Security guard helps to bring cult computer game back to life
A popular video game has been revived after 28 years with help from a Staffordshire University security guard.
Dizzy was an iconic 8-bit video game of the 1980s and seen by many as the UK’s answer to Mario and Sonic. Created by the renowned Oliver Twins, the Dizzy series was hugely popular and has become a firm favourite with retro gamers.
After fans pleaded for new games to be created, Wonderful Dizzy was released for ZX Spectrum last month – nearly three decades since the last official Dizzy game was made. Jarrod Bentley, a Security Officer at Staffordshire University, was part of the small international team who brought this new edition of the series to life.
Jarrod contributed not only to this but also to the last commercial Dizzy release, Crystal Kingdom Dizzy, in 1992. Although never meeting the Oliver Twins at the time, a chance encounter at Staffordshire University has led to them collaborating on several projects in recent years.
The 51-year-old from Baddeley Green in Stoke-on-Trent said: “I’ve known of the Oliver brothers for years but after bumping into them on campus we became good friends. I’ve since contributed to books, given a talk at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, and been invited to events at the National Video Game Museum when it was in Nottingham. I even contributed to a museum exhibition about Sinclair Computers which is on display in Portugal!”
Jarrod is a self-taught video game artist who found a passion for pixel art when his parents bought him a home computer as a teenager. A regular at the Software Superstore computer shop in Hanley, Jarrod met a network of like-minded friends who began creating 8 bit games.
This led to working with games developer Codemasters and contributing to several titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s before leaving the industry. Jarrod went on to work for Stoke City Council in Waste Management and Environmental Crime before joining Staffordshire University’s campus security team.
He explained: “I loved making games but never knew when the next job would be, so I decided to do something more stable. My 15 minutes of fame has lasted for nearly 30 years! There has been a massive reaction to the new game, and I’ve seen streams of people playing it all over the world.”
The new Wonderful Dizzy game was created to support the Kickstarter campaign for the new Spectrum Next computer and is inspired by L Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Oliver Twins designed the game and recruited a group of fans based in Russia and Estonia, who previously remade Crystal Kingdom Dizzy, along with Jarrod to create it.
Jarrod contributed to the graphics, designing most of the characters, backgrounds and some of the levels. A labour of love, no money has changed hands in its development and the developers are pleased to give the game away for free.
Jarrod said: “When I worked on the original Crystal Kingdom it was a bit rushed and I was never completely satisfied. Being given the chance to contribute to Wonderful Dizzy has made up for that.
“I was honoured to be asked to contribute to this new game. I can’t really express it! Collaborating with the team has been great – it is the old school meeting the new school and has worked really well.”
Jarrod continues to design games in his spare time and has been working on his own creation for the past decade. He said: “Designing 2D games is an art form. You work with much less memory than modern computers, eking out every last byte and so every pixel counts. I enjoy the challenge!”
Colleagues are often surprised to learn about Jarrod’s hidden talents as a games designer and he has been pleasantly surprised by the reaction from across the University.
He commented: “Staffordshire University is well known for its game courses and there are lots of gamers here. I’m always pleased to receive a positive reaction when people discover my background – I’ve even signed a book for the head of the games department!”
Staffordshire University has forged strong links with the games industry and was named ‘Best Educational Institution’ at the prestigious TIGA Games Awards 2020. Dizzy co-creator Dr Phillip Oliver is a founding member of TIGA and became a Visiting Professor at Staffordshire University last year.
Phillip said: “It was a wonderful surprise when we met Jarrod at Staffs Uni. We’d always dealt with him remotely and had no idea where he worked. He has a real hidden talent that was commercially valuable back in the 80s, but now this art form is the preserve of retro gaming enthusiasts. We were delighted with the art that Jarrod contributed to Wonderful Dizzy, it is the pinnacle of pixel perfection.”
Wonderful Dizzy can be played for free at www.WonderfulDizzy.com.
Media Communications Officer
t: 01782 292702
m: 07799 341911
Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.
We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.
We have been shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020.
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries.
We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.