Prisoners Literature Project – a cause worth supporting.

Over the past two or three months, I’ve become increasingly involved with a charity that I wanted to talk to you all about – and ask that you consider contributing to, if you believe in its cause.

In fact, I’ve just finished redesigning the official website for the non-profit in question, the Prisoners Literature Project, which is “an all-volunteer grassroots group that sends hundreds of free book packages to needy prisoners in the United States every month.”

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The Magnificent Seventh Video Game Storybundle Debuts!

bundle_80_cover-59ae5b5c14b57dc81d76e57c9bb735d2[We’re back again with another super-cool PWYW video game eBook Storybundle – one that has been percolating for the last four months or so! This particular one – the seventh in the series so far – includes a bunch of gems I’m super happy to be bundling up for your reading pleasure. See below for announce, also my ‘curator comments’ on each book.]

Continuing its popular “pay what you want” ebook bundles, StoryBundle is very proud to present the Video Game StoryBundle 7.0 – the latest in the series of its acclaimed ebook bundles. Curated over the past 4 months, this specially picked set of 8 fascinating game culture & history books once again features a multitude of great titles for a fraction of their retail price.

The basic purchase tier ($3 or above) for the Video Game StoryBundle 7.0 includes Matt Bell’s ‘Boss Fight Books’ tome on Baldur’s Gate II – a wonderful blending of personal stories, game history, and design insight around the seminal BioWare PC RPG classic, as well as ‘Shooter’ – an eclectic set of fifteen longform articles on first-person shooters and their ilk, with a foreword from Far Cry 2’s Clint Hocking.

Also available at this tier is ‘Video War’ from Stephen Manes, a 1983 Young Adult fiction book about attempts to ban a video game arcade, made specially available for this StoryBundle from the height of the classic arcade boom, and ‘Stay Awhile & Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo’ by David L. Craddock, an incredibly exhaustive look at how Blizzard North & Blizzard Entertainment came together and made all-time great action RPG Diablo.

The higher-tier rewards—available at the higher payment tier of $12 or your local equivalent—include ‘Game Boy World: 1989’ from Jeremy Parish, in which the retro game writing all-star presens a book chock full of exclusive pictures, insights, and details on the genesis of the first breakout handheld game console, plus ‘Boss Fight Books: Metal Gear Solid’ from Ashly & Anthony Burch – a hilarious and thought provoking double-act romp through Hideo Kojima’s original PlayStation masterpiece.

In addition, you’ll get ‘HG101 Presents: The Unofficial Guide To Konami Shooters’ from Kurt Kalata, with everything from Gradius through Time Pilot and beyond getting exhaustive profiles, and finally, ‘MONA’ from Leigh Alexander, wonderfully illustrated by video game artist Emily Carroll – a ‘tribute to Silent Hill 2’ that’s simultaneously gloriously compact, and a lot more than that description implies, with a bonus audiobook of the story read by Leigh.

The initial titles in the Video Game StoryBundle 7.0 (minimum $3 to purchase) are:

  • Stay Awhile and Listen by David L. Craddock
  • Boss Fight Books: Baldur’s Gate II by Matt Bell
  • Shooter by Patrick Lindsey and Reid McCarter
  • Video War by Stephen Manes

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $12, you get all four of the regular tomes, plus these outstanding books:

  • Game Boy World 1989 by Jeremy Parish
  • Boss Fight Books: Metal Gear Solid by Ashly & Anthony Burch
  • HG101 Presents: The Unofficial Guide to Konami Shooters by Kurt Kalata
  • Mona by Leigh Alexander and Emily Carroll
  • Mona (Audiobook Version) by Leigh Alexander and Emily Carroll

Finally, both the optional charity and the curator’s full cut from this bundle will be going to the Prisoners Literature Project (, a vitally important all-volunteer, non-profit group that sends donated books – over 2,000 per month in more than 800 packages – directly to prisoners throughout the United States.

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi and some .pdf) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  • Receive extra books: If you beat our bonus price, you’re not just getting four books, you’re getting eight, plus a bonus audiobook!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for and

For more information, visit our website at, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

[Simon’s curator blurbs for each of the books!]

Boss Fight Books: Baldur’s Gate II – Matt Bell

“A signature of the Boss Fight Books franchise is its laser focus on specific games, and also its blending of personal stories, game history, and design insight. This standout book, dealing with a seminal BioWare PC RPG classic, is one of the only Boss Fight books to put all three of these together in truly blended way – wonderful.”

Shooter – edited by Reid McCarter & Patrick Lindsey
“Including a foreword by Far Cry 2 designer Clint Hocking, this eclectic set of fifteen longform articles on first-person shooters and their ilk is a great chance to take a deeper cultural look at some of the best-selling and most-played games out there – from the Call Of Duty franchise to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Borderlands, Far Cry, and many more.”

Video War – Stephen Manes
“After I was alerted (via the ‘Golden Age Arcade Historian’ blog) to this 1983 Young Adult fiction book about attempts to ban a video game arcade, I tracked down its author, and managed to get it made specially available for this Storybundle! Released at the height of the arcade craze, it was actually banned from the B. Dalton book chain for foul language (!), but is a fascinating artifact of its time – and a really fun teen drama read!”

Stay Awhile & Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo – David L. Craddock
“This incredibly exhaustive look at how Blizzard North & Blizzard Entertainment came together and made Diablo – created using over five years of exclusive interviews with everyone who made it happen – is a game historian’s joy. Not sure why it isn’t better known – but what better way to publicize it than this Storybundle?”

Game Boy World: 1989 – Jeremy Parish
“For all its ubiquity, the Game Boy has actually been relatively ignored when it comes to history and design analysis. Luckily, retro game writing all-star Jeremy Parish has created this ode to the Game Boy’s first year, specifically converted to Kindle format for this bundle, and it’s chock full of exclusive pictures, insights, and details on the genesis of the first breakout handheld game console.”

Boss Fight Books: Metal Gear Solid – Ashly & Anthony Burch
“Another from the ever-wondrous Boss Fight Books line, but this one is special – a hilarious double-act romp through Hideo Kojima’s original PlayStation masterpiece from the Burch siblings (of ‘Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ fame, and a lot more besides.) Honest, grin-inducing – oh, and it makes you think, too.”

HG101 Presents: The Unofficial Guide To Konami Shooters – Kurt Kalata
“Hardcore Gaming 101 always brings the goods when it comes to loving, fact-filled looks into the history of games – and the lineage of Konami shmups is one that deserves a good, hard look. This book doesn’t disappoint, with everything from Gradius through Time Pilot and beyond getting exhaustive profiles.”

MONA – Leigh Alexander & Emily Carroll
“Memorable fiction is hard to come by, and Leigh Alexander’s MONA – wonderfully illustrated by video game artist Emily Carroll – is a ‘tribute to Silent Hill 2’ that’s simultaneously gloriously compact, and a lot more than that description implies. Plus you get a bonus audiobook of the story, read by Leigh, since we’re bundling the Deluxe Edition of the package here!”

How To Not Have Horrible Conference Sessions, Hopefully?

gdctalk[Through our company’s London office, I was asked by the Chartered Institute Of Marketing to write something on how events might pick good speakers for events. An edited version – because I got a bit overenthusiastic with word count – is available now on CIM’s website – and here’s the full version I originally wrote, hurray.]

One of the most infuriating experiences when attending a conference is to sit through half an hour – or an hour – of a tedious, scattershot panel, or a barely prepared, droning lecture with no takeaway. This experience is universal no matter what industry you’re in – bad content is bad content.

But it doesn’t need to happen on your watch! Some of UBM Tech’s notable shows in the United States (particularly Game Developers Conference – about video game development, and Black Hat – about information security) are known for the non-horrid quality of their conference talks. (You can see some of our top talks on GDC’s YouTube channel, if you’re interested.)

We’re not claiming we have it right – or anywhere close to perfect. But we have thought a lot about how we approach content. This is particularly because our shows are largely paid conferences where people are shelling out a fair amount of money to learn and be inspired. So here’s some of the things we’ve discovered along the way: Continue reading

Cyberia: The Future Is Now, 20 Years Later

64645.jpg~originalOne of my favorite recent pastimes – simply because technology writing is now old enough – is to dive back into future-leaning writing of the 1980s and 1990s & see how things turned out.

It turns out that book sales in the Bay Area are full of such ‘artifacts’. And Douglas Rushkoff’s Cyberia – originally written in 1992, and published in 1993/1994 – is writing that deserves looking at, more than 20 years later.

The original hardcover description of the book on Amazon explains of Cyberia: “In a vivid journalistic portrait of the underground trendsetters of the 1990s, Rushkoff ventures headlong into cyberspace–the weird and unmapped terrain of hackers, smart drugs, virtual reality, cyberliterature, and technoshamans.”

So yep, the meat of Rushkoff’s book actually delves deep into some of his own journalistic and personal interests – in particular, the ‘smart drugs‘ movement, as also showcased in crossover cyberpunk magazines like Mondo 2000.

But the first 50 pages or so of Cyberia are an overview of the burgeoning early ’90s technology scene, and an attempt to forecast where it may go. Rushkoff is known for coining terms like ‘viral media’, and while much of the book feels very much ‘of its time’, these pages are worth analyzing and highlighting to see how things actually turned out. So let’s do that:
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F2P $ Minus The Mechanics – Is There A Way?

highscorezSomething I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how game creators get paid for their work, particularly on mobile. Specifically, I’m wondering whether there’s any middle ground between the minority of devs who rake in the vast majority of revenues, largely through higher-paying ‘whales’, and the rest of us.

Firstly, let’s lay out the ‘problem’. Obviously we’ve seen that certain F2P games are commanding large swathes of market share on mobile – Supercell‘s trio of titles – Clash Of Clans, Hay Day, Boom Beachgrossed $1.6 billion and had a $500 million profit in 2014 – crazy.

Besides the obvious ‘stickiness’ and quality of the games, these folks are making off with the lion’s share of the dollars because well-constructed IAP (in app purchase)-based  ‘games as a service’ are a sweet spot for today’s digital game biz, and have two major advantages.

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Welcoming The Summer Video Game Storybundle

[We took a little bit longer to make something special for the latest video game-themed StoryBundle that I put together for Jason Chen’s excellent eBook bundle site! And the optional charity _and_ all of my curator cut goes to the excellent women in games org Pixelles. Here’s lots more info!]

Continuing its popular “pay what you want” ebook bundles, StoryBundle is proud to present the Summer Video Game Book Bundle – the sixth in the super popular series. Curated over the past 6 months, this specially picked set of 20+ fascinating game culture & history books/magazines.

It once again features over $100+ worth of books & magazines for a fraction of that price – including a world exclusive debut and literally thousands of pages of amazingly written and compiled content. This summer, either binge on the lot, or pick your favorites to read at your leisure!

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E3 2015: The Great Console Circus Rides Again

bbaileyThis year’s E3 trade show in Los Angeles, which I’ve just finished attending in person, was an interesting one for the video game business. While there’s been a lot of talk of the rise of mobile, indie, VR, or what have you, E3 itself has reinforced its focus on the core console gamer. And it’s emerged as a dynamic force in that particular space, which is still an incredibly important part of video games.

After a lot of painful consolidation (of both publishers and independent console developers), we’re down to just a few ‘big’ console game publishers and platforms – who are also the financial backers of the ESA, the trade organization which organizes the event. They’re notably led by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision, and Ubisoft, with Disney, Warner Bros, Bethesda, Square Enix, Capcom, and Take-Two also having significant show-floor presence.
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The Four Horsemen Of VR

peppersghostAs Wikipedia handily notes, regarding the Horsemen mentioned in the title,  “in most accounts, the four [Horsemen Of The Apocalypse] are seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine & Death”. And none of these things are particularly nice, to be honest. (The only Death I’m a fan of is the one in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and mainly because he’s terrible at Twister.)

But I wanted to use the idea of gradually advancing, uh, harbingers for virtual reality, now that I’ve tried four or five VR systems with games, movies, and apps. We can then apply them to a sliding scale of immersiveness within VR right now – and discuss why it’s vital to understand the differences, when it comes to mainstream adoption.

And it turns out the four steps that take us inexorably towards the Apocalypse are quite a handy metaphor for just that! So let’s go ahead and see which technology lies with each ‘ride’, and uh, exactly what the heck I’m talking about:

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Three Lessons From GDC 2015

[This was originally sent to 100 or so subscribers to my TinyLetter email newsletter, but thought it might be interesting to the Internet at large, so am reposting here.]

16534653780_99b1edfe1a_zHaving finished up the behemoth that was GDC 2015 since the last newsletter (GDC Vault recordings coming this week, with LOTS of free talks, folks!), I thought it might be nice to pass out some things I personally learned from the show.

This edited post was originally posted on our company’s internal Wiki/Hub space, and while it needed to be pared down (it was originally Five Lessons, but a couple need to be internal only cuz reasons!)

It’s largely for an internal audience, and I hope it doesn’t come off too self-congratulatory. But we _did_ hit >26,000 people – another record for attendance – and it was a week that I know a lot of people regarded (and still regard!) fondly. So, some thoughts on it:

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Introducing our ‘curated spaces’ for GDC 2015

13229947794_1f2c29b3d2_z[Picture of Iam8bit’s ‘You’ve Got Game Show!’ from GDC 2014 – here’s the full gallery of curated spaces from last year.]

As you folks may have spotted, there’s just a week to go ’til we hit Game Developers Conference 2015 – and there’ll likely be 25,000+ game developers converging on the Moscone Center to check out talks, Expo, and everything in between, yay!

And actually, it’s the ‘everything in between’ I wanted to talk about in this post. When the organizers looked at GDC, 3 or 4 years ago, we realized we were providing lotsa neat stuff in the conference rooms, and on the Expo Floor. But some of the larger ‘common spaces’ when walking around Moscone felt, well, a bit empty.

So we started putting a lot more seating/hangout spaces in there, plus commissioning, paying expenses and giving free space to awesome people who were curating and showing ‘interesting things’. Best of all, these spaces are viewable and interactable by any GDC pass holder, from Expo to Exhibitor to All-Access. And we do them _solely_ to make your experience a lot more fun, thought-provoking, and social.

These GDC ‘curated spaces’ are listed, day by day, on the GDC 2015 Events page, but I thought it might be useful to highlight them and add a little ‘co-director’s commentary’ – with full credit to Meggan Scavio (da true bosslady!), Sandesh Nicol & Ashley DaSilva, plus our amazing ops team – and ALL of our partners listed below – for making this all happen: Continue reading