A Gremlin in the Works, a book by Mark Hardisty

I grew up in a golden age of gaming, an age that even now we look back at with rose tinted pixelated vision. There are times I wonder why I missed out on some late eighties pop culture, but now I’ve remembered.

I had different Rockstars to my peers – they were magician-like programmers, my posters where full-page game adverts torn from magazines and most of those memories come flooding back when I leaf through this book.

I say book, it’s actually two. Two beautifully presented (in a display box) hardback books weighing in at around 600 pages of fascinating interviews, images and excerpts from the world of Gremlin. It’s a shock to see the salary of a programmer thirty odd years ago.

Firstly I have to commend the supply chain behind these books, ordered in Australia on a Saturday afternoon it was shipped from England and delivered the very next Thursday. I have suppliers that can’t do that across Brisbane, more often than not a review copy of a game can leave Sydney and take over a week before we see it.

My first impression picking up the parcel was the weight, its a hefty tome. My second was the exterior damage to the parcel, but that was a short-lived concern as this stunning package is wrapped in a secure card box and a further layer of shrink.

Having the books in my hands just makes me want to read it all, but I can’t not in one sitting. Its laid out as a series of interviews covering the life of the Gremlin company from 1985 onwards, even if you were there and like me were about fifteen then you’d be oblivious to the action behind the scenes. The Gremlin back catalogue is a huge part of anybody’s make up if they were playing on home computers in the late eighties and early nineties. Coupled with some very recognisable names the game memories keep on flooding back.

I must admit diving straight into the Tony Crowther pages, an absolute legend in my eyes and somebody I would love to engage with now. These were the guys that would learn a programming language one week and have a game out in the charts a fortnight later, that is what we are missing these days with team of hundreds all chipping in. That is part of the retro charm, its not particularly what they produced, it really is how they produced it, less important when you were passing dodgy copies around at school, but so damned impressive now.

The books span a huge amount of time in the UK industry and the content will keep me occupied for a long time, its like settling in and listening to some old friends chat. The writers is at ease and the interviewees flow, for anybody with any level of interest in Gremlin, a retrospective of their gaming youth or just needing a trip down memory lane – then this is a few dollars well spent. I spent so much time and coin in places like Just Micro, the stories bring you back and remind you that this is history and you were there.

Once I’ve read it thoroughly its going in my cabinet of joy well away from sticky fingers and I’ll be making space for it www.bitmapbooks.co.uk stablemates.

A Gremlin in the Works is an epic journey through a memorable time of my life, proving that they really were our Gods, but that I believe is another story.

Hats off to Mr Hardisty for his labour of love and visionary delivery.