If you haven't already streamed Bandersnatch, you're missing out on a great show. Don't disappear now and watch it. Hold on till you've found out all about the game that lent its name to the hit Black Mirror episode. The Netflix show tells the story of a programmer called Stefan Butler who develops a ZX Spectrum game inspired by a fantasy novel but the show is actually inspired an actual ZX Spectrum game that never got released. Let's take a look at the original game, find out what happened to it, why it wasn't released and ultimately how it went onto inspired Charlie Brooker to write Bandersnatch.
Stories as bizarre as this have to start somewhere and they often start in the most mundane ways. That's definitely true of Bandersnatch. Back in 1982, three computer programmers, Mark Butler, Eugene Evans and David Lawson created Imagine Software. The Liverpool-based studio gained a reputation for making quality games including Alchemist, Arcadia and Zzoom. They also made the odd strange game including Molar Maul in which you clean teeth. The early days of gaming, of course, didn't allow for sophisticated graphics but a game about cleaning teeth sounds like a waste of just about everyone's time.
Master computer game writers
In 1984, the company had two major releases that they advertised in Crash magazine and Sinclair User as well as other specialist publications. One of the games was Psyclapse, which was developed for the Commodore 64. The other was Bandersnatch, which was created for the ZX Spectrum. These adverts called the developers "master computer game writers" and boasted that Ian Weatherburn, Mike Glover, John Gibson and Eugene Evans had been brought together to create the games when in fact, all four of them already worked for the company.
Series of adverts
The first advert was supposed to whet the appetite of gamers for what was to come. The second was supposed to rack up the tension so that users couldn't wait to get their hands on games that the adverts had so far failed to describe. The "progress report" advert was clever as it hyped the arrival of both games saying things like, "The tension is beginning to show" in the programmers. Adding that the programmer's faces are now "drawn and haggard" and concluding that "Psyclapse and Bandersnatch are beginning to take their toll." The last line sounds pretty cheesy when you read it now but it worked thirty-five years ago, "Can you contain your patience?"
Mr Tom FTW /Youtube.com