Book Review: “The Gamesmaster: Almost Famous In The Geek 80s”

The 1980s were wild indeed. Cartoons were often excuses to sell toys jammed between an endless cavalcade of sugary cereal commercials. Synthesized music became all the rage sounding not unlike the bleeps and bloops squawking from the machines at your nearby arcade. It is in this wretched hive of scum and villainy that Flint Dille weaves a memoir about his early career as a writer for cartoons (G.I. Joe, Transformers) and animated features (The Transformers: The Movie). In “The Gamesmaster: Almost Famous in the Geek ’80s”, Dille charts his course from an aimless college grad to a successful writer of the boob tube and silver screen alike with plenty of respectful musings and witty asides.

Book Review: The Gamesmaster: My Life In The '80s
source: Flint Dille

Writer with a Thousand Faces

Memoirs by writers are not uncommon, but what Dille does here is structure the life story of his early career to the Joseph Campbell Heroic Template as made famous in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. By laying out this formula early on, we get a greater appreciation for both his struggles and the mentors he meets along the way.

Whether he’s writing episodes for the Mister T animated series or juggling duties story editing the original runs of G.I. Joe and Transformers, Dille’s book progresses through dozens of short vignettes at a rapid-fire pace with a fine eye for detail. You’ll smell the cigarette smoke and stale coffee wafting off every adventure.

Trials and Tribulations

Flint Dille’s not one to shy away from thornier moments either: you often get the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat side by side. A real highlight is a long tale of his being hired on as a Story Editor for Star Wars: Droids only to be rejected with little context as to why. He also gives a fair representation of why Casey Kasem (Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!) left Transformers during its third season.

Book Review: The Gamesmaster: My Life In The '80s
The Transformers: The Movie (1986) – source: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Although Dille gives good context as to what’s going on, the sheer number of names and references thrown at the readers can be a bit much. An index would have been nice to help readers connect the dots, but the pacing of the book is so smooth this is but a quibble.

Nothing but a Good Time

If there’s a takeaway here, it’s that Dille’s hard work ethic keeps him going through the good and bad times. A job ending early can be open up opportunities for the next gig. Nobody said writing was a steady paycheck, but his focusing on the future instead of dwelling on the past is a nice tonic that leaves this tome never feeling bitter.

A great read for fans of 1980s animation or writing in general, The Gamemaster: Almost Famous in the Geek 80s is a fine insider read from Rare Bird Books on a halcyon time for science-fiction Saturday morning cartoons.

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