formally of Eurogamer.net), who serves as a sort-of tongue-in-cheek Countdown "Dictionary Corner" - presenting the game we are about to see, as well as giving some history and trivia. She plays the "games expert" role well and isn't treated like a super geek side-show act, but acts more as a method of getting those unfamiliar with the next game quickly up to speed. She also provides commentary on the action with the main presenter, Dara Ó Briain, who lends the show huge credibility and class to the show. His relaxed presenting style mixed with the clear passion for the product he is working on are clear to see. A firm nod should also be given to the overall production value of the show, the stage looks great and the gaming theme is fun without being cliché. Anyone who doesn't get a kick out of a stage that rotates is allergic to fun.
All in all, a really fun show and huge congratulations to Dave and all those involved. The hour flew by and I was left looking forward to seeing what games will be played next week. The show is very different to anything available on Twitch or YouTube and has a deserved mainstream time-slot, with what I feel could appeal to both gamers and telly addicts alike. In summary, the show reminds me of what our gaming nights look like, but with the stakes taken up a few notches to include being shamed on national television. It's how gaming should be presented; inclusive, fun and just a tiny bit competitive. As an aside, due to nappy changes, bottle feeds and unannounced waah-waahs, this article took seven hours to write. Thanks, girls.