It might not appear that obvious, but one of the inspirations for Dirty Bristow was a magazine aimed at teenage computer game fans. Your Sinclair, was the first publication that I read that sought to be more than its remit—yes it did reviews and forthcoming attractions, but both within those and in the normal extraneous features of a magazine (news, letters page and so on) it showed no regard for the boundaries of its topic or audience. It was, for the want of a better phase, grown-up.
But grown-up didn’t mean serious or rude—the mag could be, but wasn’t often, serious and its rudeness was very mild—it meant not being po-faced or sniffy about ‘other’. It meant that it wasn’t afraid to expand the horizons of the reader, and it wasn’t afraid not to explain things that you could go off and find out elsewhere.
Yes, alongside Crash, it was a beacon of intelligent writing about a maligned subject—many of the writers went on to bigger things after the computer they were covering faded from view. The computer games journalism industry was a great place to find talent at that time, better perhaps that the more traditional music papers, Charlie Booker came from games—who’s broken out of music journalism in the past five years?
They were responsible for my first steps as a publisher too. Along with a couple of others from school, I started a fanzine: Blast. Yes, it was named for the vorticist’s journal. No, it wasn’t much to write home about. I don’t have any copies left to see whether it forewarned of Bristow.
One thing all these magazine had in common was something sellotaped to the front—a tape.
It sometimes contained demos of games to come. It often, especially when the format was on its way out, contained free versions of old games. Sometimes it even contained in-jokes (YS’s Advanced Lawnmower Simulator is the classic), such as this:
That is YS journo Rick Wilson (or Whistlin’ Rick Wilson as he was styled), with his croon-classic Hold My Hand (Very Tightly).
So, when we decided to have a tape. I knew it had to somehow have a tribute to those tapes of my youth. We wouldn’t think to make you put up with us singing, so we wrote a computer game. For the ZX Spectrum of course. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure all about how we made Dirty Bristow issue one, heavily fictionalised but still it’s all true.