A computer game, developed in the 1980s by a team of NHS programmers was so shit it had to be buried in the desert.
The cassettes were unearthed on a construction site last week and the extraordinary find puts to rest a perplexing urban legend.
Professor Candid, who led up the small team of software developers in the early 1980s, tells us more: ‘Back in ‘82 we were commissioned to develop a game to popularise general practice. We called it GP Simulator.
‘It was a fast-paced, action-packed platform adventure game, starring Dr Pixel, and was designed to exploit the graphic and sound capabilities of the Sinclair Zx spectrum. It pitted the central character against a number of increasingly infuriating tasks.
‘After watching a blue and yellow loading screen for twenty minutes your first task was to waggle your joystick as fast as you could to help Dr Pixel get through an enormous pile of blood results.
‘Then, if your hand hadn’t’ dropped off, it was on to the morning surgery where you had to jump over patients running at you from all sides of the screen. To make it a bit more difficult we added in deep wells and flying syringes. I appreciate that there aren’t normally deep wells and flying syringes in general practice but we’d run out of ideas by then.
‘If so much as a pixel brushed against one of the patients, you had to sit for 10 agonising minutes typing questions like, “What does he look like?”, “He looks annoyed” and “Open the door”, “You cannot open the door because the patient is in the way”. The game was a bit like Jet Set Willy with all off the Willy drained out of it.
We had intended to code it for the Commodore 64 but the funding was pulled, and out of embarrassment we buried it in the desert. I appreciate that unless you’re in your mid thirties this wont make any sense, but the box did come with a fake death certificate and a toy stethoscope which meant fun for the whole family.’
Legendary Crash magazine rated GP Simulator two out of 10 and the game was quickly suppressed.
Professor Candid concluded: ‘I was sent a copy of the disinterred game last week and I played it again for the first time in over thirty years.
‘Sure, the graphics are terrible and the idea of falling into a well or being stabbed by a flying syringe is a bit far-fetched, but when I was desperately waggling my Kempston to keep up with the blood results, it did prove to me that general practice is as shit as it’s always been.’
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.
20 December 2021
21 September 2021