GamesMaster III: Glamour, Grot, and Gore

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[GamesMaster: Part IGamesMaster Part IIBad Influence]

Opening titles of the 1997-98 series have Dominik Diamond asleep on the couch in a filthy living room, dreaming a nightmare sprint down an endless tunnel of GamesMaster settings past, eventually bursting though a door into a tropical island paradise. Two busty models in animal print eye him salaciously, and like he did with series six’s mermaids, he gives us a wink and a thumbs up, as if to say “landed on my feet here, lads!” It’s a pretty elaborate Swiss Family Robinson set, with gorgeous blue water licking at a sandy beach, kitted out with palm trees, a hut, and a little pier. A live audience of children sit on giant faux bamboo rafts, dressed in swimwear and kicking their feet into the water, while Patrick Moore’s head sits inside a blazing sun, like some horrible clickbait about what the Teletubbies baby looks like now, which will SHOCK YOU.

Dominik, trousers rolled up like your dad in the front garden on a summer’s day, catches a fish before bidding us welcome, and right off the bat, is straight in with a spunk joke, having “come upon my two Girl Fridays… they invited me to feast upon their coconuts.” This is GamesMaster‘s last ever series, which makes me nervous for what Diamond might get up to. Over the years, we’ve witnessed a steep upswing in smut and misanthropy, along with a growing contempt for the show itself, and undergoing a rapid visual evolution from curtain-haired choirboy to big Scottish bruiser. What awaits us, now there’s nothing left to lose? Hooting “here’s your golden joystick!” at Lenny and Huw from EastEnders, while whipping out a visibly pulsating stonker wrapped in Easter egg foil?

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His look has now reached its final stage, hair fully gone, low cut vest, and the sideburns and goatee of a man who’d ask if you’ve got a light and then put the nut on you regardless. Tonight’s challenges are trailed with jokes about the huge erections in Rampage, and Lara Croft’s “two big tombs,” as a pair of blokes (a pair; like boobs!) are set to race through a custom level of Tomb Raider II. The whole section’s a grim reminder of how the 90’s gaming world was sent absolutely willy-wild by the introduction of a female lead character; a real dog-in-the-playground novelty. We’re told they’re running it on a 3dfx card, which is why the game — and Lara — look so gorgeous. All the lovesick leering is unbelievably quaint, like Neanderthals getting turned on by cave wall stick-figures. You forget how massively horny men were for the PS1 Smurfette, angling the camera right up her arse, and decorating their walls with sexy posters from games magazines, with legend of nude cheats whispered like a schoolyard El Dorado. With those simple polygons, they were basically wanking over Lego.

We join the challenge in progress, contestants in Hawaiian shirts, awkwardly hunched on sideways barrels, leaving them stretching out like cats in the sun to reach the keyboard, and hurting my back just looking at it. In a chat with Dominik, one’s anecdote is having a girlfriend who lives in Japan, while the other, the gel of his hair glistening under studio lights, recants a “pants-related disaster.” In a real reach for a decent story, “I washed my pants with the red and they came out pink. I’m the Pink Pants Man!” As this happened on the morning of the show, one wonders which incredible tale got ditched for this at the last minute? “Bloomin’ shoelace came undone the other day, didn’t it? Had to bend down and tie it! All my mates call me Lace Lad now!” Simpler times, though Dominik really loves saying the word pants, at least half a dozen times every episode, as both classic 90’s slang for things being rubbish, but also the place where nobs live. Another period-specific colloquialism is the pronunciation of “huge” as “h-yow-gh,” which he does three times.

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Leaving the lads to it, Dominik can feel “a stirring deep within my clams,” which signals the celebrity challenge, with Jo Guest. Frequent cover star of Loaded and FHM, for men like me who came of age during the ascent of Blair, Jo was our Marilyn; our Dame Vera. Pull up those JNCOs, boys, this is what you’re fighting for! Jo’s ferried across the water by the Girl Fridays in a palm frond boat, and already horned-up by Lara Croft, Dominik’s exceedingly thirsty, practically tucking it under his waistband. Greeting Jo with a hello, he immediately drops her backwards into a movie style kiss, bragging he’ll someday marry her. But unlike the other contestants rooting around in those of Lara’s, Jo’s “not fiddling with my tombs, unfortunately.”

When joined on commentary by bestie Kirk Ewing, Kirk grabs Dom by the cheeks and gives him a full and unexpected kiss on the lips. “Just wanna catch the tail-end of Jo, there,” says Kirk. She completes the challenge of 10,000 points on Rampage World Tour right on the whistle, despite not managing to eat the helicopter. “You did have a problem with the chopper,” says our cheeky host. “I usually do,” giggles Jo, as Dom deems her to be “the best girl in the whole world,” before scrambling for more filth with “you’ve got the large objects between your hands…” Incredibly, as she receives her golden joystick, it isn’t likened to a phallus.

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You’d think that Dom would’ve run out of double entendres by this point in the series, but Tomb Raider‘s incorporated boobs, bum and (presumably lurking under the shorts) a fanny, is like a steroid shot in the bell. It’s all “gaping pits” and telling Lara to “hop on that big, red, powerful shiny thing” when she rides a ski-doo, even letting out an extremely era-specific “wahey!” as the player opens a drawbridge, which I suppose is like a great big member being lowered from a zipper, ready for action? When Dominik jokes the losing player’s Japanese girlfriend just emailed in to say that he’s chucked, it seems like he really believes it, while the winner puts it down to “those pink pants.” Dom asks if he finds Lara attractive — “very attractive!” — before burning him with “you know she’s not real?” The lad panics, stumbling and mumbling out a response with the word “man” in it, which Dominik picks up on, miming the digging of a hole as Pink Pants attempts to talk his way out of outing himself as gay by having said the word “man” on television in the 90s. Fellas, is it gay to acknowledge men exist? In the credits, there’s a strange one of Program Consultant for “The Dickster” — is that the man who comes up (like bubbling semen shooting through a urethra) with Dom’s cock puns?

If that’s the way he behaves in the 6pm tea time slot, what on earth would he do post-watershed, or even in the witching hour? In 1995, we’d find out, when GamesMaster went XXX, with a “gore special” airing at 12:35am. Raunchy versions of tea-time shows aren’t unique, like late night Hollyoaks with sex scenes and swearing, and Grange Hill: After Dark, where the opening credits showed a fork being stabbed into a penis. Always the network most likely to show you some pubes, a couple of years later, Channel 4 would bolster its late-night repeats of TFI Friday with ‘naughty’ bits that couldn’t be shown on its six o’clock version, once consisting solely of Chris Evans holding up Dannii Minogue’s nude calender, and going through it month by month while saying “wahey!

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This is our first visit to series four, which opens with a spooky steam train conductor telling us “you don’t need a return ticket where you’re going… STRAIGHT DOWN!” before a CG track drops through the Earth like a rollercoaster, to orange flames and the distant screams of torture. The Hell setting is a precursor to series five’s Heaven, and continues the vague running storyline of Dominik’s death at the end of the second series, when the oil rig exploded (and rightly erasing Dexter Fletcher’s year from history). The audience are behind bars, with metal chains hanging on the wall, and Dom sat on a throne as fire flickers in the background. Patrick Moore’s in a chrome helmet, sadly missing the open goal of sticking some devil horns and a pointy beard on him and really going for it.

We’re mere seconds in before gushing arcs of 16-bit blood and actual genuine full motion bare breasts. You wouldn’t get that on Bad Influence. In fact, if Andy Crane happened to tune in (by accident), he’d have definitely called the police by now. In the innocent pre-internet days, these rare windows into the ‘adult’ world had a truly forbidden feel, like stepping beyond the beaded curtain in a mucky bookshop. This would’ve been perhaps a year or two after my own first encounter with pornography; torn from a bluey and discarded on the floor of the school toilets, filling me with excitement and revulsion all at once, like I’d somehow perpetrated a criminal act by unwittingly seeing a big hairy bush on some glossy A4, stained with dark blobs of urine soaking through from the floor beneath.

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Reversing even a few years from series seven, Diamond’s remarkably boyish again, in an all white, priest-like suit, clean shaven, and far less vocally gruff, as he promises “every game today is guaranteed to offend!” Handing over to the GamesMaster, there’s a pseudo blooper as he cocks up the intro — “ah, fuck, that’s not gonna work…” — causing Moore to laugh. We’re seeing behind the curtain here, lads! That said, they still bleep it. First challenge is beat-em-up Kasumi Ninja on the Atari Jaguar; a very grown-up game for big boys, where blood flies out wildly whenever the characters make contact, which could be censored with a parental lock feature. I heard your mum put that on before she let you play it. “Keep an eye out,” leches Moore, “for some truly gruesome fatalities!

Contestants are shoved onto set by a hooded little person wielding a pitchfork. During pre-game banter, it’s clear that in the hedonistic freedom of late night, now that it’s allowed, there’s no thrill to the subversive anarchy of innuendo, and far from pulling out some ballbag and offering a piece of gum, Dominik barely does a single nob gag. Unfettered and unchained, post-watershed Diamond is all about the gore, and spends the half hour metaphorically calling us over to the bike sheds to show off a jar of dead flies his older brother keeps under the bed, asking contestants “what’s the most sick, disgusting thing you’ve seen in your life?” Player one’s got a nu-metal goatee, baggy jeans and a silver chain, and his shoulders rock side to side with the swaying posture of those teens who pretend like they’re going to hit you when you walk past on the pavement. He kisses his teeth with a “has to be me mum’s casserole, dunnit? Dis fing taste better comin’ up than it does goin’ down!

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Next contestant, same question. “There was this one dead cat I saw get run over.” “Excellent!” says Dom, practically punching the air; “what did it look like?” Told “well, the eyes were bulging out a bit, and it did smell,” it cuts to Moore roaring with laughter, as though he’s in the studio live and ruddy loving it. Player one jumps in with “nah, nah, nah, that was leftover of me mum’s casserole, mate.” Yeah alright, Jimmy One-Joke. With Dominik giggling all the way through, there’s an oddly nostalgic vibe, like you’re leaning on your bikes down the farmer’s field, shivering because the sun’s gone in, but you’ve not bought a jacket and you don’t wanna go home yet, listening to your mates discuss the banned cut of Ghostbusters where Slimer spunks all over Venkman which one of ’em saw on a pirate, and how the English teacher who’s fit but also a bitch was standing on a chair to pin some tinsel to the ceiling and, apparently, one of her tits fell out.

The co-commentator gets the ‘most disgusting thing’ question, and describes — at length — some “green gunk” a hospital scraped from the back of his eyeball during an infection. Casserole Lad spams fireballs, and fatalities involve stomping a head flat and exploding a skull with dynamite, all in poorly-rendered graphics. Had they failed to hide this footage from delicate eyes in the post-midnight slot, polite society would’ve crumbled into a Caligulan trauma-orgy. Dominik destroys the loser by saying “the words big, girls, and blouse come to mind,” as there’s nothing more devastating than separating a phrase out into its component parts like that. Dead Cat Lad is a good sportsman, crediting his opponent as “a well-good player,” and my suspicions the spontaneous ‘adult’ bloopers are scripted are confirmed when Dominik blows another link, with a frustrated “fuck, fuck!” causing the pre-recorded Patrick Moore to angrily bellow “what?!

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We wipe between segments with bloody machetes, a squelchy slithering brain, and maggots wriggling over eyeballs, for features on “the sickest games around!” showcasing death moves from Mortal Kombat and Bloodstorm, with slo-mo replays of decapitated heads sailing through the air. Viewers in the tips section beg for help unlocking the goriest fatalities, and as Sir Patrick Moore shares the code for a meat grinder move to splash guts everywhere, a teen in a baseball cap thanks him with a “yea, safe, rudebwoi.” Other TOO HOT FOR PRIMETIME shockers include a hilariously basic 1995 medical website where perverts can view vertical cross sections of an executed prisoner’s body, and footage of American series Battlebots, before it came to the UK as Robot Wars; which is sold — not as Craig Charles’ kiss-salute and the thrill of a victory interview with George Francis — but as a wild underground grindhouse death-fight; its footage of toy robots steered by middle-aged men in leather jackets under Diamond’s excitable voiceover, playing up “chainsaws, nails, and hacksaws!

Next challenge is Alien vs. Predator on the Jaguar, with celebrity guest, Robocop, finally linking GamesMaster‘s canon with that of WCW. The costume’s a bit too big for whichever GM crew member’s inside, wobbling as they robot-walk onstage, and looking very silly without the accompanying whirry noises. Noticeably out of frame, and in a clearly dubbed voiceover, Dominik complains about the pathetic segment, and says the word “bumhole,” moaning “the crime is an arse actor in a crap costume, let’s pretend this never happened and go to a break.” And indeed, when we come back, the bit’s been abandoned, with no further mention. Even in regular episodes, they’d done stuff like this before, with series two opening on a bunch of fake technical faults before a literal reboot.

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For a feature on FMV game Phantasmagoria, Dominik takes a rare excursion to the design studio in California, wandering round a dark props cupboard, to make gags about severed heads and withered rubber corpses — “this is actually Judy Finnigan without her make-up.” Claiming not to have interviewed the lead actress “as she didn’t fancy me,” instead he chats to Phantasmagoria‘s producer, and founder of Sierra Games, Roberta Williams; “and I asked her if she thought it was big and clever for a bird to make a gruesome game.” After a calming breath, she gives a considered response about it being more of a thriller, as Dom’s voiceover declares “bollocks to that, then,” quickly moving onto rude porn games for “the one handed typists.” Women with big hair and no clothes writhe in postage stamp sized QuickTime video, from titles like Voyeur and Spy Club, which involve trying to unlock no-res stripping scenes; like a level where players can bribe a receptionist with a teddy bear, resulting in her immediately getting her milkers out in gratitude.

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We finish with what Dominik promises is “the sickest, most bloodthirstiest game of all,” Doom 2, where a contestant’s anecdote about seeing a motorbike helmet filled with sick leaves him visibly excited; “what was it like when he took it off then?!” Never thought I’d see the day when Dominik Diamond heard the word “helmet” and didn’t make a single reference to glans. Dave Perry’s there, American flag bandana, and shirtless under a leather waistcoat like a divorced biker, as Dom jokes Doom enemies are from The Village People, letting out a cry of “yes!” as the player picks up a chainsaw. “It’s blood frenzy here!” he howls, when digital viscera splatters with all the HD graphic realism of a calculator, although we do, at long last, get a reference to a back passage. As this is the finale to series four, we end on Dominik saying he’s “off to make people watch the last series” (the Dexter Fletcher one), and muttering “may you rot in hell” as he wanders off. Will do, mate.

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~ by Stuart on August 8, 2021.

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