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Jul 25

The Spielberg of Gaming

A few years ago I, along with the usual suspects Mike, Dave and Russell, were interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland. You can find the interview here, although despite being on YouTube it’s audio only. At the time I wrote a blog post about it, of which I’ve placed an expanded and updated version below the fold. Dave Jones, as you can guess from the title has been called the Spielberg of Gaming, an accolade which goes all the way back to the 90s. At the time I wondered who the Roger Corman of gaming was. I still don’t have an answer for that, other than to note, somewhat slyly, that a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for games would be an astonishingly funny, if technically challenging, thing to do.

The Spielberg of Gaming

It’s always amazed me how persistent DMA Design has been in my life. (Even with my current day job I leave at five and walk past the old DMA offices.) Immediately after the DMA exhibit opened in the MacManus Galleries, I was interviewed by James Christie from BBC Radio Scotland as one of the founders of DMA Design*.

It was to be a half hour documentary, and it has just aired this morning. I’m always nervous when something is broadcast with a contribution from me in it. And yes, I’m still astonished – when I think about it – that I can casually write a sentence like the previous one. This one, however, was especially nerve-wracking for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on. Would I sound OK? Did I make sense? Would my contribution even get used? There are certainly no guarantees on that score. As per my first ever encounter with TV: an interview about games piracy.

In that case, we were at Discovery House, and TV personality Dominic Diamond was doing a piece with cameraman in tow. Chairs arranged in a small circle, I sat between Scott Johnston and Brian Watson. Only once Dominic started talking did I realise just how damned nervous I was. The other guys spoke fluently and – it seemed – effortlessly. I had been quiet, trying hard to think of something erudite, witty and cutting right to the heart of the matter. What I blurted out – and don’t ask me to recall what it was – did none of those things, except emphasis how nervous I was in a torrent of ums and ers. Scott drove me home afterwards during which I experienced some kind of adrenaline crash, with the effect of my fingers going numb.

In the event, I was edited out entirely.

Fortunately these days I’m much more comfortable. The answer to my being any good was yes – purely on the evidence that I’m in the edit – and now I’m left with a curious mix of nostalgia and excitement, even as I realise that only a small fraction of my interview was used and only those parts which fitted the ‘narrative’ that documentaries use. I’m sure it was the same for both Mike and Russell who were also part of it. (Dave must be used to interviews by now!)

But I realised that this means there’s a huge amount of story that hasn’t been told, that doesn’t exist on Wikipedia or anywhere else aside from in our heads, notwithstanding the odd fragment on a website here and there. I close my eyes and I can see the old, old, office. But describing it, ah, that’s the trick.

I recorded some important events in a journal I kept at DMA in 1996, but I so wish that I’d done the same for 1995, 1994, 1993… Of course at the time none of us had any idea that DMA would be important and very little was jotted down, still less anything being formally recorded. It makes the piecing together of some DMA history an exercise in deductive work where I still have scraps of paper, or tickets to hint at the exact date something occurred.

And that’s what it was like in the days before blogs, twitter and 24/7 recording, when it was still possible for a mythology to arise. When you could fill in the gaps with your own wishes.

*.You can read my thoughts on being a ‘DMA founder’ on my old blog. It’s rather less clear-cut than you might expect. Though it’s certainly true that, in the fashion of Londo from Babylon 5, “I was there at the beginning…”