Villordsutch reviews Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers by Andrew Hewson…
For anybody who lived through the home computing boom of the 1980’s if you glimpsed Hewson Consultants on the front of one of your games it meant two things: 1) Here was a fantastic, well made game which was going to keep you engaged for hours, and 2) Here was a truly brutal game that would punish you for the slightest mistake. Andrew Hewson started this software publishing house as a natural evolution to his already budding love of home computing, but even he didn’t see where it would lead, nor who he would meet.
In Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers we’re taken along the road from start to finish of his days with the gigantic world of – what was – the British Computer Gaming Industry. To describe this book as a “Warts’n’all” would be painting it is a muck slinging style affair, which Andrew Hewson doesn’t do whatsoever – if anything he remains a true gentleman throughout the pages speaking highly of everyone. If we ever do come across anyone that he has any sort of negative vibrations for, he still gives a positive point for them; living in a drama-filled world where negativity seems to be rife this is a rather big plus point.
We literally follow Andrew Hewson before his conception, arriving in the book with his mother and father’s brief life history is delivered. Then we plough through Andrew’s previous employment before arriving at his first dabblings in the original Sinclair products, which he began by creating programming books to sell, first Hints & Tips for the ZX80, which was followed by Hints & Tips for the ZX81. It was due to the success of these two releases – and the attention they gained him – that he not only began to write a long-running column in the huge Sinclair User magazine (providing assistance to lost programmers) but he also took the first steps into publishing games under the banner Hewson Consultants Ltd.
Throughout the book we watch the rise of Hewson Consultants Ltd, with Mike Male, Steve Turner, Raffaele Cecco and many others and then we witness the invasion of Nintendo and SEGA which shattered the stable European market; what follows is the decline of not only Hewson but the most of the British Gaming Industry. After a brief period of mourning and clearly Andrew suffering from depression, due to a chance meeting in a pub we see the rise of 21st Century Entertainment and the evolution of pinball games on the home computers.
There are some fantastic little oddities littered throughout the book that make you realise that if it wasn’t for Andrew Hewson’s sharp foresight today’s gaming may look a little different. One of the biggest ones is Pinball Dreams published by 21st Century Entertainment. Here we find that a group of chaps from Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment were spotted by Andrew Hewson and their product was allowed to develop, becoming the massive success that it was. Currently Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment are still making games, but they tend to go by their usual name of DICE these days.
My only negative for Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers is the lack of images. I’m not looking for pages and pages of glossy games covers, people like Chris Wilkins and Bitmap Books have got that covered, but a few black & white pictures of the old team would have been great. I’m sure Andrew has a few 7×5’s littered around the house, and to have a snap or two of Mike Male & Bob Hillyer on a Steam Train at the launch of Southern Belle would have been grand.
Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers is an perfect read for anyone that wants to look back into the history of one of the most respected software publishing houses during the 1980’s. However, don’t expect any sordid filth throughout these pages, the closest you get is an open lie about a plastic ruler.
Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers is currently available to purchase for HewsonConsultants.com