The Americans among you may or may not be aware of the British kids' TV show Knightmare, but for Brits like me it was a defining experience of the late '80s and early '90s.
It was of particular interest to the more geeky among us because it was effectively a living video game: a show in which real people stepped into computer-generated environments and had to survive against all manner of outlandish -- and completely unreal -- obstacles.
Here's the first ever episode, from back in 1987.
The show's format cast one of a team of young players in the role of a "dungeoneer" forced to wear a "Helmet of Justice" that blocks out their vision except for their immediate vicinity. In lore terms, the horned helmet was supposed to prevent them from seeing the danger ahead; in practical terms, it was to hide the dungeoneer's awareness that they were, in fact, just stumbling around a blue-screen chroma key set with occasional physical objects such as tables, chairs and collectible items.
The job of the remaining team members who stayed behind was to watch the dungeoneer on a monitor, and issue verbal instructions. The monitor displayed the dungeoneer projected into various computer-generated environments, and the team of "advisors," as they were called, had to ensure the dungeoneer remained out of danger.
Peril came in many forms, ranging from the absolutely terrifying giant spider (actually just a normal spider magnified by many times) to goblins, wizards and other characters, played by actors who interacted directly with the dungeoneer. Along the way, the dungeoneer's life force was constantly draining and would expire completely if they remained in the same place for too long -- a concept depicted by the horrible image of a CG character's skin falling off, culminating in their eyes popping out and flying out of the screen. The only way to restore life force was to find food items and place them in the knapsack provided for their use at the start of their adventure, so there was a significant element of time pressure involved, too.
Knightmare saw two official computer game adaptations in its lifetime -- in 1987, Activision released an adventure game-style title in which players had to solve puzzles to progress, but 1991 saw Mindscape release a completely unrelated Knightmare-branded game by Tony Crowther, the game designer behind the well-regarded early '90s futuristic role-playing game Captive. Mindscape's Knightmare abandoned any pretensions of being a simulation of being on the TV show, and was instead a first-person perspective dungeon crawler in which players had to complete four separate quests in order to defeat the antagonist from the show's later seasons, Lord Fear.
Now, after an absence of nearly 20 years, it seems Knightmare is to make a return to our screens -- but this time via the Internet rather than over the airwaves, meaning that a global audience will be able to enjoy the experience. The new episode will be part of YouTube's upcoming Geek Week event, set to take place between August 4 and 10.
The new one-off episode has been produced by the show's original creator Tim Child, and will feature British comedian Isy Suttie, whom those of you who have seen the Brit sitcom Peep Show will know as the character Dobby; and actress Jessie Cave, who played Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter movies. The episode will also feature the original dungeon master character Treguard, played by Hugo Myatt, and four British YouTube stars: Dan Howell, Phil Lester, Emma Blackery and Stuart Ashen.
Geek Week on YouTube is a celebration of geek culture, including sci-fi, comics, gaming and science. More than 100 YouTube channel operators will be publishing special content for the event, which is being executive produced by ChannelFlip. It kicks off on August 4.