Why game discovery is vital – introducing Games We Care About.

games_we_careEvery few months, I get an urge to try something new as a side project, related to a problem. This time – though I make no claims it will FIX EVERYTHING – it’s intended to address this simple issue:

“I like playing video games, but there are so many damn video games nowadays. How do I find out about video games I might want to play?”

Obviously, the discovery issue isn’t new – though it’s been getting much worse of late. Video game discovery woes extend past mobile to PC and even console, as my indie dev friends are bemoaning. As someone who spends a LOT of time reading about video games, I’m dazzled and very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of beautiful pictures, videos and playables of games made by small and medium-sized teams all over the globe.

Our experience? You see a great-looking game, you see 10, you see 100 – after a point, you can’t situate them all in your brain. (Especially if you have to worry about other things, like making rent or having a pleasant social life or talking to your family.) And many of these titles you read about you can’t actually _play_ yet – you have to file your positive vibes away for when that game is available – and actually spot that it came out.

So where do you go to find out what you might want to play right now? The video game platform holders (iOS App Store, Google Play, Steam, etc) certainly have front pages where you can see a whole bunch of games. But there’s two main barriers to you finding what you want: Continue reading

A Two Thousand And Fourteen Update

11482301066_d2542609ab_mSince most of the posts on this blog of late are about my side projects like Storybundle, perhaps it’s time to round up the totality of what I’m working on here in mid-2014. And it goes a little something like this:

- I first attended GDC in the late ’90s when I lived in the UK, and I started working on it about 10 years ago, initially on the Independent Games Festival side of things. But my work helping to oversee the Game Developers Conference shows with Meggan Scavio (GDC GM!) continues on strong – especially since the mothership (>25 year old!) GDC in San Francisco has grown so much.

This year’s GDC San Francisco show was in March, and as always, it’s about the experience of being there and meeting friends old and new – in and outside GDC itself – that really matters. But I’m especially happy about the number of free GDC 2014 videos documenting the lectures (sort by vid only using the left sidebar!) There’s so many standout talks this year – from Alex Bruce’s heartfelt history of Antichamber through a postmortem of Robotron 2084 from Eugene Jarvis, how to survive Internet negativity by Nika Harper, and so many more. Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – the best yet?

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Back in May 2013, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a success.

Last November we did it again, with Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – another palpable hit, again available for a limited time only, this time including a bonus game (Ian Bogost’s ‘A Slow Year’), and a whole bunch of other high-quality tomes.

After another few months, we’re back – with the spectacular Video Game Storybundle 3.0 - once again beamable directly to your Kindle or available in multiple DRM-free ways, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee.

I honestly think this may be the best Video Game Storybundle yet – and we’ve gone beyond books again too, with specially commissioned interactive fiction from Ryan Veeder & the Steam key for Geoff Keighley’s excellent ‘The Last Hours Of Portal 2′.

And then you get basically the _entire_ set of Ray Barnholt’s amazing SCROLL zine, the Ghosts In The Machine comp, Atari and Sega histories, another Bogost barnbuster… the list goes on! Go grab it for the next 3 weeks only – and the full announce is below:

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MobyGames – a whale of a project?

whaletimeOne of the things I’ve always had a bit of trouble with is how to compartmentalize when I let a ‘passion project’ into my life. Obviously, I don’t want anything I do to distract me so much that I can’t do my dayjob.

But I also need creative things to be passionate about which aren’t just what I do 9-5. And they also still need to leave me time to – well, have an expansive personal life. And I won’t deny I’ve struggled with this at times. But I think I’m finding balance, after I overtaxed myself in the mid ’00s. (Hint: if your _dentist’s assistant_ asks if you’re a workaholic, you probably are.)

So, after closing down my electronica net.label Monotonik in 2009 and stepping back/eventually shutting GameSetWatch, I started out fresh by co-creating indie game bundle site IndieRoyale – probably inadvisably as a work project, and passing it on at the end of 2012. And from there I’ve found something new to pour passion into, this time as an advisor/investor/community helper – seminal video game database MobyGames.

Switching here to the first Weekly Whale newsletter I wrote up for the site: Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – the return of the words!

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Back in May, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a hit.

Now, six months and much curating later, I’m extremely delighted to announce Video Game Storybundle 2.0, another 9 topnotch eBooks and magazines (and even a game!) curated by me, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee. There are too many highlights to mention – and that’s what the below announcement is for. But here’s a couple of things I’m particularly proud of re: this spare-time project:

- We’re featuring some topnotch analysis of the history of games, including Tristan Donovan’s seminal history of games book ‘Replay‘ and a gigantic ‘Guide To Graphic Adventures‘ tome compiled by Kurt Kalata. (And Zoya Street’s ‘Dreamcast Worlds‘, of course!)

- A special 10th anniversary edition for one of my favorite game-related books, Seth Barkan’s ‘Blue Wizard Is About To Die!‘, and the first time the poetry collection has _ever_ been available in digital form.

- Another digital first, and it’s a game _and_ a book – Ian Bogost’s IGF-nominated, Indiecade-winning ‘A Slow Year‘ and its accompanying book of analysis/haiku is available for PC/Mac download for the first time ever in this Storybundle.

- And then there’s Anna Anthropy’s spectacularly good ‘Rise Of The Videogame Zinesters‘, two more Killscreen magazines, including the first-ever and the latest, Richard Dansky’s spooky ‘Vaporware‘ and… I could go on.

If you enjoy reading about video games, consider picking up the bundle now (it’ll be around for just a couple of weeks). And thanks to _all_ the authors/publishers for taking part! Here’s the official announce (below):

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XOXO 2013: Wot I wrote to my colleagues

[For anyone who doesn't know, I help oversee some big tech-related events - Game Developers Conference and Black Hat among them. So it was a joy to visit XOXO in Portland last weekend, not least because I can enjoy it without worrying about also running it! But also because the history of _other_ things I've been or am involved with - IGF, IndieRoyale, StoryBundle, BundleDragon - are about helping independent creators get noticed - a big theme of XOXO.

Normally, I send out an email internally within our company (UBM) to discuss a trip I went on, and what I learned. In this case, I realized that what I'd written would be good to share externally as well, because, well - transparency is good (minus one thing about an upcoming event I had to snip, sorry!), and maybe other people would get some useful takeaway from my brief comments. So I've shared it below.]

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So I just wanted to send some notes out on my Fri-Sun trip to XOXO – http://www.xoxofest.com – which is an ‘independent digital arts’ (including some games!) festival in Portland, Oregon – funded and created by two individuals (Andy Baio, Andy McMillan) who are technologists, but also run an event – a rare skill, given making events is _HARD_, as we know.

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The Story(Bundle) Of Doctor Who

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Quick update here, but after the success of the Video Game Storybundle earlier this year, I’ve been working with the lovely Jason Chen and the Storybundle folks to curate follow-up bundles – and not just about games (although there is a second video game one coming!)

The first fruits of this are here now, since I dived deep into Doctor Who fandom, as a big fan of the Doctor himself, researched, contacted a plethora of authors, and found some really awesome books that we managed to license and bundle altogether, DRM-free, for one inexpensive price and a limited time.

I think the bundle is worth it for the late Barry Letts’ autobiography alone (legendary ’70s Dr. Who producer – he was mentioned by Bernard Cribbins last weekend in the live ‘Next Doctor’ BBC show, actually!) But if you add in the comprehensive VWORP! (first time ever in Kindle-compatible eBook!), the excellent Philip Sandifer Who criticism books, Nick Griffiths’ sardonic Who memoir, and even Chris-Rachael Oseland’s hilarious recipe book (!) – it’s a really meaningful bundle.

It’s available for two weeks only, folks, so have at it – full announce is below:

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A Two Thousand And Thirteen Update

utahLooks like the last one of these update posts was a year and a half ago, so thought it might be nice to give a little mini-update on what I’m up to, for those who don’t follow me a whole bunch on social media.

Let’s see, some states of Simon:

- Though I’m still working in San Francisco’s SoMa at UBM Tech, am really enjoying living in the East Bay (having settled down and bought a place in Alameda last year). How is it possible to say bad things about a place that has High Scores Arcade, the Pacific Pinball Museum, _and_ hosts the runway (over on the formal naval base) that Mythbusters uses to crash trucks?

- As I write, it’s just a couple of weeks until GDC Europe 2013 kicks off in Cologne, Germany, and – if you follow me on Twitter – you’ll know that video games are still my first love. And with that show going swimmingly, it’s time to concentrate on GDC Next – a ‘future of games’ event we’re putting on in L.A. this November, and even, Kali forbid, Game Developers Conference 2014, for which submissions are open right now. Not. Even. Joking.

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Let the Lionheads roar – a 1997 interview with Peter Molyneux & Demis Hassabis

0902 cir PETER[Back in 1997, I was working in the game industry as a game designer at Kuju Entertainment, but also interviewing a host of interesting game creators via email in my spare time. Following my interviews with Valve's Marc Laidlaw and 3D Realms' Scott Miller - both originally published on a site called VideoGameDesign.com - I'm reprinting this interview with Lionhead's Peter Molyneux and Demis Hassabis from 1997.

At that time, the duo were about a year into making seminal god game Black & White, which was eventually released in 2001. Peter (above) is obviously still in the game industry, having gone on to sell his studio to Microsoft, create the Fable franchise and spin off his own studio again, currently (as of 2013) working on a new game named Godus.

dhassabisInterestingly, after running his spinoff developer Elixir Studios until 2005, and making titles like Republic and Evil Genius, Demis (right) has now gone in another direction, and is a brain/memory related research fellow at University College London - though he still may be lurking around the periphery of games, for all I know!]

Simon: Are you surprised at how mainstream and legitimate computer games and games design is becoming, as shown by events such as the computer games exhibition at the Museum Of The Moving Image in London, where your “Populous” Lego prototype was shown?

Peter Molyneux: We all sort of knew that the computer games industry would be recognised as an art form, but never imagined that it would have exhibits in museums or be talked about by a Prime Minister. I have heard rumours of a museum dedicated to computer games, and it is hard to imagine where this will all end up.

populous_6Simon: Where did the name “Populous” come from?

Peter Molyneux: “Populous” was actually called “Creation” first of all, which I have always thought was a much better name. Unfortunately it turned out that “Creation” has already been copyrighted, so a person called Joss Ellis who worked at EA came up with the name “Populous”.

Simon: If you could take 5 games to a desert island, presuming you had the right machines and power supply to run them on, heh, what would they be?

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Jean Jackson’s amazing Mystery Science Theater painting mashups…

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[Pictured - Jean Jackson's 'The Hoot Players', after Maxfield Parrish's 'The Lute Players', one of the two three pictures I now own from this amazing 'outsider art' collection - the others are 'Crow Wood' and 'Servo Throwing Dome At Crow'.]

After talented artist and fan Jean Jackson sadly passed away in January 2013, her family auctioned off for charity her wonderful set of original paintings that added characters from cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 to famous pictures through history.

Since the original MST3K pictures have now mainly been split up among multiple (grateful!) buyers, including me, and there are no hi-res versions of the originals anywhere online besides the Wayback Machine, I thought I’d host [on Flickr] the photographs of the paintings used in auction for posterity.

Some of my favorites include ‘Sunday In The Park With Frank’, recasting Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece with bonus evil sidekick, and ‘Degalala’, where-in Degas’ ballerina portrait ‘The Star’ gets a bit, uhh, Tom Servo-ed. And this mash-up of N.C. Wyeth’s ‘The Giant’ and the MST3K-riffed ‘Amazing Colossal Man’ movie, ‘The Amazing Colossal Crow’, is especially haunting.

There are a few missing paintings that were not offered in the auction and can be seen pictured in low-res on Jean’s Flickr page -  – these include ‘Cezanntillite of Love‘, ‘Two Loose‘, ‘Paleobotic‘, ‘Starry Nanites‘, her best-known work ‘Nightmads‘ (spoofing Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks‘), ‘Crowcasso‘ and ‘Botko‘.

Various images of the paintings (including a few more pics not available anywhere else!) are also available on the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, which archived multiple versions of Jean’s pages from the mid-2000s, when she sold art prints of them.

[NOTE: I don't claim ownership or any control over these photos. I just wanted to make sure they were saved and accessible - and I think they are some of the most remarkable 'pop art' creations I've seen. The witty restyling of some of the titans of vintage and modern American and European art with bonus 'bots makes me grin every time.]