Gaming magazines of the 1980s in retrospective documentary

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The Independent Tech

A small film company based in London has released a download-only documentary about the early days of videogame magazines in the UK. Nightfall Films, which has previously worked on Pink Floyd's The Pulse DVD and The Young Ones comedy series' anniversary, plot the rise and fall of the publishers behind Zzap!64, Crash, and others.

The Newsfield Years is a candid retrospective on several well-known, well-loved, and influential titles as told by publications' founders and writers.

Newsfield was originally a mail-order company, started up in 1983 by a few friends in the early days of home computing, and Crash was the name of their catalogue. They soon realized that not only were many games for the ZX Spectrum poorly distributed, but that there was also a gap in the market for a vibrant, exciting videogaming magazine.

Barely six months after producing their first catalogue, Crash was re-launched as a full-blown print magazine. By 1985, it was joined by Zzap!64 for the Commodore 64, and Amtix for the Amstrad CPC.

Boldly hiring young writers, using an honest and humorous style, and focusing solely on the gaming scene won popularity with readers, but could cause irritation with advertisers and software publishers. Just as a good review instantly exposed a title to a nation of enthusiasts, a negative review in a Newsfield title could utterly destroy a game's reputation.

The success of Newsfield's magazines led to the emergence of slicker and glossier titles, as big publishers caught on to the latest craze. Though by the early 1990s many Newsfield titles were struggling, their multi-format title The Games Machine is still in production - but only in Italy.

Previews of the 23-minute documentary are available from Nightfall Films' Classic Game Crusader site, with the full version retailing for the price of a 1992 Zzap!64, £2.49 (€2.85/$3.90).

The Newsfield Years can be found at classicgamescrusader.co.uk
Crash Online hosts selected material and cover art.

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