Thus: the letters actually needed to be cherry-picked.
Guess what was first to go? Most of the massive stream-of-consciousness essays of nonsense that had nothing to do with video games of course! Please note: these will only ever appear here in the event of an emergency. I have to force myself to write things that make a degree of cognitive sense, so I don't see why you shouldn't as well.
Just a reminder that providing I don't get punched in the face and blinded in one eye like I was the week before the last one, I'm at Retro Revival: The Rivals next weekend, Saturday 20th, up in the Midlands. As well as me chatting on stage with Dave "Gamesmaster" Pezza (Perry), there'll panels about Rare, the Spectrum Next, and Gremlin Graphics. Click here for t-t-t-tickets.
And now? On with those letters! If you would like to appear on next week's page, or you've something you'd like me to give some attention to in our occasional Plug Zone - please send your emails to this place here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr Biffo of The Rose.
I fear that I'm submitting this letter too late to make this Friday the 5th. Fear not, it's far from topical, and could easily Passover to the 12th. My phone just capitalised the word passover, like that event a few years back.
Anyway, I recently rewatched Krull for the first time since a young boy. I enjoyed it, there were a few thrills and nightmares re-remembered. The score was great but the story was much more slowly paced than I had thought; they really make you wait for the glaive action don't they?
Which of the below characters from the film do you best relate to, and why?
Please answer the question we have all been asking: what does Chip Shop Man make of this latest innovation from McCoy's? Mark Chipper is furious, as you can see.
When I was younger, I was always dismayed that playing games was always looked down upon and a niche hobby at best. I always wanted it to be more mainstream - the sort of thing you could discuss at work without seeming odd. In some ways I got what I wanted, I suppose, but it frustrates me that in terms of media coverage, games are never portrayed as something that are just a part of your life or one of many activities that you might enjoy.
They are often shown to be an obsession or at the expense of other interests. This portrayal is sadly encouraged by many of us who enjoy computer games.
Making a television programme about games that was not only for die-hards might be difficult, I admit and it might have to be challenge-based, but why not. Even though I think that it was almost unwatchable for the last few series, why couldn't there be something like Top Gear but for games?
There haven't been that many to choose from, I admit; Video Gaiden was good, but was never going to be anything other than niche, GamesMaster was enjoyable but probably relied too much on challenges. Go 8-bit is more what I'm thinking of, although - might receive some criticism for this - I thought that BiTS had the best chance of becoming mainstream.
I'm not asking for everything involving games to be safe and/or family-friendly; a computer games One Show, but why cannot something like that be used to bring them to a wider audience and normalise them among people who don't take them seriously?
It's a bit trickier with games, because at least you can take cars anywhere in the world, and do stunts with them and that. Doing similar with games is harder. Not least because cars are also more universal than games. In truth, most people I know don't play games, yet almost all of them drive cars. And all of them like a holiday, and Top Gear is at its most appealing when it's being a travel show.
I think the most likely way to do it is to bring games into the real world; recreate moments from games in real life. To do that, though, you need a big budget; Top Gear has a ton of money lobbed at it.
Also, get likeable hosts... who preferably aren't a bunch of excitable, pretty, teenagers. Although getting a trio like Clarkson, May and Hammond - where it's all about the chemistry - is harder than it looks. Just ask Chris Evans.
That said, I quite like the BBC's Click - which sometimes covers games - but it still feels kind if niche, kind of geeky. The Gadget Show on Channel 5 - which I admit I've not watched in years - always seemed to strike a good balance, and be watchable to a more mainstream audience.
Go 8-Bit does a decent job of mainstreaming games, by turning them into a panel show, but that format has its own limitations, and is niche in its own way.
I think I know what I'd do if given the reins of a gaming TV show. But that seems unlikely to happen.
Dear Mr. Digital Tizer. I am befuddled as to why your lovely fansite is rendered in black and green. After all, "!tz a Red Thing". Please "Refresh Your Head" and correct this glaring error.
Great British Pop
In the top ten PS1 games that were over rated, you somehow missed out Crash Bandicoot, which was repetitive derivative rubbish. If there's a video game character who was ever thieving a living, it's him. Mind you, he comes from convict island, so it comes with the territory I'd imagine.
As you seem to be low on contributions, I ask the following, as there are always more of your inner workings that we would like to know:
Who is your favourite character from each “Biffo-Era”?
Digitiser: The Man's Daddy
Bubblegun: Probably Cartoon Man.
Biffovision: Ohhh... Scranton-K, probably.
Digitiser2000: Chip Shop Man
Found Footage: Na-unh-unhhhh! I know exactly what you're doing. Wait and see.
Why don't you review spinners? Them video game things are so outdated no one plays them anymore,
Get with the times daddy-o.
P.S. I found a shoe on a bus shelter, is it yours?
Prof A. H. Ole of Warwick University
My first letter to Digitizer for 20-odd years. A rather dull letter perhaps, but you did ask for a counterpoint to the recent slew of unhinged surrealism...
I was quite into Glitch, till it imploded; for the uninitiated, it was an MMO game with beautiful, quirky art design, and a focus on social interactions, co-operative play, and just, well, fun. It left sufficient impression on me that I use my old character's name as my pseudonym here...
It went under because the developers couldn't work out how to make money out of it, after their tons of venture capital ran out. I've never seen another MMO with Glitch's alchemy of beauty and humour; do you think we'll see it's like again, or is that style of game just too niche to have big mainstream (and therefore profit-making) success?
Footnote: The all-conquering Slack application for team messaging spun out from Glitch, having been created for the developers to chat among themselves.
Anyhow... surely something like World of Warcraft or Destiny is the natural successor to the MMOs of yore? I dunno. What are you asking me for?
My house was broken into at the weekend, among my fortunately minor losses was my PS3 controller (oddly enough, not my PS3).
This is a sad day for me. I've decided to pack my remaining gaming paraphernalia into storage for a few months until I move, just in case they come back.
On a plus note, I'm going to be fitting CCTV to my new place so I can have a real life game of Night Trap.
Been a fan since 98.
This has been playing on my mind for absolutely ages; when I first heard about Mr Biffo, I thought it was simply the name of a clown (Biffo the Clown) but then I started seeing things. strange big red stinky things with BIFFA written on them.
Mr T, as we all know, is preoccupied with his bins and guards them like a junkyard dog chained to a Chevy engine block. Did your name draw direct inspiration from BIFFA bins? I propose that it did, because your irreverent style would certainly fit like a bin man’s cor blimey trousers.
I’m actually going to write you another letter because I’m not entirely happy with this one. I’ll still send it, though.
She was very nice, but the whole time I wanted to ask her about Blue Peter, but had to force myself to have grown-up conversations, and pretend I wasn't a bit freaked out that I was having dinner with Janet Ellis. My other half grew up in Australia, and didn't have a clue who she is.
Now here’s a thing!
Like your goodself and undoubtedly many of us here I am a fan of tech gadgets. I have built PCs and owned an SLR camera and reckon that on an imaginary nerd scale I would more than likely score well. Indeed, I am a fan of everything from Aeroplanes to Zylophones (Xylophones) but yet, BUT YET, my fixation on the technological does know bounds.
Some years ago people decided to start wearing Bluetooth Headsets. Not just Taxi/Lorry Drivers either, you know, people that really might benefit from them in their job, even ordinary folk thought that a Bluetooth headset would make them look cool… like a cool Borg-like person.
Many a time I’ve been in a supermarket and thought that the person in front or behind was battling some kind of inner demon only to later realise that they were in fact speaking into a Bluetooth headset. I always took a rather dim view on such behaviour, and frankly still do.
Apple, the final arbiters on all things cool in the world of tech decided to release a watch a couple of years back (or so). I wasn’t convinced. To my mind the iWatch was nothing more than an embarrassment - a humiliation upon the wearer’s very person.
Don’t get me all wrong, I do my fair share for the Apple massive but…. Jobs on a bike, I couldn’t bring myself to wear one of them.
No matter what they do to try and dress up the fact that the watch is a hideous piece of useless shit… Hermes branded straps, employing the lady that wrestled Burberry back from Chavdom, sticking a Mickey Mouse dial on it… and now Nike branding too… all desperately in misguided vainity in my book.
Earlier this year I went to the States and saw scores of people wearing them - it was like walking among the infected.
Then there’s the ‘touch’ or ‘pulse’ thing. You know, whereby somebody can send you a reassuring little throb on your wrist. The thought of that actually makes me feel physically sick. Like both of my testicles have just given up and surrendered to a world full of piss.
Google Glass is probably the most hilarious thing ever attempted by a major tech company. I recall reading that the wearer (Glasshole, I think was coined) needed to make little movements with their neck to activate certain functions…. call me a cynic but the thought of witnessing people performing such an act would absolutely ‘pat my whimsy’! Shame then that common sense and good taste prevailed.
Did you ever see the Southpark episode about airports? There was this vehicle that Mr Garrison invented… let me see if I can find a link…
But yeah, getting back to the Apple Watch - for shame, right?
What are your thoughts on wearables?
It also feels a bit sad that the future we're being pushed towards us one where there's an electronic interface between us and the real world. At least at the moment you can look up from your phone.
I know that makes me sound like an old man, but I just read The Circle. We're all screwed.
I was expecting things to go quiet, what with Found Footage being filmed, but no. Articles every day.
The comments also appear to be growing, in a good way. Perhaps all those funny and well considered mini-letters divert from the Friday mailbag, so you have to print whatever rubbish arrives (mine).
Hopefully this is a golden brown age of Digitiser, working in a symbiotic relationship with Found Footage. Which could just be that after long day's filming and writing funny characters, you feel like writing about games for a change.
What I do post-Found Footage I dunno yet, but I certainly want to keep on making weird video stuff.
Also, yeah: the comments have exploded in a good way.
I'm currently undertaking a bit of a project that involves going through some old games magazines from the 90s. Sad bastard that I am, I still remember funny lines from 20 year old reviews (including one or two of yours) and found myself hunting them down.
It occurred to me that professional writers, especially those writing in a freelance capacity, would have long ago forgotten these lines, the pieces themselves, and perhaps even the publications themselves. I also noticed in this month's Retro Gamer, for example, that their Back to the Noughties feature pulled out a quote from your gushing review of Rollcage: Stage II in Arcade magazine (a magazine that I only dimly recall).
I imagine you have a better recollection of all the old Digi stuff, but do you keep an archive or anything of old freelance writing, or are many of these pieces just dim and dusty memories? Also is it weird to have people raking through old magazine scans and pulling out reviews and quotes that you'd long forgotten?
So yeah... that's kind of weird. But nicely weird. Especially as, no, I don't have an archive of my old freelance writing. I don't even have my Edge columns anymore, which I rather regret.
I wouldn't say I've got a great recollection of the old Digi stuff though. I mean, it was very much here-and-gone, even more so than magazines. There are bits and pieces which have stuck in my memory, mostly stuff that we wrote together. There was a character called Balls For Eyes, who had - yes - balls for eyes, and who sung a song about having balls for eyes. And I always had a soft spot for Puckles The Cuckold, who I doubt anybody else remembers, but I've brought him back for Found Footage.
And there was a one-off character called King, who was a king, who we "interviewed", and asked "What is your favourite TV show?" and he replied: "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I really like King Cone adverts".
Also, a fake ad for something called "Pov'ry Day", which celebrated "The miracle of Poventry... But who or what is Poventry? Poventry is a revolting brown clown."
I've got various little bits and pieces like that still floating around in my memory, but much of it - barring that which the brilliant teletext archeologist Jason Robertson unearths - is lost, sadly. Mr Cheese has a far better recollection than I do, whereas Mr Hairs remembers basically nothing.
Just wanted to respond to something you mentioned a couple of weeks ago - vis a vis Pokémon Go. I have been playing it daily since it launched and my wife and I regularly enjoy walks to the local shops to 'hatch our eggs'. My 'buddy' is Pikachu and we have walked 472km together. That's right, you should be impressed!
There are still a handful of us enjoying the game - a friend at work has almost completed the currently available guys. As frustrating as the game can be (buggy, crashing, progress requires purchasing incubators, etc) it makes a morning of wandering around the shops against my will somewhat more enjoyable if I can catch me an awkwardly named pocket monster.
Well I enjoy it anyway.
Also: hugely enjoying the Found Footage teasers and behind the scenes stuff so far. Lovely stuff.
I note you have been begging for letters, particularly "good" letters. I did consider writing something in crayon on the back on my gas bill and then taking a photo of it, but decided that would be too much effort. As such, you'll have to make do with an email.
In consideration of computer games, there used to be a thing in German electronics shops (Media Markt, Saturn et al) called "The Pyramid" where there would be stacks of shit CD-ROMs in a pyramid shape, all desperately hoping to be bought.
There were all sorts of things - typing tutors, office apps, lifestyle software, games, shareware, you know the thing. Precisely the sort of crap that they used to stick a £15 price tag on in PC World and wonder why nobody was buying it.
The thing is that unlike PC World, the German retailers had material other than shoot-em-up nasties which warranted an 18 certificate. I never bought one, mainly because the screenshots on the back looked hilariously awful. Sadly the days of instant downloads of everything from Ted Sheerings' latest 45 to an actual live Pikachu have seen The Pyramid get relegated to the skip at the back of the shop.
I've decided that I like writing letters. I might write you another one next week. And like this one, it may well be that I don't have a clue what I'm going to write when I get to the end of the first paragraph. Consider it a stream of conciousness thing, a bit like watching a hynotised Michael Macintyre walking into a lift shaft.
Jopijedd off of the Twatter.
Recently, I’ve been watching Laurel and Hardy. I came across a DVD box set and have been watching them. I don’t binge watch anything (I’m not a fan of doing that), so my progress is slow. But, hey, Laurel and Hardy = genius at work.
One thing that both of us have noticed here is how the films are structured. Indeed both the long ones and the shorts “suffer” from much the same kind of problem. There’s generally some kind of set up, a lot of what my wife would refer to “bimbling about” and somewhere in the background a story might emerge. Oh, James Finlayson tends to turn up to do a double take. Then it all just stops. These days, a modern film or TV show would develop ideas and reach some kind of conclusion. After that, you’d probably get a wind-down scene, or a cliffhanger (or both if it’s a series with a longer story arc). Something to flag that you’ve got the end of whatever story you were watching.
The Laurel and Hardy stories literally just stop. You’d get to the part of the film where some kind of conclusion is nearing, or some kind of ongoing slapstick routine is going on, and *bam* “The End” appears. That’s yer lot. It jars today, but I guess that’s what people were used to in the 1930s and 40s. certainly comedy films like Laurel and Hardy were not as highly budgeted as the bigger films of the time, and they were clearly cranking some of them out. The only other time where I can say that I have come across that kind of short shape end would be the Hanna Barbera cartoon shorts from the 1960s - ones with Yogi Bear and that ilk.
Films and TV have clearly moved on from that time, and we certainly have seen a general increase in pace over the years. Structuring a story is something that’s certainly applied to even the shortest of programmes today. It’s another interesting thing to watch out for when looking through those disks.
I’m about half way through them - so lots more to go. Laurel and Hardy are a favourite of mine, so I’m really enjoying seeing things I’ve not seen for a long time, and there’s content there I’ve never seen before. Great fun.
For the longest time, the idea of watching a video of someone else playing a video game seemed to me to be about as interesting as watching a empty-eyed old man slowly painting the walls of a house. Yet, recently, I have found myself utterly mesmerised by videos of a grown man playing Dark Souls very badly: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcG-c3q-LxE).
I've never even played Dark Souls, but I found these videos (which are edited down from hours of Twitch streams) funny, frustrating, and occasionally even gloriously triumphant - like watching a rubbish but beloved football team unexpectedly get one good goal.
Do you think this sort of thing lends itself particularly to Dark Souls, or is there actually something to the whole 'watching other people play games' palaver in general? For you, Mr Biffo, are there any circumstances that would make videos of video-game play palatable?
On a less relevant note, I continue to be amazed by how much stuff you produce for your fine site,
Happy Friday, Biffster. Digi2000 is great for gaming memories. Your feature on Konami arcade ads reminded me of October 1994, when my family and I holidayed in Majorca (the first and only time we went there during the October holiday). It rained for the whole week, so I spent a lot of the time at the arcade in the hotel. I wonder if you or the readers could help me identify two things from that time.
First, an arcade game that played a bit like Crime Fighters 1 or 2, and shows you the end boss for each stage before the level begins. This one had a first boss that looked like Giant Haystacks as a Blues Brother, and a lot like the entertainer at our hotel, who did rubbish magic tricks using a Paul Daniels kit.
The second thing is an anime, where two mechs fought one another on a metal bridge. One looked like a Scorpion, and another a flying manta ray. The manta ray had blades on either side of its wings, and sheared the scorpion on either side of its body as it flew past, twice; the scorpion then plummeted off the bridge. Then the manta ray got squashed under a big piston.
I remember, for the family quiz the hotel put on, we named our team the Linlithgow Tubes. It was hilarious seeing the rep calling out the name of our team in utter confusion. Also, Whigfield's Saturday Night was playing on a near-constant loop.
What are your "feelings" toward Nights into Dreams on the Saturn? Some people seem to think it's the pinnacle of something and I remember one 90s games mag bloke writing that they were in tears when completing it, because of some beautiful message at the end ? (Brexit means Brexit or something)
I only got Christmas Nights which my mum likes because It's "nice and Christmasssy".
Yours in Christ,
I ripped one of my coats on a door handle whilst decorating earlier. I've never decorated before and it seems I am quite inept at doing so. My Smoking Brother was here helping me; he thought it was funny forward-slash-odd that I was actually wearing a coat in the first place; he'd got 'rags' on or something.
On the plus side, I'm not really that bothered about the coat, because I managed to get more paint on it than my walls. On the downside though, I've painted my lounge in white gloss paint and it looks bloody ridiculous so I'll have to go over it all again with some 'matt' 'emulsion', whatever that is.
I am (not) fit and strong and that is all.
My septic arse is playing up this week. It's all swollen and I think there's a build up of blood and pus that needs to drain. I am hopeful it will burst soon, as it is painful to sit for any extended period of time. Anyway this isn't about that. It's about this: after the critical success of my last book I have written another one, please enjoy it responsibly:
MR BIFFO AND THE GENERAL ELECTION
Once upon a time there was a boy called Mr Biffo who was a very good boy indeed except when he went poo in the goldfish bowl.
One day Mr Biffo was playing games on his Atari ST which was difficult as poo kept oozing out of the MIDI ports and he had to keep cleaning it up which would never have happened with an Amiga. SO ANYWAY he was a bit bored of the poo so he stopped doing that and turned on the television instead and was magically transported to the land of Politics where he met all the politicians but instead of their real names they had disease names so there was Tuberculosis May and Germy Corbyn and Tinnitus Farron and Candidiasis Lucas and Nicolaides–Baraitser syndrome Sturgeon and whatever that Welsh SNP one is called and Appalling internal injuries Nuttall.
They were all standing around having a debate around the election and who should be in charge of the country and Mr Biffo said I think whoever does the biggest poo should be in charge of the country so they all started to try and do the biggest poo and T. May’s poo was small and dry like a shrivelled old fig and G. Corbyn’s poo was full bodied and fruity like the jam he exclusively survives on and T. Farrons poo was all very well and good but nobody took it seriously and C.Lucas did a green poo which everyone thought was a very impressive party trick but wasn't a good indicator of a future prime minister and the Welsh SNP lady did a poo and it was full of leeks and had a daffodil growing on it and then N.Sturgeon did one and it came out already deep fried like a mars bar and then A.Nuttall did one and you might think from his name it would be nutty but it was actually just racist.
Mr Biffo examined the poo closely and then he said these poos are all OK I guess but I prefer my own poo and he did his own poo and it was so good and big and smelly that everyone gathered around and clapped and then they all had a taste of each other's poo to be polite with little spoons and polystyrene pots but they all liked their own best but because Mr Biffo was the voter his poo was voted the best and then Mr Biffo woke up it had all been a dream except he'd pooed the bed again, and contracted all of the diseases he'd dreamt about the party leaders being called. THE END.
That is all for now.