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Digitiser: The Game: Development

Part 2 - 25th May 2018

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Thanks for the kind feedback so far. Though I'm concentrating on another game right now, keeping thoughts for this one bubbling in the background will pay off. For example, one helpful Croydon correspondent has already critiqued my depiction as “too peaceful and tidy”, so the final version should feature beefed-up bin security.

I don't know exactly what form Digitiser: The Show will take, only the outline of old games and stupidity. Instead, this game will draw from the teletext era, with 48K the convenient excuse for taking only a small slice from the big character pie. You may rue the omission of Nude Dave and Onion Man, but it will be true to the spirit of irresponsible self-indulgence.

On that note, today's excuse for procrastination is a tour of my own Digitiser history. Join me, as I disappear up my bottom. Alternatively, if you would rather read a proper Digitiser archive, then proceed directly to Super Page 58.


In the beginning there was teletext, with a small t. Television and phone companies combined their powers in 1974, creating a standard for displaying 24 lines by 40 columns of text and comically low-resolution graphics. Thus Ceefax, Oracle, and pre-internet Prestel.


In 1980, Clive Sinclair spent as little as possible creating a computer than could display text and comically low-resolution graphics. Two models later, the semi-usable ZX Spectrum introduced an impoverished generation to the vast potential of home computers (games.)

Dark Star, released towards the end of 1984, was an alarmingly fast interplanetary space shooter with a strange sense of humour. The bonus, password-secured Spectacle was ramblings presented in an authentic teletext style, right down to keying-in page numbers.

By then, more than a million teletext televisions had been sold. Prestel subscriptions languished in the low ten-thousands, possibly due to unpleasant phone bills.


Your Spectrum was launched in January 1984, later renamed Your Sinclair, then bought by Future Publishing when the Spectrum had no future. Its focus evolved from technology to games, delivered with self-deprecating silliness rather than pugilistic posturing.

Digitiser arrived on the 1st of January 1993, but it was the Spectacle-inspired Sceptical code that J Nash cheekily stole from cheeky text adventure devs Delta 4, in a valiant attempt to counteract the shrinking page count of a dying magazine, or something.

YS2 appeared on three covertapes, entertaining both readers who weren't busy playing Deathchase. The Big Final Issue saves me listing all the famous paper mag contributors. Digi readers may recognise Leigh Loveday (pre-Rare) and Stuart Campbell (pre-rage.)


As Your Sinclair sank, staff writers piled into the leaky Amiga Power lifeboat. Except for J Nash, boarding shiveringly late, and he would have got away with editing AP to the bitter end too, if it weren't for that meddling objection to rewarding loyalty with less pages, again.

AP began on the YS trajectory, hairy programmers shooed back to their poorly-lit rooms, but crashed in an explosion of entertainment, cynicism, and distress flares. Kieron Gillen joined moments before impact, heir to student layabout Rich Pelly but with longer words.

World-weariness came from fighting the norm that magazines were primarily for marketing, rather than consumers. It was about ethics in journalism, let alone games, excavating the PR topsoil to reveal a society encouraging personal advancement at almost any cost.

Campbell and Nash, insufficiently weary or sensible, continued after closure with AP2. If this were mandatory reading on journalism courses, then games writing would be far more insightful. Though the combination of 1996 pay and 2016 student debt largely absolves no more thinking than is strictly necessary.


I rarely read Digitiser, despite being desperate enough for games coverage to watch Movies, Games, and Videos. Bamboozle was the main attraction in houses with posh tellies, and I didn't warm to Mr. Biffo's later Edge column. You see, he wrote for fun, while I got narrow-mindedly cross about games being dismissed as expensive toys (half-true.)

So I missed Stuart Campbell's Panel 4 word-kickings before he went to Holyrood, which serves them right really. Kieron Gillen kept politics in games writing elsewhere, but with lightness and introspection. J Nash was largely unemployable, making splendid things like Telegraph-text instead of money.

When dispiritingly mundane corporate machinations killed Digitiser, the supergroup of Crosby (Campbell), Stills (Gillen), Nash (Nash), & Young (Biffo as Syd Barrett) emerged. Digiworld lasted eight weeks, mainly because Teletext Ltd were afraid to run ads for it, yet still incorporated at least 73% more sincerity and stupidity than the competition combined.

Digitiser 2000

Without Super Page 58, there may have been no Digitiser 2000. Chris Bell tirelessly preserved Mr. Biffo's transient ramblings, hosting them long after Teletext was dead, providing me hours of lunchtime amusement as gaming websites turned tediously serious.

Finally, the older, wiser, writer returned. Hints of playground meanness were replaced by consideration, a desire to understand the causes of strife bubbling up through gaming, rather than apportion blame. Which caused trouble largely indistinguishable from wilful antagonism, so now it's all blocky pictures of Bamber Boozler serving brown footlongs.

Digitiser: The Show

The show is acrimoniously cancelled as Mr. Biffo flees to Hindustan, having blown the entire budget on animatronic elephants and malt loaf.

Digitiser: The Game is released, three months behind schedule but marginally ahead of Shenmue 3. It is fondly remembered as “worse than the Vega+ saga.”

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