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Let's remember GamesMaster's most infamous incident, broadcast 20 years ago

"It was a setup."

20 years ago, Channel 4 broadcast GamesMaster's most infamous incident.

It was dubbed the "Dave Perry Super Mario 64 incident" by fans of the 90s TV show, and it's easy to see why. It involved renowned gaming expert Dave Perry, Super Mario 64 and it certainly was an incident.

Here's what happened: during the filming of the 1996 GamesMaster Christmas special, co-commentators Perry and Kirk Ewing were tasked with competing on the Cool, Cool Mountain course of Super Mario 64. Ewing lasted 26 seconds. Perry lost control and slid off after the first bend. He was not a happy bunny.

During the post-match analysis, a seething Perry declared he had been set up. A brief but bitter exchange with presenter Dominik Diamond followed. The final shot of the episode is of Ewing and Diamond waving next to some mermaids while Perry stands off to one side, arms folded and legs crossed. He never appeared on GamesMaster again.

Watch the horror unfold in the video below.

In Ellie Gibson's superb feature, GamesMaster: The Inside Story, Perry doubled down on his setup claim.

"No doubt in my mind," he said.

Here's a snippet of the article:

  • Two months previously, he says, he had written an article for Computer Trade Weekly magazine about the Nintendo 64. The console wasn't out until the following year. Perry felt the pre-release hype was ruining Christmas for the industry; people were holding out for the new machine rather than buying products on the shelves. He declared that he wouldn't be playing N64 until it was officially released in the UK - "So everybody knew I had not played this console or its games."
  • Perry says that when found out an N64 title had been chosen for the final showdown, he tried to walk off the set. However, he claims he was forbidden from using any of the company cars to get home. "I was stranded. So I thought, 'Sod it, I'll do my best.' But it was clear the whole thing had been set up so I had minimum chance of winning."
  • "Oh rubbish, absolute rubbish," says Diamond, when I ask him if it was a fix. "He wasn't set up. Kirk didn't give a s***. Kirk was stoned all the time. Kirk and I were goofing off all the time. Dave did all kinds of things behind the scenes to try and cheat, because he was the only person in the history of the show to take it too seriously. It was a bit of fun. Dave was hoist by his own petard." "Poetic justice was served because Dave Perry lost," says Ffinch. "But quite fairly."
  • Perry admits he reacted badly to the incident, saying, "I probably should have just laughed. It's the fact I was obviously upset and angry. Nobody had seen me get beaten before and they liked that. I reacted ungraciously and that's what made it big news.
  • "I was just gutted because I really cared about GamesMaster. I saw it as my baby. Then it turned round and bit me on the arse."
  • Diamond has regrets about his own behaviour in the aftermath of the episode: "I made some disgusting comments about Dave. I did an interview with Edge magazine and said the most reprehensible things; unforgivable, nasty things which he never deserved. I hate the fact I did that."
  • I ask Diamond if he has a message for Dave Perry today. There is a long pause.
  • "No," he says. "Let's all just move on."
  • When I ask Perry the same question, he says he needs time to think about it. A few days later he sends me an email with his message for Dominik. "What is done is done," it reads.
  • "Thank you for the highs and f*** you for the lows. It was quite a ride."

So there you have it. 20 years ago, GamesMaster broadcast its most infamous incident, and the video game TV show was never the same again. Merry Christmas!

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