The new GamesMaster is much better than it has the right to be

This is a blog post, where the authors of VGC post irreverent and (sometimes) entertaining coverage of video game culture.

Cards on the Table: There are a lot of people, including myself, who didn’t think it was possible to bring GamesMaster back.

Ever since I found out that Channel 4 was courting advertisers in February for the show’s potential comeback, I was adamant it was a bad decision.

The original show was the perfect storm – a charismatic presenter, a serious TV host brilliantly and deliberately “misinterpreted” as the holder of GamesMaster, a bunch of entertaining challenges – all at a time when video games received little to no mainstream media coverage.

GamesMaster was exactly what I needed as a kid. When it first aired in January 1992, I was 9 years old and already obsessed with video games, and being able to watch a show about it on TV with my dad (who probably enjoyed it. for the innuendoes I missed at that age) was the perfect assertion that my hobby was legitimate.

It was in 1992, however. It’s now almost three decades later, and you can’t go for video game media. Just glance in the direction of YouTube or Twitch and you’ll get all the gaming content you could possibly want.

In addition, video games are now widely accepted by the general public. Take media coverage as an example: the BBC and the Guardian, which previously would only have touched video games if it was some sort of moral panic, now regularly cover the media.

So with all of that in mind, how could a new GamesMaster work? And, more specifically, now that video games are everywhere, who really needs them?

That was my position until Sunday night when the first episode of the new reboot aired on YouTube channel E4. Then everything changed. You can watch this episode here:

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The secret to the new show’s success is that it reproduces much of what made the original so beloved, especially the three key elements mentioned above.

First of all, the charismatic presenter. I’ll go to my grave saying that Dominik Diamond is Mr GamesMaster, and no one else could ever hope to fit into his gloriously old-fashioned red suit, but in Rab Florence, Channel 4 absolutely pulled the cast off.

Florence has been presenting video game content for over a decade and a half. Before YouTube even existed, he was making hilarious online game videos – his cult show Consolevania was unabashedly Scottish, including delicacies like him calling Codemasters and Rare for a fight on Glasgow Green.

This refusal to disinfect his Scottish rhythm is perfect in a show so synonymous with its previous Scottish presenter.

During the first challenge, a brilliantly tense Super Mario 3D World speedrun, he admits he was distracted because he was “just looking at Mario’s cute little ass” (so that’s the daddy joke box checked too).

Florence is flanked by two equally charismatic presenters. Frankie Ward provides co-commentary homework – replacing the roster of socially awkward experts from the original series – and does a fantastic job of explaining what’s going on to those who may not be familiar with the games chosen for each challenge.

Meanwhile, Ty Logan roams the room interviewing the audience (and smashing the microphone into a shiny section), but really shines in his own section where he hosts a VR challenge in Beat Saber.

Review: New GamesMaster TV show is way better than it has the right to be
Florence, Ward and Logan make a brilliant trio

The second element is the casting of the GamesMaster itself. It had been rumored for a long time that Patrick Stewart would take on the role (mainly because Channel 4 introduced him in the first pictures), but it was only a few weeks ago that it was revealed that he was would rather act of a TV news legend. Trevor McDonald.

McDonald’s does exactly what the late Patrick Moore did all those years ago – he brings an unexpected level of comedy to debates.

Like Moore, McDonald’s has traditionally been one of the most serious TV faces you can think of, so having him like a big floaty head saying ‘whaguan’ to competitors and laughing as they die when they fail challenges is really. amusing. Another example of a perfect casting.

The same goes for the third element – challenges. The only negative moment I had while watching the show was not from the show itself but from the live chat on YouTube, with people complaining that it was “ticking boxes” with its competitors. .

Review: New GamesMaster TV show is way better than it's allowed to be
Twitch streamer and illustrator Shanghai’d was a brilliantly charismatic first candidate

These people seem to have forgotten that the original show also drew in contestants of all ages, genders, and races, so the reboot isn’t new in that regard. That said, at a time when the gaming community is becoming more and more toxic, it was fantastic to see the diversity of competitors included here.

The first challenger was a non-binary Twitch streamer and game QA tester, while the second was a lesbian couple who hook up during Call of Duty sessions. Enough for the worst corners of the internet to crack their pencils in pantomime outrage, sure, but a brilliant way to show that video games are for everyone these days.

Even the obligatory “celebrity who doesn’t play a lot of games” was very entertaining thanks to some ridiculous old-fashioned fan service with the introduction of the legendary Big Boy Barry – who appeared as a contestant in the first series. of GamesMaster before assuming his alter-ego in the Sky One Games World knock-off.

But it wasn’t Barry who was on the show – it was his (real) son, taking on the character of Little Lad Larry, and the little man loved it. And in a way, it’s this section that actually summed up what made this reboot so surprisingly brilliant for me.

Review: New GamesMaster TV show is way better than it has the right to be
Big Boy Barry and Little Lad Larry perfectly sum up why reboot is so important

I was nine when GamesMaster first aired, and I’m 38 now. I have a child of my own and although she is a little too young to understand what is going on at this point, my situation is not uncommon.

Tweets were strewn across social media last night from adults who loved GamesMaster as a child and now watched it with their own kids, just like my dad did with me. This show is not an attempt to recreate the magic for children of the 90s, it is an attempt to pass that magic on to their own children.

More than anything else, everything was overwhelmingly positive, in an industry where negativity thrives. Even the final challenge, starring cult YouTube fighting game twins Ketchup and Mustard, the two talked to each other about trash but ultimately ended with a big brotherly hug.

It was clear that my questions had been answered. How? ‘Or’ What could can a new GamesMaster work? By sticking to what made it work in the first place – the hosts, the head and the heart.

As for the other question: now that video game coverage is everywhere, who really needs it? Well, if the positivity of that first episode is anything to see, we all do.

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