My Top 5 Video Games Of 2014

[This is excerpted from the fourth issue of my new TinyLetter email newsletter, dealing with ‘musings on games, tech and life’ – go ahead and sign up if you dig it!]

Since my colleagues at Gamasutra will be rolling out their personal Top 5s for ‘video games wot they played in 2014′ over the next few days, thought I could have a hack at my own. I’m super happy that lists of best games are getting a lot more personal nowadays, btw – as games widen their appeal, everyone should have different, personal lists of their favorite games.

Now, bear in mind that I tend to like certain times of titles which appeal to my borderline ADD issues – quick, (sometimes) replayable games that have some interesting skill elements in them. But then, that may be much closer to what all of you have time to play, vs. gigantic 150-hour RPGs or ‘games that are also your social life’ – see LoL, DOTA, WoW, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So without further ado, here’s the 5 games (OK, 6 games but I’m lumping two together!) that I dug this year:

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Game Info Discoverability – Top 5 Lessons From ‘Games We Care About’

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[This is excerpted from the third issue of my new TinyLetter email newsletter, dealing with ‘musings on games, tech and life’ – go ahead and sign up if you dig it!]
There’s one blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now (talking of ‘regular newsletter forcing me to write things!) It’s about the things I’ve learned while grabbing info on 500+ indie games for the Games We Care About Twitter account.For anyone who’s unaware of Games We Care About, as I explain in a recent blog post: “I was very excited about this concept when I launched it back in June, and it’s actually worked out fairly well. The Twitter account for daily discovery of playable games that I (and others!) ‘care about’ has almost 3,500 followers, and most individual game picks have a total of at least 10 Retweets or Favorites. And c’mon, ‘The Illogical Journey Of The Zambonis’? Yesss.”So, after devs/other recommenders give me a name and a URL for a indie game, I have to compile the rest to complete/schedule a Twitter post. This is generally comprised of the following steps: ‘Is it paid or free?’, ‘What platforms is it released for?’, ‘What’s the best URL to link for it?’, and finally ‘Where do I get a clean screenshot to upload alongside the Tweet?’ Simples?

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The Kevin Patterson Experience – Video Games’ ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’?

ww[This is excerpted from the second issue of my new TinyLetter email newsletter, dealing with ‘musings on games, tech and life’ – go ahead and sign up if you dig it!]

One of the most wonderful performance art happenings in recent history has been going on under our noses for the last few weeks – I’m really surprised that not many have picked up on it in more detail. I did Tweet about this briefly – but luckily, now I have this newsletter, I can expand upon it a bit.

In involves video game prankster William Pugh (the co-creator of the sublime The Stanley Parable - check out this demo playthrough in case ya don’t know) and a gentleman called Kevin Patterson, who is making a game called Waiting Room, downloadable for free right now on PC, Mac, and Linux.

What’s it about? Uh… it’s “a playful exploration of time and how we spend it as a society and as individuals.” Apparently.
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Several Updates, November 2014!

Hot-Chip-Atomic-Bomb-William-Onyeabor-CoverIt’s been a few months since I updated on this blog (although I’m a regular poster on Twitter, of course), so I thought it might be nice to do a brief update with the state of various ‘not my dayjob’ projects I’ve been working on. Let’s go:

Simon’s Email Musings - sparked by a wish to get a bit more ‘personal’ and write more often and informally, I’ve joined the hipster bandwagon to bring email newsletters back, heh – focusing on games, tech, and what I’m up to personally. Other smart folks like Dan Hon have been doing it for a while, and I’m archiving the newsletters publicly if you want to peruse. Here’s the first one, which includes Spike Jonze, William Gibson, Inkle’s ’80 Days’, & more. Subscribe now

MobyGames – well, the ‘canonical video game info/credits’ site that we saved about 11 months ago is still truckin’ along well, after we (site owner Reed and myself!) reverted its code to the original version (and improved it quite a bit!) Our news section has all the regular updates around new content – here’s a recent post that I wrote that made me happy: Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 4.0 – onto the next age.

bundle_34_cover-6ab5b04b1113a5ec306694fa94431a0fIt’s that time, again – after the third Video Game StoryBundle that I curated debuted back in April, I’ve been working diligently with a bunch of authors, magazine editors, and even musicians (!) to curate the fourth one, which launched this morning. Lots more info below – with books from Anna Anthropy, Zoya Street, Colin Campbell, Jeremy Parish, and music albums ft. Manami Matsumae (Mega Man) & Austin Wintory (Journey) – but I’m super proud of this bundle’s diversity and readability, so please go buy it and support the authors if you have a chance.

“Continuing its popular “pay what you want” ebook bundles, StoryBundle is proud to present the Video Game Bundle 4.0. The specially curated set of thirteen full-length game culture & history books/magazines & follows up three previous bestselling digital game bundles.

It once again features over $50 worth of books & magazines—plus two full-length all-star music albums—for a fraction of that price, with the gaming non-profit SpecialEffect our lead charity for this bundle.

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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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