8-bit Heroes: THE BIZ - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

8-bit Heroes: THE BIZ

This week's 8-bit Hero is an early management simulation game from the world of pop. Join us as we go back to 1984 and attempt to make it in The Biz.

Not necessarily the most obvious of choices for inclusion within our 8-bit Heroes retrospectives, The Biz is a text based rock band management simulation/strategy game written by Chris Sievey and published by Virgin Games.

I remember playing this for hours and hours, not only was it very tough and frustrating, but it was also very, very funny. Back in 1984 I was buying Smash Hits every fortnight and addicted to the Top 40 chart on a Sunday. So the chance to help my own 'band' become huge stars, get on Top Of The Pops and reach Number 1 in the charts really appealed to me.

Whilst The Biz hardly pushed the Spectrum to it's limits graphic wise, or even punished the sound chip (just some simple sound effects featured throughout), it was incredibly addictive and a lot of fun.

The Biz was billed as the ultimate game for the frustrated, or budding rock star. At the beginning you give your band a name (with much shame I still remember many of the imaginary band names I came up with back in the day, with my second favourite being 'Chrome Position'), then you go out and make money, rehearse, play gigs, write songs and basically try to get better at your craft. You have to strike a very good balance between honing your songwriting/performing skills and improving your stage presence if you want to even get to the level of recording your first single.

Alongside all of that there are a whole load of things you are responsible for as manager. How much to spend on musical instruments, promotional material, vehicle to transport you to gigs, insurance for that vehicle, hair stylist, dry-ice machine for the stage show, arrange a video shoot and even choose to accept or decline drugs!

If you start to make it in The Biz you might get your demo song on local radio, or get an appearance on a regional television channel. After that, if you're very lucky, a John Peel Session may await you. Next you'll be negotiating record deals and paying for studio time to cut that first single. But how many records will you press? Too many and you'll have a massive bill and a stockpile of singles in your garage, too few and you'll run the risk of not making it into the charts.

Things got even tougher after that, getting on Top Of The Pops and reaching Number 1 was nearly impossible. Virgin even offered a prize to the first person to get that elusive Number 1 single. The prize being a chance to record a song and appear on stage with Chris Sievey.

If you don't know the name Chris Sievey, he didn't start out (or end up) as a video game designer. Prior to this change in career he fronted a Manchester punk band called The Freshies. When The Biz was released it was priced at £5.95, and for your money as well as the game itself the cassette featured "8 real life hit singles" by Chris and his band, including the classic 'I'm In Love With The Girl On The Virgin Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk' (which just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?).

A 12" single was also produced and released as promotion for the game. That 12" single included the first appearance of Chris Sievey's most famous creation, Frank Sidebottom. (You may have come across the Frank Sidebottom movie a few years back? If not, do check it out).

After his alter ego took off, Chris never released another computer game.

Chris Sievey past away in 2010 and although he will likely always be remembered as the man inside the papier mache head, I will never forget the hours spent trying to get my favourite imaginary band (that was 'Trojan Crowbar' btw - I know, I'm hanging my head in shame now) to the top of the charts.

Did you ever play The Biz? Were your band names better than mine? (Surely they couldn't have been worse?). Let us know your memories of this 8-bit hero in the comments below, and view all our 8-bit Heroes articles here.

Post Top Ad