As the second series has just come to an end, I thought it might be worth sharing a few brief thoughts about Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit. I haven’t watched a games-based TV programme since the early 90s heyday of GamesMaster and Games World, and though there have been a few since then, they haven’t quite had the mainstream heft of Go 8 Bit. When the show was first announced, I was excited about seeing it, and hoped it would be a success.

However, the prospect of a new TV show based around their favoured hobby seemed to arouse a wave of pre-emptive cynicism and negativity amongst gamers, with the common consensus being that television was itself outdated, and that such an endeavour was pointless when there was so much great gaming content on YouTube. And this was in the comments section of Eurogamer, the site to which Go 8 Bit’s co-presenter Ellie Gibson contributed for many years (which you might hope would earn you a little goodwill from readers).

As Ellie put it herself: “Some of the people in the production office – I was in the office when the story went up – some of the people in the production office who haven’t worked in game journalism were quite shocked. Not offended, but kind of mystified. Like, why is there all this hate? Why have people decided they don’t like it when they haven’t even seen a trailer? And I was like, welcome to video games!”

Go 8 Bit isn’t really aimed at the self-important hardcore, though, it’s a mainstream TV show for, er, people who like to watch mainstream TV shows. It takes an accessible, “games are for everyone” angle, of which I’m entirely in favour, although I must admit this position was sorely tested when they let Vernon Kay on the show (of course, his favourite game was Call of Duty – how dreadful!)

The format is a mixture of panel show and watching celebs play games. Line up regulars are the host Dara, team captains Steve McNeill and Sam Pamphilon (who originated the format) and the aforementioned Ms Gibson, who introduces each round. The two teams each welcome a celebrity guest and they face off against each other over four rounds of gaming action: a classic game, a favourite of each celebrity guest, an indie title, then a double points finale featuring some kind of novelty prop, costume or oversized controller. There are jokes, chat and gaming, and though there is a competitive moment or two, the importance of the final result isn’t taken much more seriously than it would be on any other comedy panel show.

Some challenges are more interesting to watch than others, and if one player happens to be particularly terrible at the game in question, it can get rather one-sided. Some of the celebrity guests have let themselves down on occasion, prompting the inevitable claims that some are bandwagon hopping fake gamers who have pretended to like games in order to get on a TV show. But, you know, people who like games can be bad at games. Particularly if they’re playing a particular one for the first time in years in front of a studio audience. (Also: just because the show is called Go 8 Bit, it doesn’t mean all the games have to be on 8-bit systems. It’s just the name if the show, right? They know what 8-bit is, it’s not a mistake you’ve spotted. Eight Out of Ten Cats doesn’t have any cats in it.)

It’s not perfect – as with many of these shows, not all of the pre-written autocue jokes land, and I’m not entirely sure about Ellie’s introductory monologues, either. I loved her writing on Eurogamer and wonder if she could be better served by joining in with the main action a bit more. Equally, the captains seem like they might have a bit more to offer, and they mainly have to act as a foil for their celebrity team-mates. (To an extent these criticisms are addressed by the companion DLC show, introduced at the beginning of the second series, which allows the three of them a bit more space to do their thing).

Still, I found myself looking forward to watching Go 8 Bit each week. It’s probably aimed at someone like me – I’ve heard of most of the games they play, except the indie ones (although one or two of those featured have piqued my interest), and might not be for everyone. But for the old timers who still watch television, I’d recommend checking it out, if you haven’t already.