I grew up in a magical time when it came to video games. I was around 5 or 6 years old when I became aware of gaming. I had wonderful parents who encouraged me to game, my father bought me an Amstrad CPC 464+ and my sister was always kind enough to purchase games for me. Around this time, I became interested in reading every magazine I could get my hands on regarding the latest games which would be appearing in the shops.
Then in 1992 Gamesmaster appeared, a revolutionary and inspired television show dedicated to video gaming. The first of it’s kind and I believe something which although many attempted to equal is a moment in video gaming history in the UK which will never be surpassed. One of the most iconic presenters in this show was the fast talking, bandanna wearing Dave Perry. A co-host whose knowledge of the industry and passion made the show captivating.
Dave has had an incredible career in gaming, publishing and through his love of artistry, now owns a critically acclaimed tattooing parlour. He has recently announced a return to the games industry through a new Youtube venture – Games Animal TV. I caught up with him recently to discuss his past experiences and to dig further into what we can expect from this new series.
Dr Chris: Dave it’s wonderful to talk to you, it has to be said that you are one of my heroes. Growing up it was presenters and journalists such as yourself who helped develop my interest in gaming. Can I ask you what you think of the quality of games journalism at the moment?
Dave: I almost want to be facetious and say ‘is there even such a thing?’ . It’s such a disposable part of the industry now and that’s a shame. When we started years ago the magazines were shining beacons. They were the only way to get gaming news, there was no internet, the radio and the T.V. didn’t cover it. I want to be clear that I’m not knocking this generation of games journalists but it’s so very different now. For us, when we started off, it such an underground thing. Games playing now is so mainstream, when gaming began to infiltrate the bedrooms of the first generation of gamers I like to think it was the last great Punk movement.
Some might not get the comparison, Punk was seen as dark, dangerous and cool. All the things that gaming was not seen as. I was lucky enough to be around when Punk came about, parents were frightened of it, they didn’t understand it and somewhere deep inside they knew it was going to change the world. Those were the feelings which were experienced when gaming erupted in the mid to late 80’s. Gaming empowered the young generation and a zeitgeist swept across the world in a way that the older generations couldn’t comprehend. That was genuinely exciting and powerful and I’m not sure that any generation since has had anything similar.
Part of my career was to fight long and hard to make gaming mainstream. That’s something which journalists like myself were successful at. When it occurred I think gaming lost a little of the something which made it special.
Dr Chris: I completely agree with you Dave. To gain inspiration for a lot of my writing, I look back to the magazines of yesteryear. The Powerstations, Zapp 64, Gamesmater and Amstrad Action and there was a real charisma which the journalists were able to inject into their articles. I think that’s something which is very difficult to capture today.
Dave: What you have to understand is many of those writers didn’t really know what they were doing. Gaming was so new and everyone was trying to work out how to do it. How do we review games? How do we write the news articles? How do we present ourselves and how do we represent the hobby? There was absolutely no benchmark to set a standard with. It was only by the feedback from the readerships that we knew what direction to go with. Ultimately it was all based on passion, there was no set guide or history to build on. We really drew on our passion to get great articles and magazines out there to people like us.
[Dave Perry is one of the most respected journalists in the games industry not only writing reviews but being a designer on Sega Pro and launching multiple critically acclaimed and loved games magazines]
Dr Chris : I really enjoyed your perspective on games and your commentary on GamesMaster. You have been one of the most influential individuals which helped promote the Games industry. You had a strong personality and well loved persona do you believe that helped you achieve success in your T.V. and publication career?
Dave: It helped and it hindered. I was massively passionate about it. I was one of the five guys who was involved in putting the GamesMaster T.V. show together in the first place. Being involved in the UK’s first ever gaming television show. It was a very exciting moment for me and it’s also something which you couldn’t achieve unless you were absolutely passionate about it. Later with the magazine work and with the further T.V. work with Gamesworld. I think I had a very unique way of thinking. There were a few other people who were similar but didn’t go quite as far as I did. My thought process was to produce passionate, relatable presenters in the mainstream media. The problem with gaming is that you can’t interview the characters like Lara Croft or Super Mario. There were no real gaming personalities who could be contacted when a news story broke or a massive game was about to be launched.
I consciously created this character, the persona which happened over a period of years. My alter ego when I wrote for RPG magazines was ‘Kid Westworld’ then that became Dave ‘the kid’ Perry when I was writing for Sega Pro and Sega Power. Then I became Dave ‘ The Games Animal’ Perry. I was keeping an eye on WWF (now re-branded as WWE) which incorporated these memorable, larger than life characters into the wrestling ring. So the idea was to create this character that the mainstream would find interesting. That they would want to engage with. As soon as I did that, the people who were taking shots at me were actually my own peers in the industry who didn’t like the fact that I became this ‘go to’ figure. My intention regarding this was to kick off the interest and open the door for others in the industry to follow what I was doing. So I very confused when I was being attacked for attempting to help others in the industry.
[ Dave was one of the first major gaming celebrities that the industry had seen]
Dr Chris: A question you have often been asked but it’s a fascinating and inspiring story so I want to ask it again. How did you get started in the Games Industry?
Dave: I started like many people down at the arcades. I used to play Ice Hockey and the first video games that I got my hands on were the classics. Space Invaders, Galaxian, Asteroids machines like that. I would hanging around playing and then watching everyone else playing. Watching others helped you memorise the patterns and learn how to do it and hoping that they would let you push the smart bomb button when they were in trouble. That’s where gaming really started for me. Then the computer clubs at school, spending hours typing code into the old BBC computer. You would also go to your mates houses and help them beat games. It was a very gradual and social hobby at the time.
I was playing in a Punk band during these years as well. Another passion I have was art, it’s something which has stayed with me and the passion for art drove me to own my Revolver tattoo studio today. I worked in a design agency and was an artist there. We travelled around in a converted bus and would work on fairground signs and convention signs. I could see from doing this that desktop publishing would be the way forward. I spoke to one of my friends who owned a computer company. I was trying to get a Macintosh. The early Macintosh computers were very expensive, he advised me to get the Commodore Amiga. Now the Amiga was terrible for desktop publishing at that time but it came with a video game. So this drew me back to my passion for video games.
Back then remember there was no internet. I joined a mail order club so that I could get the games a little cheaper than on the high street. These clubs came with magazines, I knew I could do these a lot better. I started working for a mail order company called Special Reserve. I got the job as the deputy editor for them and I was still playing in the arcades at this time. We would like to call it ‘hustling’ in the arcades we would go and jibe people into Street Fighter tournaments and then hammer them.
Within a year I was the publishing editor for Special Reserve. I was then offered the position at GamesMaster as a gaming expert. So I would get up at 5:30 in the morning and travel to London everyday. It was a paycut from what I was earning as a publishing editor but I saw the opportunity there. That was how I got into the industry back then. I had a knack for seeing doors opening.
[Dave became one of the most influential presenters and commentators of the gaming industry through his appearances on GamesMaster]
You can catch Dave’s long awaited return to the Games Industry in his new show GamesAnimal TV. This is a return to the 90’s style of games journalism and viewpoints. Authentic full of character and promises to be essential viewing. This releases on the 4th November 2018 and can be viewed here.
For further information about GamesAnimal TV check out the official GamesAnimal TV Facebook page.