Video Game Deep Cuts launches on Substack

[This just got posted over at my new Substack page – go check it out, and subscribe if you dig it!]

(Image from the first new VGDC newsletter, via the 365ofPac project.)

Hey, I’m Simon, and I spend MANY hours every week producing Video Game Deep Cuts, a weekly newsletter that features the best longer-form articles & videos you might have missed about the state, future, & history of video games.

Welcome to the rebooted version of VGDC on up-and-coming newsletter platform Substack! The existing newsletter – here’s the latest one – is a ‘best of the Web’ for video game culture, and has thousands of weekly subscribers and almost 200 editions from its previous home on Tinyletter.

I’m a video game industry veteran who has worked as a game developer (at Atari & Eidos), helped to run the massive Independent Games Festival, GDC events & Gamasutra, & advise hit indie game publisher No More Robots. And I truly love games & game culture!

If you’ve signed up for this newsletter (or you subscribed before I moved to Substack), you’ll still get my regular weekly email with 20+ links & commentary on the best game writing & videos of the week. All good.

We’re also adding new content every month, including a regular new ‘All Time Greats’ newsletter. This features some of the best game writing & videos of all time, handpicked & commentated on by notable game developers, critics, and figures. Thanks again!

Things that happened in 2019!

Xmas pain in Xmas town – it’s the best.

Unfortunately, this blog doesn’t get updated much any more – largely due to the amount of things happen involving me elsewhere on the Internet. (I still have a somewhat active Twitter account, btw, & it’s not shouty, if you want daily updates.)

But I wanted to draw attention to some of the things that happened in 2019 that I was involved with:

  • Both of my main newsletters – the 2,000-subscriber Video Game Deep Cuts (top longform game stories/videos of the week!) & the already 1,100-subscriber Game Discoverability Now! (data & insights on how to get your video game noticed) are getting near-50% open rates and good feedback. [Niche newsletters are the way out of the mess of yelling on the rest of the Internet & everyone should make one!]

  • My regular day job responsibilities at Informa seemed to tick on just fine, with both Black Hat & GDC having record attendance in 2019, woo. (I’m proud of the reach of the GDC YouTube channel, too, with nearly 300k subscribers & 32 million videos viewed – it’s a great free source of game dev education.) I was also primarily involved in the company I work for acquiring a really good Canadian information security event, SecTor – excited to keep working with the founders in 2020 & beyond.

  • My other major spare-time project, Prisoners Literature Project, which I run online operations/fundraising & financials for (as well as do some hands-on co-ordinating sending books to prisoners!) continues to go from strength to strength. It’s amusingly decentralized, but that’s most of the point of progressive organizations like it – and it’s ended up sending more than 12,000 packages and 35,000 free books to U.S. prisoners in 2019!

  • Lots of other things happened, of course, but I’m also thankful for my wife & son for giving me a stable and happy family life, my co-workers & business partners for being considered and passionate about what they do, & a whole host of other people who let me express myself personally and in ‘unique’ ways.

Other goals for 2020? More of the same, I reckon. I really like the mix of passions I have in my life right now, so no reason not to keep working on them further. Thanks for supporting me through them!

Game Discoverability Weekly – newsletter #2!

Newsletter #2 is here!

A few weeks ago, I launched my second regular video game-related newsletter, following the success of Video Game Deep Cuts. This one is hosted on Substack and called Game Discoverability Weekly. Here’s the skinny:

“Welcome to Game Discoverability Weekly by me, Simon Carless. I’m a long-time video game industry watcher and participant, and a former developer, IGF chairperson & GDC Indie Games Summit founder/co-runner.

This regular free newsletter – which will eventually be published in eBook/book form – will be covering a whole bunch of individual aspects of the biggest problem in video games right now – how people discover and buy your game.”

The newsletter already has about a third of the subscribers of Video Game Deep Cuts, which has been running for over 3 years, so I’m happy about that! Some of the more notable pieces so far in it include ‘Steam’s ‘Follower’ counts – hidden in plain sight.‘, ‘Discoverability – A ‘Hot or Not?’ Genre Guide‘, and ‘Why you may be underpricing your video game‘. Sign up if you want to check it out!

Game Developers Conference 2019 – new & fun content!

So, with Game Developers Conference 2019 rapidly approaching (it’s March 18th to 22nd, date fans!), I thought it would be good to highlight some of the interesting new conference content we’ve rolled out this year.

I’m not the person who runs the show (that’s Katie Stern, the GM, fact fans!) But I lurk in the management marshland, helping out & contributing elements to the conference, and the program in general.

In this particular blog, I wanted to highlight some of the content that I think is particularly interesting this year (some of which I was involved with a lot, and some only in passing!):

  • Game Discoverability Day: brand new, & like the description says: “One of the trickiest things about the video game industry in 2019 is simply – you’ve made your game, and it may be great, but is anybody going to notice?” Lots of smart folks (from Boyfriend Dungeon, Radiangames, Neo Cab & more) pitch in with practical case studies and strategies for PC, console and mobile game developers.
  • Machine Learning Tutorial: how are large-scale devs using machine learning/AI to improve their games? This new tutorial day shows a bunch of practical examples – finding ‘wallhacks’ in an FPS, going beyond motion matching in animation to ‘motion synthesis’. Definitely hardcore technical content, but definitely interesting.
  • Vision Track: we’ve been compiling these special featured talks that go ‘beyond’ the normal GDC technical talk for a couple of years now. This year, the 6 lectures span the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Niantic on AR gaming, the Harvard Desirability Lab (!), Disney Imagineering, Valve on brain-computer interfaces, experiential design lessons from HBO x SXSW’s Westworld installation.
  • Classic Game Postmortems: you know these are a perennial favorite, and we’re delighted with this year’s talks, featuring an original creator talking about the making of a seminal game. This time out: Atari arcade classic Paperboy, quirky puzzler Lemmings, seminal RTS Command & Conquer, Sega’s wonderful Panzer Dragoon series, and ‘swinging with Spider-Man’ – on the design of traversal mechanics from 2004’s Spider-Man 2!

Finally, if you check out the GDC 2019 news page you’ll see a whole bunch more recommendations for talks of all shapes and sizes – as well as for the community spaces with lots of playable games, the awards, and plenty of other fun stuff.

Hope to see you in San Francisco next month to watch ALL of the above!

Reminder: Video Game Deep Cuts newsletter!

It’s mainly referenced in the sidebar of this blog, but I just wanted to resurface Video Game Deep Cuts – the newsletter I spend quite a few hours on every week!

It’s published on the free Tinyletter news platform, and it’s simply “the best longread & standout articles and videos about games, every weekend”, mailed directly to your email address, and also crossposted onto Gamasutra later that weekend.

It requires a lot of information-crunching – often from eclectic sources – to put the thing together, and it’s something I’m uniquely suited to. I’m actually really happy with the kind of people who read it weekly, and if you’d like to be one of those, please subscribe now!

My 2018 Thanksgiving ‘state of the Simon’.

It’s been a little while, and it’s roughly turkey time in the U.S., so I thought it might be good to give some thanks – while going over some of the many projects I’m currently working on, circa November 2018.

(Actually, I just updated the ‘You Might Know Me From’ page with two of them, which shows I’m making a difference, right? Or just flitting from one to the other, I guess! In all seriousness, I’m trying to concentrate on doing things that add value. So this rundown should be a good test. And it has arbitrary ratings!) Continue reading

The MIDI Tiki Show: a new YouTube channel for your pleasure

So here’s an announcement – I’ve started a new YouTube channel, called ‘The MIDI Tiki Show’, that showcases high quality hardware-played MIDI files in a tiki room setting. Uh… wha? Why? Maybe I’d better explain…

The Inspiration

This all started when I checked out the excellent YouTube channel Techmoan‘s video on ‘the floppy disk boombox’, which showcased the Roland MT-80s music tutor.

This device is designed for piano/instrument tutoring & karaoke, and plays back MIDI music files on floppy 3.5 inch disks, including files that use Roland’s GS standard. Which actually sounds pretty darn good, if you can find the correct MIDI files. (More on this later!)  Continue reading

Longread: The ‘lost’ Alan Moore interview (The Telegraph Wire, 1985)

[Poking around at a Bay Area antiques fair, I came across a copy of local comic book store zine Telegraph Wire. And in it, there’s a great longform Wendi Lee interview from SDCC 1985 with Alan Moore, who was known for his Swamp Thing work & V For Vendetta at the time, and in the process of writing the seminal Watchmen!

Turns out that the Internet Archive has a copy of the zine, but nobody had cleaned up the OCR & fully republished online – so here we go! It’s a great early-ish piece on both Moore’s working style & motivation, and also his reasons for creating Watchmen.]

There’s very little need to introduce a writer like Alan Moore – already his name has become familiar to SWAMP THING fans as well as collectors of Britain’s WARRIOR, which has featured MARVELMAN (reprinted by Eclipse as MIRACLEMAN) and V FOR VENDETTA.

Alan Moore has not only proved his writing is prolific and profound, but also versatile. Since his inception of SWAMP THING, Alan has written for AMERICAN FLAGG!, MR. MONSTER and has many projects in the offing.

I was fortunate to catch Mr. Moore at the San Diego Comic-Con last August and he talked about his work on SWAMP THING as well as a very exciting project he’s working on with Dave Gibbons called WATCHMEN. Although there’s no set date, keep watching DC for more information.

Continue reading

Retro Wonders Game Bundle – a bunch more great eBooks!

[Here’s the latest eBook bundle I compiled for the Storybundle crew – and it’s a particular favorite of mine because of the amount of exclusives we commissioned, and the depth of some of the writing – so much good/rare/overlooked stuff here, dig in!]

The Retro Wonders Game Bundle – Curated by Simon Carless

The first Video Game StoryBundle of 2018 is a massive one, since we have three brand new game history/analysis ebooks you can’t get anywhere else, as well as some amazing overlooked & sought-after tomes based around retro video game goodness. Continue reading

New things from me – early 2018 edition!

Since it’s definitely 2018 already (for quite a long time!), and I haven’t actually managed to update this website since 2017, thought it might be good to ACTUALLY DO SO with some notes on what I’ve been up to:

Game Developers Conference 2018 totally happened, a couple of weeks ago! We had 28,000 attendees – an all-time high – and there’s lot of pictures of them on GDC’s Flickr account. (IGF ceremony above!)

We also made hundreds of videos & slide decks free on GDC Vault, if you want to check out top talks from the show. It was the first GDC without Meggan Scavio (aw), who now runs the AIAS, but the first with my former colleague Katie Stern (whee!) here as GM, and am excited to see how we build on the experience, with her at the helm. Continue reading