A Gremlin in the Works – Expansion Disk Contributors (March 2017)

“A Gremlin in the Works”, published by Bitmap Books has what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of contributors to the Gremlin Graphics story than ever before.

The list includes many key personalities that have never been interviewed before or talked Gremlin before, including Kevin Norburn, Chris Kerry, Jenny Richards and Bruno Bonnell.

After publication of the hardback, I have continued to collect resources and to interview more former employees of the great company when the opportunity arose. These interviews are being collected in The Expansion Disk – an electronic addendum, free to all of those who purchased the original hardback.

The Expansion Disk

Steve Marsden (Gremlin Lincoln)
David Martin (Licensing Director)
Mark Gallagher (The Warp Factory)
Ed Campbell (The Warp Factory)
Stuart Cook (Twilight Software)
Andy Payne OBE (Mastertronic, The Producers)
Alex Syrichas (Programmer)
Glyn Williams (Particle Systems)
David Bracher (Artist)
Graeme Ing (Programmer)

Along with the contributors to the print version:

The founding fathers

Kevin Norburn
Ian Stewart

Monty Moles

Antony Crowther
Peter Harrap
Shaun Hollingworth
Chris Kerry

The Gremlins

George Allan
Ashley Bennett
Sarah Bennett
Neil Biggin
Paul Blythe
Steve Camber
Adrian Carless
Tony Casson
Carl Cavers
Joe Chetcuti
Richard Costello
Ben Daglish
Colin “Fungus T. Bogeyman” Dooley
Andrew Findlay
Andrew Fox
Stuart Gregg
Jacob Habgood
Jeremy Heath-Smith
Tim Heaton
Damian Hibbard
Paul Hiley
Greg Holmes
Tony Kavanagh
David Kirk
Wayne Laybourn
Steve Lycett
Ricki Martin
James North-Hearn
Jason Perkins
Pat Phelan
Simon Phipps
Phil Plunkett
Jenny Richards
Ian Richardson
Mark Rogers
Christian Shrigley
Les Spink
Richard Stevenson
Patrick Strassen
Tony Wills
Phil Wright

Micro Projects

Anthony Clarke

Magnetic Fields

Andrew Morris
Shaun Southern


Philip Durbidge

Camel Advertising

Richard Bridgwater

Wizard Development

Malcolm Gillott


Peter Frith

Krisalis Software

Matthew Furniss

U.S. Gold

Geoff Brown
Tim Chaney

Micro Power

Christopher Payne


Rod Cousens CBE
David Rowe

DMA Design

Mike Dailly
Steve Hammond
Gary Penn
Chris Stamp


Barry Leitch

Astros Productions

George Karboulonis

Boys Without Brains

Mario van Zeist


Antal Zolnai

Newsfield Publications

Roger Kean


Bruno Bonnell
Sean Millard


Lizi Attwood
Peter Andrew Jones
Violet Berlin
Chris Box
Matthew Clark
Will Frost
Simon Hallam
Ian Harling
Patrick Titley
Andy Turner
Glyn Williams

With thanks

Chris Ash
Jonathan Beales
Andy Brown
Martyn Carroll
Anthony and Nicola Caulfield
Charles Cecil MBE
John Darnell
Mat Dolphin
Sam Dyer
Frank Gasking
Mark Green
Ric Lumb
Simon Marston
Dave Moore
Jason Moore
Paul Morrison
Jonathan Needle
Andy Payne OBE
Gordon Sinclair
Gerard Sweeney

“Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius” -Mahatma Gandhi

Some intriguing excepts from Blood, Tears and Folly authored by Len Deighton that I am currently reading. The book delivers thought-provoking opinions laying the appeasement blame on French officer Gamelin instead of British PM Chamberlain and is highly critical of the BEF’s actions on the continent.

For the excepts, read as follows, lain as German troops swept westward across Europe:

“… in the Indian newspaper Harijan on 22 June, Mahatma Gandhi wrote ‘Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, as a brave man, a matchless organiser and much more.”

“The democratically elected government of Denmark, which the Germans had kept in place, allowed gratitude to overcome its respect for democracy and announced: ‘The great German victories, which have caused astonishment and admiration all over the world, have brought a new era in Europe, which will result in a new order in a political and economic sense, under the Leadership of Germany.'”

“The Aga Khan cast aside his feelings about alcohol and promised to drink a bottle of champagne ‘when the Fuhrer sleeps in Windsor Castle.'”

More time with Circle with Disney (@meetcircle)

It’s been around two weeks since I installed a Circle with Disney device at home and so far it has been a flawless experience.]


I’ve done a few more tests of the kids filtering, and have made use of the pause button as a bargaining chip with two unruly daughters!


Of course, no filtering is 100% perfect, but so far, so good with Circle. All of the terms I tried under pornography, drugs and violence were blocked. As you can see from the above device test, a filter page appears when accessing a restricted website. The filter restrictions are in conjunction with the Circle working well to enforce Google Safe Searching at all times. Great stuff.

Technical Support

I’ve contacted technical support a couple of times via Twitter and e-mail and have received prompt replies both times. At the moment I’m awaiting a more in-depth look at how the filtering works on the device and what lists/algorithms the device pulls from. I’ll post that once I get a reply.

In the meantime, more information on the filter levels can be found here, and how to set custom filtering on websites and mobile apps here. You can gradually adjust and tweak the filters as you see fit.

EDIT (24/12/2016) I received an update from Circle about their filtering databases: “‘We work with third parties for part of our filtering database, and we modify what we have for our own purposed on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true for the platform filtering.’“.

Feature Requests

There area  few things I’d like to see implemented.

  1. Warnings 1: Though I accessed a restricted website on one device I couldn’t find a warning to the main Circle hub that I’d done so? Perhaps enabling push notifications, a red warning icon on the profile avatar on the home page, or perhaps at least a red highlight on the “insights” history page. (NB Filtered pages are shown in a useful “filtered” view on the history page).
  2. Warnings 2: Perhaps even move the “filtered” pages to become a separate option on its own under insights. I’m sure this would be very useful for parents to analyse what has been going on? If Circle can further categorise each website it would make for a more clearer, concise and simple way of browsing links – rather than the website URL or IP.
  3. Insights per device as well as per profile: Very useful to attain which device is which on a network, and what guests are up to with the devices they bring. It may also be useful in spotting rogue devices on the network.
  4. Filter screen: It would be useful to tell whoever triggered the filter to why they have been filtered.


Circle with Disney (@meetcircle) – Initial thoughts

Circle is a hardware device that helps parents filter content and manage screen time. It started life as a failed Kickstarter, but undeterred, Memory, the creator company, continued with their vision and eventually interested global giant Disney who have helped bring it to market.

I’ve bought one because of the abject failure of manufacturers Apple and Google to add effective parental controls to their devices – even after all this time. I’ve also had constant problems with software controls and their flakey and complex VPN set-ups and high subscription costs. Thankfully Circle, though starting life on a subscription model is a one-off payment. No doubt the hardware makes a profit, but somewhere or other they’ll also be sustained by feeding dollars into Uncle Walt’s empire.

I purchased the device from Amazon.com – the only place that I could find that would ship to the UK. Amazon.com added a reasonable shipping rate and automatically calculating import/custom fees – which was welcome to avoid the annoyance of having to pay to the courier. Even with the “brexit” pound, it worked out around the £90 mark – so probably two year’s subscription to a software model.


It’s a beautifully package, with the square (!) Circle device, US power adapter, micro-usb cable and super-short (obviously designed to be close to your router) ethernet cable. Having swapped the US plug for a UK model it was plugged in and powered up.


All of the steps to setup the device are simply documented here:


It was a case of downloading the iOS app, and using it to pair the Circle to my phone (using an SMS text message access code) and router. It was a very simple process, even recognising the country of residence thus to get the mobile phone text number correctly.

I then setup the management profile using the simple and concise interface, adding which device belonged to the profile and which level of filtering to use. You could assign multiple devices to one profile, so if you have a laptop, phone and tablet for example.

The only caveat with this stage of the setup was the device list. It hadn’t recognised all of the devices in the house but the app noted that it would take time to do this. One way to speed up the process was to either power-cycle all devices or toggle airplane mode if available to disconnect and re-connect them with the household router.

Even after this I had a few generically named devices, ie “Apple Device” or “Liteon Device”. Using the app and device list I noted the MAC address of each and was able to identify which was which. Of course, for a novice user this may be a little daunting.

One useful feature to note on the “device list” was the ability to instantly “pause” the internet on that MAC address. Great if you need to barter with an unruly child (or adult)!


So, so far so good.

Its got a default “home” profile that you can assign to a restricted filter. So, my kids are around the same age, and thus I’ve no need really to create a profile for each of them unless I want to receive “insights” – reports that give me a look at their screen and app time. Every unassigned device by default connects to the “Home” profile. If you have a party or your children’s friends come round and ask for the wi-fi password you are safe in the knowledge that they are automatically assigned this default filter and control level.

What I like about the filtering is that you have granular control over apps and content categories as well as forcing YouTube restrictions and Google Safe Search by default. Any other search engines are blocked. The kid filter “filters out Social Media, Explicit Content, Mature Content, Gambling, Dating and Malicious Content by Default”. Excellent.



I’m really impressed so far. No problems straight out of the box, quick and easy to setup. I’ll keep an eye on internet speeds – though it is connected via ethernet to my router the device only has a 10/100 NIC. Hopefully it won’t slow things down too much.

I’ll start to play around with limiting screen time, app time and applying a bedtime and some of the other things the package has over the next few days.


Gremlin Graphics game collection

Alongside writing the book I started buying various Gremlin Graphics games.Initially it was so I could scan the inlays and begin the painstaking process of recreating the artwork for spreads in the book at a later date.

Of course the collecting a “few”, became “some” and eventually “a lot” and from there it spiralled into an attempt at collecting as many games as possible developed, or published by the Sheffield giant.

So, I’ve now collected 153 of 223 (that’s 67% percentage fans) titles released so far. I’m not overly interested in compilations, more just single individual game releases, but here is what is left to collect:

C16 Classics I & II
West Bank
Zone X
4 Crash Smashes I & II
Bounder on the Rebound
C16 Star Games
Magicians Curse
Planet Search
Alien Evolution
Basil the Great Mouse Detective
Games Compendium
Omnibus I & II
Plus 3 Pack
Star Games I and II
Take 4 Games
10 Great Games 1, 2 & 3
10 Mega Games Vol 1
3-D Galax
MASK III: VENOM Strikes Back
Space Ace
The Duct
Tube Runner
Action ST I & II
Emilio Butragueño 2
The House Mix
The Paranoia Complex
16-Bit Hit Machine
10 Pack: Ten Great Games
Hero Quest: Return of the Witch Lord
Super Cars II
Switchblade II
The Shoe People
Toyota Celica GT Rally
4 Wheel Drive
Chart Attack
Jeep Jamboree: Off Road Adventure
Margot’s Magic Colouring Book
Space Crusade
Utopia: The New Worlds
Muhammed Ali Heavyweight Boxing
Premier Manager 2
Space Crusade: The Voyage Beyond
Hero Quest 2: Legacy of Sorasil
Lotus Trilogy
Newman/Haas IndyCar
Top Gear 3000
Premier Manager 97
VR Soccer 96
Actua Soccer 2
Premier Manager 98
Actua Ice Hockey
Actua Golf 3
Actua Pool
Actua Tennis
Premier Manager 99
Michelin Rally Masters: Race of Champsions
PGA European Tour
Premier Manager 2000
UEFA Challenge
Micro Machines
Slam Tennis
Dirty Racing

Five indirectly educational games on the ZX Spectrum #GamesAreAGimmick

So, Minecraft has been labelled a “gimmick”. That could be true. It’s retail incarnation isn’t sold as an “educational” game and probably doesn’t deliver the strict learnings “outcomes” that seem to preoccupy many of the teaching profession today. At its very heart though, Minecraft, delivers a level of creativity, engagement, and freedom of expression in children that has rarely been seen since the days of the BBC Micro and home computers. That should be welcomed and encouraged.

Like so many people I truly believe that games deliver good (including educational content) on so many levels. You can find something even in the most obscure title … write me a paragraph on why the Angry Birds are so angry?

In the meantime, let’s fight back and prove games aren’t a gimmick. Here are the most non-educational educational ZX Spectrum games I can think of:

(see also: The Big Sleaze, Bored of the Rings, The Hobbit, Bulbo and the Lizard King)


I covered my love of Sherlock in this other post. You can bundle every single text adventure into this entry, but for me, Sherlock probably offered the zenith of the genre on 8-bit computers: As Steven Poole commented, we shouldn’t be worried about what children are reading, just encourage and support them in what they choose to read. I wasn’t put off playing the game because I had to read (a lot), I embraced it, and the challenging puzzles not only coerced my mind into solving them, it also pushed the expansion of my vocabulary in order to match the game’s text and dictionary.

As a by-product, Sherlock spurned a wider interest in the sleuth and the ingenious addition of “feelies” (physical items that aided your adventure) in the box spanned that digital/physical world – one that Infocom would soon become synonymous with.

Skills: Reading. Writing. Vocabulary. Imagination. Puzzle-solving.

(see: Software Star, Millionaire, Mugsy, 1984, The Biz, Dallas, Oligopoly)


There were plenty of games that promoted the understanding of how businesses operated. Minder had a very simple dynamic; you bought something for a price, and then you tried to sell it on at a higher price – but it underpinned that basic business principle of making a profit.

On a tangent, I once approached the BBC with an idea for an Only Fools & Horses game that I’d “borrowed” from Minder. Imagine swapping The Winchester Club for The Nag’s Head or Sid’s Cafe and you have the idea.

Skills: Mathematics. Economics. Decision and consequence. Short and long term planning.

(see also: Lords of Midnight, Sentinel, Football Manager, Theatre Europe, Austerlitz, Falklands War)


The Spectrum had some beautifully balanced turn-based strategy games. Julian Gollop refined his original Rebelstar Raiders adding a larger playing area and single player option. The single-player option pitted you against a cunning computer opponent and elevated the challenge of the game to another level. Chess Grand Masters are revered for their cerebral thinking and I guarantee that anyone mastering Rebelstar or one of its compatriots have the same qualities and glean the same benefit from play.

Rebelstar was based in a science-fictional world, but many turn-based games delivered a big dollop of historical content, often set during key conflicts and moments in time. From these I’m sure the player couldn’t help subliminally standing in the shoes of General Chelmsford, Napoleon, or Churchill.

Skills: History. Geography. Politics. Reading. Planning and foresight. Problem solving. Concentration. Attention to detail.



I can’t make a list of games on any subject without including Elite.It came boxed with a beautifully written novella (that has spawned many pieces of fan-fiction) by Robert Holdstock that set the scene and allowed a fervent teenage imagination to fill the voids left by the game’s sparse graphics.

Along with combat, trading underpinned the DNA of the Elite universe. You had to understand and learn the nature of trading between different systems, buying what was cheap on one world and selling it on another where the price was high.

It dangled, for possibly the first time ever in a game, a huge carrot of morality: Sure, you could get rich quick and afford those beam lasers, but to do it you had to break the law and trade in a selection of rather unsavoury items. Narcotics (I’d never heard of the word before), firearms and slaves could all be added to your ship’s cargo hold, but they were considered illegal. Trade in these and your legal status would be affected. Eventually you’d be targeted by the galactic equivalent of the boys-in-blue who wanted to hand out a particularly deadly form of justice – The GalCop Police Force.

Skills: Mathematics. Economics. Decision and consequence. Politics. Imagination. Dexterity. Morality.

Ant Attack
(see also: Saboteur II, Athena, Vixen, Gauntlet, Everyone’s A Wally, Where Time Stood Still)


Sandy White’s isometric masterpiece delivers a 21st century lesson from the moment it loads: You have the choice to play as a girl or a boy.

It seems such a big deal now, but I can honestly say I never gave it a second thought back in 1983. Many other games of the time featured the opportunity to play as a female character and it just seemed completely normal.

Skills: Ethics. Citizenship. Gender equality.



Steven Poole: On videogames and reading

Mark James Hardisty

Republished from the Games Britannia 2012 newspaper:

As George W. Bush nearly asked: “Is our children reading?” The answer appears to be no, according to the 2006 report of the International Literacy Study. As the Guardian summarises its findings:

“England has plummeted from third to 19th in an international league table of children’s literacy levels as pupils replace books with computer games.”

Imagine the headline 100 years ago: “Children Spending Too Much Time Playing Outdoors with Hoops and Sticks, Says Minister; Should be Forcibly Enclosed to Read Improving Literature.” There’s always some apparently pointless youth activity to scapegoat.

As has always been the case, though, the adult paranoia expressed here about the supposedly harmful influence of videogames depends on a sublime ignorance of the form. In fact, you’re not going to get far in most modern videogames if you can’t read. And some of them make you read an awful…

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British industry luminaries – what is your favourite British videogame?

Iain Simons, Director of GameCity in Nottingham.

I was weaned on the work of Jeff Minter from Gridrunner on the VIC-20 onwards, and fell in love with Ancipital on the Commodore 64. Batalyx brought together everything you needed to know about his work, wrapped in a brilliant time-based structure. In lesser hooves, it could have been a fragmented collection of mini-games – instead, it feels like a completely cohesive and uncompromised whole. No wonder it was a Zzap Sizzler!

Kate Russell, Presenter BBC Click!

Elite on the BBC Micro was the game that sparked my interest in technology back when I was 11 years old. I remember being in awe of the infinite world that existed inside this little black box on the table. This game was just white lines drawn on a black screen, but it still blew my mind, as we’d never seen anything like it before. When I imagine how different the games of the next few decades will be from what we know today, the possibilities are incredibly exciting

Ian Livingstone  OBE. Chairman, Sumo Digital Ltd, Co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series and co-author of the Livingstone-Hope NextGen report.

I should not try to influence your choice on the best of British games!

Andy Payne  OBE. Just Flight, AppyNation, Ukie, BAFTA and Creative Industries Council

Best British game of all-time? Hmmm, Elite, Guild of Thieves, The Pawn, Starglider?

Tom Bramwell, Operations Director of Eurogamer Network.

There are lots of games made by British studios that mean something special to me. Rare’s Viva Pinata holds a particular fondness – a beautiful synthesis of resource management and cute animals – but GTA III is easily my favourite. It was one of the first 3D worlds that gave the player a real sense of freedom – a place where you weren’t penned in by invisible walls, load screens, strict rules and linear objectives – and it was built by grown-up storytellers with an eye for good satire, who proceeded to run riot with the absurdity of the American Dream. It’s hard to think of a more important release in the last 20 years worldwide, let alone in Britain.

Tristan Donovan, author of the acclaimed Replay: The History of Video Games and games journalist.

Most games don’t age well, but 18 years on from its release, UFO: Enemy Unknown is still a must play. It’s the pinnacle of Brit game legend Julian Gollop’s career-long focus on turn-based tactical strategy, and makes masterminding Earth’s response to an alien invasion an utterly compelling experience that drips with tension and atmosphere.

Charles Cecil  MBE, creator of Broken Sword and founder of Revolution Software.

Apart from Broken Sword of course, my favourite game choice goes to Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto III in particular. The DMA team, led by Dave Jones, came up with the edgy 2D, plan-view steal-a-car classic. Then the move to 3D took another great leap of vision – for me, GTA III is one of the most revolutionary and interesting games ever written. It encapsulates the spirit of William Hogarth and all those great British engineers – the fusing of creativity, technical expertise, and, when needed, entrepreneurship. Genius.

Bruce Grove, CEO Polystream

At the ripe old age of eleven I blew all my savings on a ZX81. That was my start in technology but it was also where I encountered 3D Monster Maze. All of a sudden I was immersed in this maze where a wrong turn could see me running for my life being chased by a T-Rex. At the time I remember it being truly breathtaking and even a little scary. Elite was another on the BBC that I played for endless hours: strategy, economics, battle readiness, and vector graphics, awesome, awesome vector graphics. But, if you asked me for my favourite ever, probably Lemmings: good grief, absolute genius, wait, I blow this one up to save the other ones, ok, let’s do it.


First published as part of the Games Britannia festival in 2012.




Stuck in the M.U.D.

Hardly anyone played it at the time. But few, if any, British games can boast the impact of MUD. Never heard of it? That’s not surprising, because even in its pre-internet heyday this online game was the definition of cult.

Created in 1980, MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) was an online multiplayer role-playing game that was written when only the government, military and universities could use the internet. MUD was free to play, but not many people had computers with modems back then and playing online incurred sky-high phone bills that made playing frighteningly expensive. Yet this wallet-gobbling game laid the foundations for every online RPG out today. Without it there would be no World of Warcraft, no RuneScape and no EVE Online. Without it we wouldn’t even know what a noob is. So how did this little-known British game become so influential?

The story of MUD starts in 1978 when Roy Trubshaw, a computer student at Essex University, built a virtual world that people could explore together on the university’s room-filling mainframe computer. “I liked the idea of multiplayer games,” he said. “Wandering around the locations…doing stuff to or with other folks in the same game as you was an unutterably cool idea.”

Since graphics and online play together were too demanding for the era’s computers, Trubshaw’s world was described in text and players interacted with it via text commands much like the text adventure games that were big at the time. But Trubshaw’s interactive realm wasn’t much of a game, so his pal Richard Bartle, who was also studying computing at Essex, sprinkled some role-playing pixie dust over it. The result was a multiplayer online treasure hunt set in a fantasy land filled with puzzles, spells, combat and Dungeons & Dragons stats.

As luck would have it, Essex University’s computers had just been hooked up to the pre-internet ARPANET system so Bartle and Trubshaw put their game online. While there had been a small number of online games before it, MUD was revolutionary stuff for 1980. While most people were playing primitive Chess on their ZX80s, or trying to get high scores in the arcades, the select group who played MUD got a glimpse of 21st century gaming 20 years early.

As is often the case with tight-knit groups, MUD players began inventing their own words. Words such as newbie, which described newcomers to MUD, and morphed into the internet slang ‘noob’ that’s so widespread it’s now in the Oxford English Dictionary.

And since Trubshaw and Bartle gave away the code behind MUD, fans began producing their own twists on the idea until eventually MUD became the term not for a single game but a catch all term for a style of game.

By the middle of the 90s there were hundreds of MUDs around. Some, like LambdaMOO, abandoned the game elements and inspired the online virtual world Second Life. Others emphasised the game aspects. These game-focused MUDs, particularly the DikuMUDs, set the gameplay template for massively multiplayer online role-playing games of today including World of Warcraft and RuneScape. In fact these games are so closely related to the text-based worlds of MUD that when they first appeared they were called graphical MUDs.

But while millions of people across the world play games like World of Warcraft, few know that their favourite game just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the often overlooked creation of two British computer students back at a time when few had heard of the internet and the ability to display 16 colours at once was the sign of a state-of-the-art home computer.



Tristan Donovan (@tristandonovan) is the author of the acclaimed Replay: The History of Video Games and writes about games for The Times, Stuff, Eurogamer and Gamasutra.

First published as part of the Games Britannia festival in 2012.


Ten of the best British games of all-time.

In no particular order:

Elite (1984)

Created by Cambridge students Ian Bell and David Braben, Elite is Britain’s Mona Lisa videogame, a masterpiece of game design and flawless programming.

Elite revolutionised gaming with its 3D graphics, expansive and open-ended game world and balanced blend of space trading, combat and intergalactic morals. Players could trade commodities (some illegal) across space with different socio-economic systems, fight pirates or become fugitives themselves – all to earn enough credits to upgrade their ship and equipment in a quest for kills and the ultimate “Elite” status.

Selling almost 150,000 units on its original platform (coincidentally the number of BBC Micros in the world at that time), Elite is epic, filled with dazzling surprises and hidden adventures. No game before or since has been quite so immersive.

Jinxter (1987)

Britain has produced a stunning catalogue of sublime text adventure games, and even taken on the Americans at their own game with point-and-click titles such as Broken Sword from Revolution Software and Simon The Sorcerer from AdventureSoft.

Choosing one Level 9, Delta 4 or Magnetic Scrolls game is impossible, but Jinxter’s rich writing, revolutionary parser and state of the art graphics make it one of the outstanding candidates.

The most notable feature of Jinxter is that the player cannot die. It works extremely well, and allows you to explore and experiment without fear of death.

Jinxter has a wacky story, a nice balance of puzzles and a  fantastic cast of supporting characters, including a megalomaniac gardener, a postmistress who thinks she’s Calamity Jane and a rather dim-witted postman.

Manic Miner (1983)

No top ten would be complete without one of Matthew Smith’s groundbreaking platformers. We’ve overlooked Jet Set Willy for the original Miner Willy adventure, a far tighter platformer, with clever level design, psychedelic colours and a dollop of surreal British humour.

Animated telephones, roving lavatories, gently collapsing platforms and an oxygen meter gave the game its distinctive flavour, setting it apart from other titles around the same time. It was also the first ZX Spectrum game to feature extensive in-game music, plucked stylishly from the copyright-free back catalogues of maestros Grieg and Strauss.

Smith remains an enigma, and his loss to British gaming after the demise of Software Projects leaves a trail of “what ifs”. The mystique surrounding him has given the game legendary status – and rightly so.

Lemmings (1991)

DMA coders Scott Johnston and Mike Dailly had an argument about how small a sprite could be and yet still retain character. Dailly was experimenting with a bunch of tiny 8×8 pixel characters walking up a steep slope and being blasted by a big gun. As the animation played, programmer Russell Kay saw it and pronounced “There’s a game in that”.

Lemmings is a rare game with the Tetris touch – the ability to appeal to hardcore and casual gamers alike. A masterpiece of sandbox design, it allows a multitude of creative ways of completing the vast number of levels – over which the player must guide a set number of Lemmings from the entrance to the exit, avoiding hazards such as lava pools and large falls.

Released to critical acclaim and successful sales, Lemmings remains a true gem in the British gaming canon.

Football Manager (1982)

The ancestry of every single football management game can be traced back to Kevin Toms’ 1982 genesis of the genre. Written purely in BASIC, with flickering match graphics featuring stick men and a square ball, Football Manager went on to spawn an entire industry.

Your task is, of course, to ascend the league and capture the FA Cup. FM featured three positions (defence, midfield, attack), two ratings for each player (skill, energy), a simplistic transfer market and seven skill levels. That was it, but it didn’t matter. The game had an emotional pull that converted many kids – not to mention their dads – to the home football management craze.

Countless players up and down the country spent hours shouting “SHOOOT!” at those aforementioned stick men, and trying to buy Kevin Keegan for the astronomical fee of £25,000.

GoldenEye 007

Released almost a year and a half after the film, GoldenEye’s missions followed the plot of the film closely, adding a certain amount of artistic licence to ensure that its first-person action was a little more lively than its celluloid counterpart.

The games scenarios are diverse: bungee-jumping from that Russian dam, defusing bombs, infiltrating enemy installations and stealing secret weapons.

In single-player mode GoldenEye is highly playable, but the game’s split-screen support for up to four players stood it apart. There are five scenarios inspired by films, such as ‘You Only Live Twice’, where players have only two lives; ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’, in which one hit from the eponymous weapon proves instantly fatal’ and ‘The Living Daylights’, essentially a flag tag game.

It’s a game that leaves you definitely shaken and stirred.

Medieval II (2006)

The superb Total War series mixes real-time strategy with turn-based campaigning to spectacular effect. Medieval II sees you take control of one of the major medieval forces and ascend to power between the dates 1080 and 1530.

With a stunning 3D graphics engine, the battles look incredible, offering richly detailed landscapes with distinctive and varied looking soldiers and units.

The fantastic thing about Medieval II is that you have three games in one. Play just the battlefields for real-time strategy, just the campaign mode for solid empire turn-based strategy or mix them both for a game that could last you weeks.

Epic doesn’t describe the scale of the Total War games. There’s a wealth of strategic nuances and combat to enjoy, making it perhaps the most involving war game about the Middle Ages ever made.

Tomb Raider (1996)

Tomb Raider’s success owes less to the pneumatically breasted, pistol-packing protagonist and more to the fact that it’s simply a fine platformer.

Britain’s Toby Guard created Lara Croft and Tomb Raider. He did not call for a female version of Indiana Jones, but he wanted her character to have strength, mystery and danger – in comparison to other female game characters that were basically sex objects.

As Lara, players walk, run, jump, dive, swim, roll, hurtle, shoot, and dodge their way through temples of doom, unveiling a mystery that seems to lead to a sunken continent.

Playing Tomb Raider is a pure joy. Great visuals, a compelling storyline and superb cinematics – and the appearance of the Tyrannosaurus Rex remains one of gaming’s defining moments.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Batman has been converted to pixels many times, with almost every single game starring the caped crusader being utterly awful (apart from Jon Ritman’s classic isometric puzzler in 1986).

Rocksteady’s sublime experience holds true to the DC Comics creation; the different facets of Batman’s character informed the gameplay mechanics, which moved seamlessly from puzzle-solving, to agile platforming and brutal thuggery. You play ‘The Bat’, and you’re up against the Joker – the series’ signature villain – and henchmen from the comics, films and animated series.

With voice acting from a stellar cast (Star Wars’ Mark Hamill is the Joker, Kevin Conroy is Batman, and Arleen Sorkin is Harley Quinn), a fantastic story and all the Gotham City trimmings you could ask for, this is easily the best Batman video game of all time.

Worms (1995)

Worms is a turn-based combat game in which teams of four try to kill one another with an assortment of wacky weaponry.

Every game is different, thanks to the game battlefield being randomly generated and fully destructible.

It’s not as simple as lobbing bombs at the enemy. It’s about how you use hiding places, create safe tunnels, and use the bungie rope, the teleporter and the girders. The mayhem is accompanied by ridiculously cute and funny sound samples. Worms regularly shout “oi nutter!”, “revenge” and “I’ll get you”, and when dynamite is dropped they giggle maniacally.

Worms is in the same mould as Lemmings, but with the added benefit of being able to invite friends round for multiplayer laughs. Its relatively simple, with engaging and involving play. Be sure to give it a go.


First published as part of the Games Britannia festival in 2012.