Anyhow, there I was reading the Channel 4 teletext as usual because, hey, they did have a computer section on there and I liked to check out what they had to say on various games. I was a little disappointed that they didn't seem to screen many C64 game reviews. Still I figured it probably depended on what review copies came in to be examined. Well I was young, I didn't really know how these things operated now. There was a competition on there and I decided to enter for it. Can't remember at all what it was for, but looking back, that seems hardly relevant now! At the same time I decided to send a review of the last C64 game I had bought, namely Sensible Software's International 3D Tennis. Computer journalism was something I was getting interested in, especially having read Zzap!64 for so long and met some of the people from there who had said it was a laugh. So taking a Zzap!64 type template (write something about the story, then the workings of the game, then the opinion) I jotted down some thoughts on a sheet of A4 and included it. Gave it no thought until a few days later...
Wake up that morning, late because I could, turn on the TV and tune into page 568 (which is where Buzz Computers section was) for my daily read. Stare rather blankly at the screen as my review (with a bit of editing) is staring me back in the face. Jaw drops. Hey, this was something pretty cool for a 16 year old back then, having something you've done being read by many other people around the country. Called my parents to see it and they are rather amazed and surprised. They had no idea I had done this, but like I had expected it to be screened anyhows! Soon a few of my computer owning friends had been told, gone and checked it out and were suitably impressed.
Later on that day, in the evening, I get a phone call from the editor in charge of the Buzz section, Gareth Herincx. Unusual surname, he said it was of Dutch origin if I remember correctly. So we get chatting about what goes on inside Oracle Towers. Where it was, Marshall Street, as I later found out, is in the middle of Soho! Truly bizarre. I did get to see the building now, but sadly not get to have a guided tour round it. Anyhow, we move onto the C64 side of things and why my review had been put upon screen. He was impressed with my style of writing (although I had hated my English GCSE course) and due to the fact they didn't have a dedicated C64 person (which explained the lack of reviews), would I be interested in filling the gap? Well try and hold me back! A gobsmacked "yes" answer followed, so he made a note of all my contact details, and said there would be some stuff coming my way in the next few days.
On the next Saturday, a large package arrived at the doorstep for me. It was filled with budget games, of which most I already had, but this is how you start off doing a job to begin with, things you have already done. Soon it progressed onto full price games and, when I got a disc drive, discs too. And the greatest thing about it all was the fact I got to keep everything that I received. I hardly had to buy anything for the C64 from then until the end of 1992, I just phoned Gareth up, told him what was hot and he'd get onto the companies and get the games sent through to me. Except Ocean, they were very stingy on full price games and I only received a couple from them. My disc copy of Turrican 2 was sent straight to me from Rainbow Arts in Germany! Creatures 2 arrived on my doorstep weeks before it hit the shops, so I was able to complete the game and get my guide off to Zzap!64 before anyone else would have a sniff at it. All in all, I probably got more than 200 games from Oracle in the time I worked for them.
And don't let anyone try and say this was an easy job. Fitting in actually playing the games long enough to write accurate opinions, actually doing the writing in between going to school, homework, revising and the such like, talk about developing your time management skills. Which is why sometimes I didn't review certain games, especially if they were budget or I knew they weren't very good. As long I got some jottings back to Oracle, Gareth seemed happy with it all. Apparently many people contacted him to say I was doing good stuff, so that makes you feel better for all the time you are devoting to it. Plus the fact everyone in your year at school is jealous you managed to get such a wonderful "job" to boot!
Of course, then there was the disappointing news that Oracle had lost their teletext franchise and would cease to be at the end of 1992. Which perhaps came at the right moment in my life as well. I was in the middle of a one year work placement before going to university, and probably wouldn't have the time to do reviews when I started there. Plus the fact the C64 market was slowing down so there wasn't much original stuff left out there being released. Gareth Herincx moved on to work for Hewland International for a while, doing stuff for the Gamesmaster and Games World computer shows. Last thing I knew he was working in some capacity for Ceefax. If anyone knows where he is, or you happen to see this Gareth, then let me know as I would like to get back in touch.
The intro slip I received from Gareth with the first bundle of games.
The Xmas 90 games review letter to vote in what I thought was best that year.
Gareth was able to send me a couple of screen printouts for days my reviews were up. So check out what was on screen for 13th May 1992 and 15th July 1992 for page 568.
Finally a review list of everything that I sent back to Oracle in roughly chronological order. I didn't review everything I got because there wasn't always time. Just concentrated on the better games!