Direct response! I’ve finally done it! Two issues ago I bemoaned the fact that the software industry was so complacent — it seemed that no matter what I wrote or said, I couldn’t get through the thick skins of the people who need to buck their ideas up. But — over the last month it seems to have worked.
First of all John Merry (of Reichswald fame — now of Scorpio Gamesworld) rang up to say that not only was Reichswald a brilliant game (a point which I obviously missed when reviewing it) but that my remarks about his girth were totally unfounded and libellous. Quoth he: ‘This kind of petty slander makes my blood BOIL!’
Me: ‘Sorry John, I was only trying to liven up a really tedious subject.’
I was hoping that John would send in a couple of ‘before and after’ pics as irrefutable proof, but instead he burbled on about withdrawing all Scorpio’s advertising from CRASH (ho-hum, here we go again) which is probably why Roger is refusing to pay me.
My apologies also go out to Argus Specialist Press, whose representatives threatened me with legal action and/or severe bodily dismemberment — I didn’t really mean to say anything horrible about your wonderful magazines chaps, I was of course talking about EMAP (at this point the editor grasps me firmly round the windpipe. As I feel the life-force draining from my limbs I manage to scrawl ONLY JOKING PEOPLE, I LOVE YOU ALL)!
Or, to put it another way, this month’s report comes to you direct from the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly, London. Unfortunately this does not mean that CRASH has seen the light and started treating its reviewers with the respect they deserve — we’d be lucky to get a room in the Red Cow in Ludlow. It means that I went along to the ‘most prestigious award for amateur programmers’ ceremony, the Cambridge Award. Funnily enough, I’ve only recently reviewed last year’s winner and runner-up, Battle 1917 and War 70, so I thought I had an idea of what to expect; but in the event I was pleasantly surprised. There were four ‘finalist’ games, which I’ve reviewed below. They can all be loosely described as ‘strategy’ games. But first I must tell you a little about the actual event itself, since I feel morally obliged under the freeloaders’ code of honour.
As I entered the Ritz in my rainbow-striped jumper and my hardware jeans, I sensed that something was not quite right — why wasn’t I being thrown out on my ear for not wearing a tie? Well, apparently if you are going to a private function then you don’t have to. Great, I thought; let’s just head straight for the bar in my usual manner. Having located the ‘Marie Antoinette’ suite, I made the mistake of asking the barman for a drink. I say mistake because the man was fairly well blasted by the time I arrived and he could only understand the kind of ‘tourist’ French that the waiters oll heff to spik. (Was he on a percentage from Beefeater?) Anyway, I got a gin big enough to farm salmon in, topped up with about two millimetres of tonic water. Now I’m not actually that keen on neat gin, so I asked one of the floating French penguins to fetch me a bitter lemon so that I could mix it with the half-pint of gin. A minute later he returned with a slice of lemon on a stick: ‘Your beet urv limon monsieur,’ he said!
Things went from bad to worse. Russell and Carol from White Dwarf arrived, already half cut, and pounced on a QL chap, hoping to have a meaningful discussion about artificial intelligence. The man was so scared he ran away. The waiters wrested our half-empty glasses from our hands and topped them up with yet more neat gin. By now I had started to acquire a taste for neat gin, and when I was accosted by the Argus heavies I was able to fend them off with a bottle of (yes, you guessed it) gin. Julian Fuller from Micronet got very earnest with a man from Telecom about Multi-User Dungeon. I think that if ever a nuclear war is imminent I shall book myself into the Ritz, because it’s the only place I know where you can get drunk in under eight minutes without even trying!
Then the buffet lunch arrived, consisting of a load of raw, minced meat on what looked like pieces of Ryvita (I have since learned that this is in fact a great delicacy known as ‘Steak Diane’) and some kind of Scampi — or was it Pork Balls? (The kind you get at a Chinese take-away, I mean!) Then the speeches began, greeted with thunderous applause. The sponsors of the awards were C.C.S., Sinclair User magazine and Sinclair Research Ltd. I think that most of us who’d managed to stay sober were hoping to have a word with Sir Clive about his plans for world domination and whether we’d be able to buy shares in Sinclair in 1985 (ha-ha). But alas, it was not to be because he didn’t show up. Instead we had to make do with Nigel Searle who is (only) the Managing Director. He spoke about how Sinclair had been responsible for getting computing off the ground in the U.K., and how pleased they all were to be British and all that sort of thing. My associates Russell and Carol kept making distinctly negative comments at particularly high volume, which made one feel slightly conspicuous. The Chairman of C.C.S. made a rather rambling speech and seemed a little overwhelmed by the whole situation; but then, if he had drunk as much as I had then I wouldn’t be at all surprised. John Gilbert of Sinclair User made a punchy but totally vacuous speech about what a brilliant magazine he works for. John Sherry from Keele received the award from Nigel Searle for his program The Prince, and looked understandably pleased with himself since he’d just won £2,000.
Okay, now I know that you lot out there aren’t going to be particularly worried about this, but all that stuff above was in fact written for the last issue — do I hear a collective sigh of relief from all my fans? You thought that Roger had finally staggered in from the Gay Caballero in Ludlow High Street and dismissed this pathetic excuse for a Gonzo Journalist — but how wrong you were! (Don’t talk too soon, Gonzo — Ed) All that happened was that in my unhinged state of mind (brought on by an overdose of gin) I missed the deadline. The reason I mention this is because I very nearly missed the deadline for this issue too, on account of a close encounter with death.
As I drove into my day job (even we famous journalists have day jobs — hyperactive Derek Brewster’s got about eight!) the other day, my motorbike and I parted company on the rear wing of a black Cadillac limousine (this bit’s not entirely true — it was an Austin Allegro really) which I could have sworn was being driven by one of the Argus heavies — or was it someone from Domark? Anyway, your heroic correspondent flew through the air for some distance, crash landed on a cat’s eye and only narrowly missed death at the hands of at least 34 juggernauts. Meanwhile my bike was elsewhere, battered and bent. Shaken, but not stirred, I crawled over to the side of the road and duly collapsed. I awake in hospital with the thought that I had only another twelve hours to meet the CRASH deadline, so you’ll have to forgive me if some of these reviews are a little less thoughtful and caring than usual; but you know how it is — better read than dead.