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Dover author of sold-out book The Games That Weren't sets out to investigate fate of canned video games

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The games industry is a global behemoth worth billions, eclipsing Hollywood as a worldwide money-making machine.

But despite the tireless work of developers and publishers, some video games never see the light of day.

Frank Gasking is uncovering lost games from decades past

From bankruptcy to legal tustles, there is an entire world of video games that gaming fans would not even be aware of if it were not for one man.

Frank Gasking, a software developer from Dover, began his intrepid historical journey in the 90s.

Described as a 'Sherlock-esque' researcher, he has dedicated more than 20 years to blowing dust off shelved projects and revealing the stories behind their cancellations.

Founding the Games That Weren't website two decades ago, Frank worked with a team of enthusiasts to catalogue the games industry's missed opportunities - and in some instances has even archived playable versions of the unfinished work.

Frank Gasking is a life-long video games enthusiast
Frank Gasking is a life-long video games enthusiast

Now, his sold-out book of the same name serves as a comprehensive history of the video games that never made it to our shelves.

The life-long Dovorian said: "Some people don't really understand why there's a fascination with trying to get work that wasn't finished.

"Often some of these games might have been underway for months, maybe even years - that can be a lot of work that's just chucked away at the end, so it seems such a shame not to showcase that work and celebrate it."

Despite the meteoric rise of the gaming industry in the last three decades, there are few organisations seeking to catalogue the history of the medium.

The 39-year-old said the preservation of this history is vital: "For years games have just been seen as a brief entertainment media and chucked away but the games industry is bigger than the film and music industries combined now, so it's still strange that companies are not taking their old material seriously.

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"There's a lot of stuff that's deteriorating by the day - disc media in particular degrade, especially if the quality is not very good.

"There's data there that could be lost forever if it's not acted on and preserved."

Frank's obsession with video gaming began when he visited his older sister who had just purchased a Commodore 64.

From there on he became engrossed in video games across all platforms - both released and unreleased.

His book, published last year by Bitmap Books, begins with cancelled games on 1970s' Atari arcade machines and goes all the way up to the Playstation 4.

The book has already sold out
The book has already sold out

The mammoth 600-pager has sold thousands of copies, with a second print run on the way in April.

Frank was bowled over by the reaction: "I'm completely blown away, it's really strange - it went on sale three months ago and when I was doing it I had no idea if there was going to be a market or an interest for it.

"I thought it might be quite a slow process to get to a second print run and it's literally been three or four months which is crazy. I'm really humbled by it as well. I was just not expecting it."

The process of writing took Frank years of research and interviews, as he tried to find the people involved in creating unfinished games such as Akira and Die Hard 64.

He said: "Some people have compared it to Indiana Jones and the lost ark - there probably are a lot of unreleased games in crates in a massive storage area waiting to be uncovered - there's a lot of work involved trying to track people down.

"When I was doing it I had no idea if there was going to be a market or an interest for it..."

"Unfortunately in some cases, especially with the earlier games, you find that people are no longer with us anymore, they've passed away, so you can't access that information anymore which is a massive shame."

But Frank's toilsome journey has paid off, as the global gaming community clamoured to get their hands on a copy.

Sam Dyer, creative director at Bitmap Books, said: "I knew that with Frank's excellent writing and Sherlock-esque research skills, coupled with my graphic design and art direction, we would be onto a winner.

"After being released in mid-2020, we have completely sold out of the first print run and are preparing a reprint.

"The overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers and interest from the gaming press has vindicated my gut instinct that The Games That Weren’t would be a worthy edition to the Bitmap Books catalogue."

To visit The Games That Weren't website, click here.

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