There was nothing in there about tone, or style, or men with long chins: I was simply aping the sorts of things I'd seen in Computer & Video Games, Mean Machines, Your Sinclair, and Sega Power et al.
One thing I wasn't comfortable with was putting our names to the pages. The way that the games journalists of the day courted fame - with their cutesy caricatures and nicknames - somehow stuck in my throat like a barium lozenge.
I mean, I don't care anymore - evidently, I'm a shameless attention-seeker these days - but back then I didn't want to make it about the writers. It was going to be all about the games. Everything we wrote would be attributed to an anonymous "us" or "we", a singular voice, albeit one provided by a pair of larynxes. I didn't want it to look like we were showing off; "Oooh! We're super-dude games journalists and you're not!".
He was never a games fan the way I was, but once he realised he could write about games full time - he'd been penning features on make-up for the women's pages, for pity's sake - he properly bought into it.
I can remember writing down a list of potential names for the section - none of which I can recall now (but let's pretend they included Game Times, Martin Game-ish, and Game Pie) - all of which were intended to feel like they could potentially become a sister section to Generator, the Teletext teen magazine.
For a while, the editors got cold feet, when they weren't sure where to place us in the service's pagination (as it was called). At one point it was proposed that we should be lumped in with the chess and bridge pages, under the title "Mind Games". Horrified, we argued against that, and insisted that we had more in common with Generator. We made our point successfully.
WE KNEW NOTHING
On paper, Tim and I weren't exactly a dream team.
He's university educated, slightly posh and middle class. I dropped out of my A-Levels, and am somewhat not-posh and working class. Tim knew very little about video games. Neither of us knew how to run a video games section. I knew next to nothing about writing, or journalism.
Tim was clearly a talented and experienced writer, however. I know that the first game I ever tried reviewing was not - as legend has it - Green Dog The Surfer Dude for the Mega Drive. It was in fact half a review of Bart's Nightmare for the Super NES. I'd bought it second-hand from a local video rental shop, and the review was part of my proposal for the untitled video games section.
I showed the first page of my opus to Tim in much the way a four year-old shows their parent a thing they've made out of some dog dirt and straw; I knew it wasn't very good, but Tim tried to be kind. I remember him nodding, squeaky of voice, telling me "Yeah, yeah... I mean, yeah...".
Green Dog the Surfer Dude was the first review I wrote within the pages of Digitiser itself (prior to us going on air). It was horrible, and I knew it was horrible - laden with surfer-speak of a "This game is totally bodacious!" and "Watch out for the totally gnarly bad guys!" type. I knew after writing it that I never wanted to write like that again. I never wanted us to feel like the games mags of the day. It didn't matter that we were on teletext - we had to be better.
Fortunately, despite our different backgrounds and experience, Tim and I discovered a rapport, and a shared sense of humour. We were simultaneously the best and worst two people Teletext could've paired together. I credit Tim for teaching me to write - albeit passively - by copying his style, and having him rewrite me.
Take a look at the first ever edition of Digitiser, which is somehow preserved on YouTube. It's clearly still finding its feet, but it's remarkable how much of Digi's style was already established by the time we went on air.
These days, I could potentially come up with something almost as deceptively as clever that - given enough time - but I know for certain that I couldn't back then.
In spite of this, Tim credits me for establishing Digi's humour, which isn't remotely fair to himself. Anybody who has read Tim's travel books knows that he is a brilliant and hysterically funny writer in his own right. If anything, Digitiser was an amalgam of two similar - yet still distinct - senses of humour colliding. Tim's was all about wordplay and precision, painting incredible pictures in your head. By contrast, mine was unrefined and surreal; chaotic.
The middle ground where we met on that venn diagram is what Digitiser became. The more we could annoy or surprise people by being exactly what they didn't expect from a teletext video game page, the more we enjoyed ourselves. And the more that worried our bosses.
I'm honestly unsure whether Digitiser would've had any humour if I'd been writing it with someone else. Or if Tim had been writing it without me.
As soon as I realised I could make Tim laugh it egged me on, and pushed us both further to find ever more esoteric ways to amuse the other person. The sense I got from our editors was that they considered Tim a sort of bad influence on me. He was, but only because I don't need a lot of encouragement.
The three or four years we worked together were the funniest of my life. I've never enjoyed any job as much as I enjoyed working on Digi with Tim. I think the feeling was mutual: he once got in trouble with his girlfriend when, as he left for work, he said "Well, I'm off to school".
That's what it was like: being back at school, only this time I was one of the naughty kids.
We were making up Digi as we went along.
Tim had already established contact with some of the industry's public relations departments, though getting games out of them was proving impossible. Tim, with - I think - the help of the Teletext marketing department, made a deal with a console games import firm, Computer Games Ltd.
One day, we went to their warehouse near Park Royal - these days, it's a halal butcher's - and came away with two large cardboard boxes full of import games, and a Game Gear. We were almost slapping one another to check we weren't dreaming. Tim dropped me off at the station afterwards, and I remember him driving away as we exchanged a disbelieving look; did... that just happen?!
In return for letting us raid their shelves, CG Ltd. got a plug - along with their phone number - at the bottom of every review. We had to give the games back, but we able to keep them for as long as we "needed'.
This is the main reason we never covered the Amiga early on: the bottom line is, we couldn't get the review copies, and didn't have a machine. But more on that later...
From the off, we operated independently of the rest of Teletext. We weren't supposed to do that, but getting approval from our managers meant jumping through various hoops. Instead, rather than deal with the rest of the department, we wrote and sent out our own press releases to the mags of the day. Mean Machines kindly reported our imminent debut, but snidely pointed out an obvious joke as a grammatical error (again: more on that still to come).
Somehow, we also managed to convince John Holme to give us some money every week to go and play arcade games. That carried on until I left the company - long after we'd stopped reviewing arcade games.
Honestly, it was ludicrous - the best job on earth. We knew exactly how lucky we were and never once forgot it.
Years later, I went on a press trip arranged by Sony. A whole bunch of us spent a couple of days travelling around various offices and playing games, before being treated to a medieval banquet and meal of suckling pig and mead (it was to plug the imminent release of the game MediEvil).
Shuttling between two of the legs of the trip, I was sat next to a journo from one of the mags of the time. All he did was complain - he could be doing something else, he grumbled, rather than this thing that millions of kids would've killed to be doing instead of him. I sat there imagining what it would feel like to shove his biro in his ear, and throttle the entitled brat with the cable of the expensive-looking CD Walkman he was wearing.
Though there were many of our industry peers who were lovely, slightly too many of them had that same attitude, somehow failing to appreciate the position of privilege they'd found themselves in.
Fairly early on, still prior to launch, I noticed a pair of invitations on Tim's desk (this being before they unwisely sat us next to one another), for the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 launch party.
I picked them up, properly thrilled. Tim was busted: he clearly hadn't meant for me to see the tickets, and mumbled something about there being a problem as he'd already asking his girlfriend to go with him, and hadn't yet gotten around to asking Sega if we could have a third invite for me.
Lucky for him - his girlfriend would've killed him, when I insisted upon going - they said he could have one more. I forgave him.
That was the first proper contact we ever had with PR people. They were already giving review copies to Oracle's games pages - which were still on air at that point - and it took us a good while to convince them that we were legit. Even at the end of our 10 years on air, there were plenty who didn't trust us.
The Sonic 2sday party at Hamley's toy store was like nothing I'd ever been to. It was wall-to-wall celebs, if you can class various games journalists, Tucker Jenkins from Grange Hill, and Right Said Fred as celebrities.
Up until that point, the only famous people I'd seen in the wild - other than at gigs - were the revolting MP Cyril Smith getting into a car, Daley Thompson in a playground, and The Queen and her mother at a racetrack. I'd also been to a taping of Jim'll Fix It...
At that party Tim and I began a tradition that would last throughout our time together at Digitiser: stroking celebrities. The rule was you had to stroke their backs hard enough to get them to turn around. We stroked many people over the years; Tucker and RSF, Tony Robinson from Time Team, Rik Mayall... we also dropped a whoopee cushion on the head of alleged sex maniac John Leslie.
Digitiser was a month away from going on air. It would only be a matter of days after that before we got our first complaints...
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: 16-BIT - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ARCADES - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: SEGA MASTER SYSTEM - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: ATARI - PART TWO by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART ONE by Mr Biffo
GAMES OF MY YEARS: THE ZX SPECTRUM PART TWO by Mr Biffo