It’s 1991. I’m twenty years
old, recently married, and living
in Margate. A town where I had grown up and made my transition
from boy to man via the silicon-enhanced temptresses known as
Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga, and frittered away both time
and money in the seafront arcades.
Ah. Sunburn, sandy lollies and
the bellies of surly fatties.
All of my computers have fallen by the wayside,
with the Amiga the last to be sold off for extra money towards
my recent wedding. To keep my beloved in the manner to which she
is accustomed, I’m working as an Insurance Clerk for a brokers
in the town centre. The days are full of endless car insurance
quotations, endowments, life insurances... Dictated letters here,
portfolios there. Tedious, boring, mind-numbing. I need a new
job. One that I can actually enjoy.
One evening I’m reading the local newspaper
when I spot, in the job section, an advert which read something
Do you like playing computer/console games?
Do you have good communication skills?
Then this might be the thing for you…
Hmm, thinks me.
Do I like playing computer/console games? Check.
Do I have good communication skills? Check.
Re-read first question. Double-check.
So I phone up the next day and get an application
form. Turns out it’s a job working for Hornby Hobbies (those
of the Scalextric and Hornby Railways fame). Having decided to
get into the computer games market, they want someone to help
in the marketing and customer service department for a new product
they are about to launch. In conjunction with Codemasters, they
are going to launch the NES Game Genie cheating device –
already extremely successful in the US – and help distribute
a few Codemasters games, as well.
The train that bears the nickname
of legendary, pacy Scottish winger… Erm… Um…
OK. Still sounds promising, then.
So, I send off the form and a CV and wait. A
couple of days later I have a letter offering me an interview.
The interview goes very well. They need someone to use a database
application to log customer details. Not a problem – I’d
been banging away on databases daily at the insurance brokers
for the last year or two. But the main task is running the customer
service line for Game Genie owners, and providing codes and tips
for NES, Megadrive, Gameboy, Game Gear and SNES games.
Oh, wow. Now this is starting to sound like
a DREAM job.
I leave the interview to the usual: “We’ll
be in touch.” A couple of days later, I receive another
letter telling me that I’m on the shortlist for the position
and that I would need to attend a second interview with the new
Electronic Games Marketing Manager.
So, I go to this second interview and again,
all is going well. We start chatting about the computers we’ve
had in the past. Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga… “AMIGA!
You had an Amiga, too!” cries the new Electronic Games Marketing
Manager. We had bonded. It was at this point that I began to mentally
compose my resignation letter to the insurance brokers.
Within two weeks I was on my first day at Hornby.
With the release of the first Game Genie (for the NES) still a
couple of months away there was lots to prepare for. Firstly –
how was I to start giving game advice for all these consoles?
Easy – I got a freebie machine for each type. On my very
first day I took home a Gameboy, NES, Game Gear, Megadrive and
SNES – along with an armful of games. This really was turning
into the best job ever.
I spent every day from nine-to-five playing
games, writing down the solutions, then reading computer magazines
for playing tips and building up a huge database of cheatiness.
The Game Genie was to be packaged with a booklet of codes but
there were new ones being generated all the time. Codes to turn
Mario upside-down, change the background to blue, make all monsters
invisible… And loads more. At last, I had a job that I couldn’t
complain about. I even had a justified reason to play games when
I got home.
’Enhancer’ or ‘Ruiner’?
In addition to the endless hours playing Mario
and his kindred, I was now being asked to attend computer shows
to help launch the product. The first was ECTS at the Business
Design Centre in Islington, London. We were to share a stand with
Codemasters and the well-known Darling twins. No longer was I
just an ordinary insurance clerk – I was officially part
of the games biz.
During that week, I attended a game awards show
and, at the after-show party, I had the pleasure of meeting Julia
Sawalha (and the not-so-pleasurable Dexter Fletcher – her
current boyfriend), Dominik Diamond (off of GamesMaster), lispy
lovely Violet Berlin and a host of other biz names including Julian
Rignall and the game music composer Alistair Brimble.
Violet Berlin. She loves us. Look.
She wrote a kiss.
I worked at Hornby for just over three years
until the Game Genie, in all its forms across the Nintendo and
Sega platforms, was made obsolete by the superior Action Replay.
In that time, I played hundreds of games, attended computer shows,
met celebrities, and appeared on TV three times (Gamesmaster,
GamesWorld, and, um, Gaz Top’s Non-Stop Show). My name (and
picture on a few occasions) regularly popped up in the magazines
of the time (Sega Power, Gamesmaster, C&VG, etc.) as the UK
voice and face of the Game Genie.
It was never really a job. I enjoyed it far
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.
Cheat the game – and yourself –
at The Cheating Dome.
Horrifyingly enthusiastic GamesMaster
Thank CHRIST for Gaz