A daily Teletext games magazine with a phenomenal readership of around 1.5 million. Almost totally ignored by the games industry in favour of print mags with circulations 2% of the size.
(To view these columns "properly", you'll need the OCR Extended font in your Windows/Fonts directory.)
PANEL 4 COLUMN 1 - 27/28 April 1996
Depressingly, this column could have been written yesterday. Except for the bit about the Japanese knowing FMV sequences aren't what makes a great game, which obviously looks a bit stupid in the face of the success of Final Fantasy VII. Sigh.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 2 - 25/26 May 1996
No change here, except for "Nintendo 64" read "Project X" or "Dural". Still, nice to see such an improvement in Official Playstation Magazine, eh?
PANEL 4 COLUMN 3 - 22/23 June 1996
Cleverly, Psygnosis reacted to this column's criticism of good-gameplay-ruined-by-sponsorship by ensuring that the sequel was terrible in the first place. The lifestyle press (notably The Face) have at least tried to improve their games coverage, but the papers and the games mags are, if anything, worse than ever. And they still hate you.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 4 - 20/21 July 1996
Sony, in a move showing once again that they're practically the only people in the entire games industry who've got at least a basic idea of how to run a business, seem to be giving serious consideration to backwards compatibility for Playstation 2, which is encouraging. Still no sign of life in the Amiga. And okay, I was four months too pessimistic about the N64 launch. Want to make something of it?
PANEL 4 COLUMN 5 - 17/18 August 1996
Welcome to Hell. Sacks full of hate mail greeted the unfortunate Digi staff every day for weeks after this column went out, despite the fact that it was a simple statement of some undisputed facts. (Undisputed, that is, except by Team 17, who entered into a long shouting match about it on the Amiga newsgroup comp.sys.amiga.games, despite being clearly proved wrong by all the available figures except the ones provided by their own marketing department. Bless)
PANEL 4 COLUMN 6 - 21/22 September 1996
Mind you, without playing tips, all the N64 magazines would have been a bit thin last year.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 7 - 19/20 October 1996
The only interesting thing about this column was the censorship imposed by Teletext over the page titles (which were all lifted from the Sex Pistols' album The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle). Probably just as well, really.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 8 - 23/24 November 1996
Flight sims are still for losers.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 9 - 21/22 December 1996
A Digi redesign saw the individual page titles disappear from this month on, which was a shame.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 10 - 18/19 January 1997
Sadly, Christmas 1996 proved to be more of an exception than a rule. It's nice, though, that Amiga owners finally now have their own version of Championship Manager 2, just 14 months or so late. It can only be run from floppy disks (not installed on a hard drive, for example), and takes 90 minutes to load. CU Amiga gave it 70%.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 11 - 15/16 February 1997
Astonishingly, some people actually rail against the whole idea of backwards compatibility (Rob Pegley, editor of Official Playstation Magazine, for example), on the grounds that it would encourage developers not to develop for the advanced features of new machines. That this flatly contradicts all the available evidence about how developers behave when faced with exciting new hardware to write on, seems to have escaped them.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 12 - 15/16 March 1997
In an extraordinarily rare display of corporate agility, Nintendo actually reacted very nearly fast enough to stop the N64 being a disastrous failure, at the cost of some seriously disgruntled customers who saw the price of the machine drop 40% just eight weeks after they'd bought it. The N64 is still fighting a losing battle against the domination of the PS, but while it'll never eclipse Sony's machine, it's managing to survive in its own right. As predicted, though, decent third-party software has been conspicuous by its absence. All the really good N64 games are still by Nintendo (or part-owned subsidiaries like Rare), which, 18 months on, isn't too healthy.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 13 - 12/13 April 1997
On the whole, things have finally started to improve on the PAL front, with a good 50% of games being somewhere near properly optimised. But still, why take the risk? Buy NTSC, viewers.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 14 - 10/11 May 1997
This view is finally beginning to attract some support (notably from Tim and Chris Stamper of Rare), as BT show no signs of introducing free local calls and cable companies crack down on people using their special offers for Internet numbers. There's still a disturbingly large number of people prepared to accept online gaming options as a substitute for properly-programmed enemy intelligence, though.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 15 - 7/8 June 1997
Viewers! Can you spot the hidden phrases secreted in this month's intro page? (Clue: I was a bit annoyed at some really bad subbing the Teletext imps had done to previous columns).
PANEL 4 COLUMN 16 - 5/6 July 1997
Every single thing in this column has really happened to my PC since I bought it less than three years ago. And more besides.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 17 - 2/3 August 1997
It's a constant source of depression to me how stupid people are. You'd think that a column based entirely on how exasperating it was when people don't read things properly would cause them to at least read THAT column properly before writing in to complain about it. And yet, an enormous mailbag poured in (exclusively from Amiga owners, if you were wondering), a huge petition was gathered on Aminet, and apparently CU Amiga (in what would later become a moment of significant irony, litigation fans) even threatened to sue Teletext for taking their name in vain. You had to laugh, or else you'd have gone kill-crazy with an automatic rifle in McDonalds.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 18 - 6/7 September 1997
As the games business hangs around and prepares for its annual insane headlong rush in December, things can get pretty slow.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 19 - 4/5 October 1997
Astonishingly, this extremely uncomplicated story (moral: Murray Walker's F1 97 commentary is quite funny if you drive round the track the wrong way) managed to baffle several less attentive readers, who wrote in puzzlement asking what it was all about.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 20 - 1/2 November 1997
Not a popular column, this one. Which is odd. When you point out to people that they're being really stupid and/or hypocritical, you always kind of hope that they'll go "Oh yeah. So I am. Oops."
PANEL 4 COLUMN 21 - 29/30 November 1997
I love the Bath Games Exchange.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 22 - 27/28 December 1997
No, honestly. Don't bother with work experience. Don't bother learning everything there is to know about the entire recorded output of Capcom. Just read stuff. If you can read, you can learn to write, and if you can write, you'll never go hungry.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 23 - 24/25 January 1998
Embarrassingly, I really was drunk on (cranberry flavour) alcopops when I wrote this (1 o'clock in the morning, just 8 hours before the column's absolute last-possible deadline, with no ideas at all what I was going to write about). I'm not proud about it.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 24 - February 1998
There was an astonishingly horrible debate about the forming of a Digi newsgroup on the UK Usenet config group, which ran to literally thousands of posts. The continued survival of alt.digi - a group set up in exasperation when the UK Usenet Committee refused for the pettiest and most nitpicky of reasons to even consider our request - proves that we were, of course, right all along.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 25 - March 1998
The future is almost here.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 26 - April 1998
It's better to light one small candle than just sit around complaining about the dark.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 27 - May 1998
PANEL 4 COLUMN 28 - June 1998
A blatant handball in the area by Dunga in the last minute. Kevin Gallagher clearly tripped INSIDE the area. Moroccan handball in the box. Our luck sucks.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 29 - July 1998
But oh no! Emulation is killing the games industry! Apparently.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 30 - August 1998
All the trouble I went to to get the phonetic spelling of the intro right. Cretinous bloody subs.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 31 - September 1998
Got fed up of moaning all the time. Only temporarily, of course.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 32 - October 1998
Something really amazingly indescribably awful happened in my personal life in this month.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 33 - October (2) 1998
Dreamcast is dead already. You know it's true. Incidentally, the (2) is because Panel 4 runs on a four-weekly cycle, not a monthly one, hence there are 13 in a year, not 12.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 34 - November 1998
The Brain was one of my two pet rats. Things just weren't going my way at all around this time.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 35 - December 1998
The Column They Tried To Ban. And succeeded. No Panel 4 actually appeared this month - instead, between the 25th and 27th of December, when the column should have been up, the previous contents of p671 stayed in place for three extra days. But it's here in December where it SHOULD have been. Because World Of Stuart exists in a braver, stronger world than reality.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 36 - January 1999
The previous issue's intro recycled as a tiny personal defiance. It's from a song by Snuff called 'Arsehole', which summed up my feelings towards the Teletext mandarin who suppressed the InDin column.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 37 - February 1999
The Game Boy Color is so great it's unbelievable.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 38 - March 1999
Surprisingly, not many of the interesting bits of this one made it through the Teletext censors unscathed either.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 39 - April 1999
This column proved its own point beyond my wildest expectations.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 40 - May 1999
This one attracted a fair deal of criticism from people who imagined - entirely wrongly - that girls were in some way being criticised for their lack of irrational fanboy obsession. If anything, the reverse was true. Games are great, but liking them lands you in some seriously icky company.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 41 - June 1999
Blimey. And I thought Sega's last PR company was useless. The modem is a great addition, the 60Hz mode is long-overdue genius, the price is inspirational, but marketing is what makes a console a success (no, it's not games - the N64 is everlasting proof of that), and Slobodan Milosevic has better marketing than Sega. It beggars belief that they could have failed so spectacularly to learn any of the blindingly obvious lessons from the success of the PS and the utter failure of Sega's last SIX flop hardware launches, but it appears to be the case. This month, Teletext's hyper-prudish censors reduced the traditional opening quote to, in its onscreen version, just the first three words, smashing their own record for truly ludicrous priggishness.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 42 - July 1999
For "Half Life", read "Babylon 5." Rest in peace, little girl rat.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 43 - August 1999
"Hardcore gamers vs casual gamers" seems to be the new "my computer is better than your computer".
PANEL 4 COLUMN 44 - September 1999
Five months later, the Trading Standards people finally picked up on the big fat lie at the heart of Sega's Dreamcast ad campaign, and promptly banned all the ads featuring the phrase "Up to 6 billion players".
PANEL 4 COLUMN 45 - October 1999
Return Of The Spod Gamers.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 46 - October (2) 1999
Nobody else in the entire industry appears to have known "Trip" Hawkins' real first name. Another triumph of investigative journalism, then.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 47 - November 1999
And sure enough, everyone who bothered to review Pong at all gave it either 70% or 30%.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 48 - December 1999
Increasingly, Christmas is becoming a desperately depressing time to be in the videogames business.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 49 - January 2000
Inexplicably, the Digi subs chose to add a "DON'T GIVE UP ON THE DREAMCAST" sub-heading to every single page of this one.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 50 - February 2000
I wanted to do a special 50-page commemorative epic column this month. But they wouldn't let me.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 51 - March 2000
The second part of last month's gigantic retrospective. The Digi subs changed "Kill all hippies" on the front page to "Destroy all hippies", which is of course far less offensive.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 52 - April 2000
The readers seemed to be as shocked by the revelations in this column as I'd been.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 53 - May 2000
A satire on the advertising-funded gaming "press" of tomorrow, with a guest appearance by Half Man Half Biscuit. Multiple layers of irony were added by the fact that the band's press officer really had sent me a freebie copy of the album in question in the hope of a free plug.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 54 - June 2000
Perfect Dark is the best game ever. But that's really not the point.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 55 - July 2000
Why piracy is good, not only for gamers but, oddly enough, for the games industry too. (This view would later be supported by an industry poll conducted by Edge magazine, and yet, curiously, is still denied by many ordinary gamers who, presumably, would rather pay £40 for their games than £5.)
PANEL 4 COLUMN 56 - August 2000
Proud to start the Playstation 2 backlash.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 57 - September 2000
Why football is great, and Championship Manager is rubbish.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 58 - October 2000
Is the Game Boy Advance in fact just a retro toy doomed to failure? (Could be! - Hong Kong Phooey)
PANEL 4 COLUMN 59 - October (2) 2000
Inspired, if that's the right word, by some truly hideous goings-on on the alt.digitiser newsgroup, which finally became so awful that the Digi team abandoned it altogether.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 60 - November 2000
Including no fewer than four entire pages brutally hacked out by Digi's legendary subs because they couldn't be bothered editing all of them. Attracted a record personal mailbag from people who recognised the Rancid quote on the first page. Go figure.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 61 - December 2000
More Dreamcast evangelism. Seen any good PS2 games in 2001? Thought not.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 62 - January 2001
And right on cue, Sega kill it.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 63 - February 2001
Why Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is the new Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Or something.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 64 - March 2001
Dissing the early adopters again.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 65 - April 2001
Six ways to make football games more interesting.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 66 - May 2001
Why the Xbox, not the Gamecube, could save videogaming from The Revenge Of The Spods.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 67 - June 2001
Why fun is better than work. Which, apparently, is something of a controversial view in videogaming.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 68 - July 2001
Another existential crisis.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 69 - August 2001
What if all games were like Gran Turismo?
PANEL 4 COLUMN 70 - September 2001
Buying games? Whyever would you want to do anything as stupid as that?
PANEL 4 COLUMN 71 - September (2) 2001
Why the Playstation 2 takes us all back in time.
PANEL 4 COLUMN 72 - October 27 2001
The last-ever Panel 4. Around this point, Teletext decided that the Digitiser which had been one of the most popular Teletext services ever needed to be revamped for a new audience of morons. All the Panel 4 columnists were fired, and Mr Biffo was ordered to remove all the characters and humour which had made Digi what it was, and replace them with bland press-release rewrites three times a week for half the salary. And the gutless poltroons didn't even run the column in the end, replacing it for no given reason with a particularly dire reader effort, giving P4 a truly ignominious farewell. The worthless cunts.