You Might Know Me From…

As referenced on the much briefer About page, Simon has done a lot of different things through the years. So here they are, in his own words. Click on each of the headings to go to that section of the page:

GameDiscoverCo founder (2019-date)
Game Developers Conference helper/overseer/etc (2005-2020)
Independent Games Festival Chairman, Chairman Emeritus (2006-2020)
Gamasutra/ contributor/editor/EIC/publisher (1998-2020)
No More Robots investor / advisor (2017-date)
Video Game Deep Cuts newsletter (2016-2020)
Video Game StoryBundle curator (2013-2018)
MobyGames community lead/co-runner (2013-2020)
Indie Royale co-founder/runner (2011-2013)
GameSetWatch founder/co-runner (2005-2011)
Console/PC video game designer (1996-2003)
Music net.label owner – Mono/Mono211/Monotonik (1996-2009)
Amiga (& a little PC) demo-scene musician (1989-1996)

– Amiga (& a little PC) demo-scene musician (1989-1996):

11077If you don’t know about the demo-scene, that’s OK. As I wrote in  the alt.sys. amiga.demos newsgroup FAQ back in 1996:

“Demos, (short for ‘demonstrations’), are [real-time] executable programs created, purely for art’s sake… perhaps you can think of a demo as a music video on a computer, but with equal emphasis on the visuals, the music, and the code.”

Anyway, the super-comprehensive Janeway database has my full Commodore Amiga demo-scene history (my handle was Hollywood, then h0l), including some appearances that I never even knew existed! And AMP has basically all of my .MOD music files available to grab – use XMPlay on Windows to listen to them.

While I released a bunch of chiptune & other .MODs standalone and in music discs (like Axis’ ‘Chip Squared‘ & even Dual Crew/Shining’s ‘Sonic Attack‘), I also contributed music to a fair amount of demos which now have vids uploaded on YouTube. Axis’ super-abstract 40k intro ‘Headcase‘ is a great example – also see Jetset’s full demo (one whole 880k floppy disk!) ‘Tag‘, plus a co-composition for Digital’s ‘Afternoon‘ and even a Skid Row cracktro.

[After the Amiga, I had a brief dalliance with the PC demo-scene, joining Kosmic & contributing music to Valhalla’s ‘Believe‘ demo, but never got round to making any music on a PC, and stopped creating tunes in 1996, towards the end of my time at university.]

– Console/PC video game designer (1996-2003):

275819-looney-tunes-racing-playstation-screenshot-falling-shieldsAlthough I’d contributed music to one or two small games – including Pandora’s Box on the Acorn Archimedes when I was 16 (!), I was lucky enough to get a game designer position at Kuju Entertainment in 1996 after graduating from university in the UK.

Kuju (formerly Simis, and owned by Eidos Interactive for a while) was graduating from flight sims to game, so the first game I worked on in Guildford was ‘Terracide’, a ‘Descent’-style shooter for the PC that was one of the first 3D hardware-accelerated games.

From there, I headed and lead designed a small team of 6 for ‘Tank Racer’ for the original PlayStation & PC, a Europe-only console release that was sorta a weird melange of a kart racer, Metal Slug, and a tank squash-em-up, and judging by YouTube comments, was largely (but heartily!) appreciated by 5-10 year old kids.

I then moved to the U.S. in 1999 and worked on two titles for Infogrames/Atari and a spinoff studio in San Jose, CA, including my favorite, ‘Looney Tunes Racing’ (pictured above) for the PlayStation, which I lead designed. It’s quite well-reviewed kart racing action which also allowed me to write dialog for Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and Granny (voiced by June Foray!), to boot.

(I also worked as the chief designer on Superman: The Man Of Steel for the Xbox, an experience that convinced me to never work with invulnerable superheroes – and that maybe, game design beyond racing games wasn’t really my forte. 😛 That experience – and related ‘crunch’ to get the game done – convinced me to leave the dev side of games.)

– Music net.label owner – Mono/Mono211/Monotonik (1996-2009):

L-731-1228123305.pngFollowing my work making music in the Amiga demo-scene (see above!), I decided in 1996 to take the idea of a music label and apply it to the Amiga .MOD scene – at the time a relatively innovative idea.

Releasing a host of electronic ‘tracker’ musicians and .MOD/XM all-stars up to 1999, we then switched the label gradually to .MP3 and you’ll find the results (150+ albums/EPs) easily streaming on the Internet Archive. (We also have a Discogs entry if you want to cross-reference.)

There’s a lot more info about Mono (subsequently called Mono211 and eventually Monotonik) on a special info page on this very domain – and you should check out ’10 Years Of Monotonik: The Mix’ and/or ‘Monotonik Vol.1: The Early Years’ for some good starting points. Some of the rare early .MODs are twinned with .MP3s in these three neat ‘bootlegreleases by a fan, too.

We ended up with millions (!) of downloads and streams of Monotonik tracks over the 13 years it existed, and I was sad to close the label down in 2009, as free music flooded the Internet.  (I was partly to ‘blame’ for this by setting up the Internet Archive Netlabels collection at the Internet Archive, which has over 1700 separate labels in it! Happy to ‘blame’, of course :P)

Though I could ramble on forever, a couple of the individual albums/EPs I would particularly recommend trying out are Aleksi Virta ‘Meets Torsti At The Space Lounge‘, Vim’s ‘A Random Collection Of Consonants‘, ST’s ‘I’ll Meet You There‘, Grandma’s ‘Spinach Gas Room Spaghetti Straps‘, and, gosh, basically everything else.

Even more recently,. Zach Bridier has added a Monotonik entry to his super-canonical Netlabels Archive with YouTube & MP3 versions of all Mono, Monotonik, & obscure sublabels – great stuff.

– Gamasutra/ contributor/editor/EIC/publisher (1998-date)

gamasutraI’ve actually been writing for video game industry news/community website Gamasutra (now!) since 1998 or so, when I was still working as a designer in the game biz.

My first piece that I can find is ‘Punch-Kick-Punch: A History of One-on-One Beat-Em-Ups’, which discusses Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi slightly more that it should do, but otherwise mainly behaves, heh.

Early on, Gamasutra – launched by Alex Dunne & friends in 1996 – started as a reprint zone for Game Developer magazine with smaller news articles and columns. It was actually member-only when I joined up full-time as an editor in 2004 – here’s a Wayback Machine link to what it looked like then!

Having taken over as the EIC in 2005, I ended up working with Alex and others to bring the site out of ‘member-only’ mode, expand news reporting size and quality significantly, and massively up the amount of high-quality features and interviews. We won a Webby Award in 2006 and again in 2007, and I’m proud of our reputation as a high quality, reliable info source for the ‘art and business/science of games’.

None of this would have been possible without the amazing work of talented editors like Brandon Sheffield, Frank Cifaldi, Chris Remo, Brandon Boyer, Christian Nutt, Leigh Alexander, Kris Graft, Mike Rose, as well as columnists, postmortem writers, and so many more. After I left the site in 2020, it transitioned to the name but kept much of the content and staff.

– Game Developer Magazine editor/publisher (2005-2013)
stubbsianWhen I started at Think Services in 2004, I was chiefly working on Gamasutra, but we also owned Game Developer magazine, and since we were in the same office, I quickly got involved.

I ran the magazine as editor/EIC from 2005 to 2007, and then handed over editorship to Brandon Sheffield (and subsequently Patrick Miller!), while I helped out as publisher.

The B2B trade mag was, as Wikipedia notes, “the premier publication for working (and aspiring) video game creators from 1994–2013, reaching over 35,000 industry professionals monthly.”

While the magazine was a bit broader than in its ‘hardcore technical’ heyday, we still got a ton of good columns, postmortems (like Silent Hill 4!) and feedback in there, and I’m super proud of the work we did – shout outs to Jill Duffy, Cliff Scorso, & all of our amazing regular columnists for helping it happen.

Luckily, if you’d like to check out my (and all of my predecessors’) handiwork, we worked hard to make almost every single issue available on PDF for free immediately after the mag’s closing. A fitting way to go out, eh?

– GameSetWatch founder/co-runner (2005-2011)

gswbbyeAround the time that I was running Gamasutra and Game Developer, I decided that I needed _more_ challenge, so I set up GameSetWatch, an ‘alt.gaming weblog’ that rounded up interesting things about games nobody else was covering – and also had a bunch of dedicated columns.

We started out with a crew that included Brandon Boyer (now IGF Chairman), Michael McWhertor (who went on to Kotaku & Polygon), and Frank Cifaldi (subsequently Gamasutra, Other Ocean), & I wrote a _LOT_ for the site in its early, hyperactive days.

By the time the darn thing closed in 2011, we’d been through 6 years of awesome and weird writing about games, tho I’d stepped back 2 or 3 years before we shut up shop – read that closing blog for lots of detail. Perhaps we were sometimes a bit willfully obscure – and there was no real business model there. But it was a heck of a lot of fun!

Actually, I sometimes forget how many great writers got their start writing for pay with a GSW column – I noted at the time: “Some of the standouts include John Harris’ @Play, which is practically the Roguelike bible, as well as Kevin Gifford’s Game Mag Weaseling and, of course, Game Time With Mr. Raroo.”

But there’s more – the regular editors like Eric Caoili (TinyCartridge!) and Danny Cowan did a great job, Leigh Alexander’s Aberrant Gamer was excellent, there was a great column from IF legend Emily Short running for a while – you get the idea. Go check out the archives and enjoy, if you haven’t already…

– Independent Games Festival Chairman, Chairman Emeritus (2005-2020)

IGF_2010_SizzleAfter joining UBM in 2004, I fairly rapidly got involved with the Independent Games Festival – a competition for indie video games, with awards handed out at the Game Developers Conference.

The IGF was already up and running, having been founded back in 1999 by Alex Dunne & friends – and a super-important way to publicize and honor the then-burgeoning indie games scene – and it was an still is an awards show that’s judged by the community, for the community.

In 2005, when I was co-chair, we had IGF winners like Gish, the pre-Super Meat Boy project co-created by Edmund McMillen. Over the next few years (with me acting as IGF Chairman), a ‘golden age’ of indie saw projects like World Of Goo, Darwinia, Braid, Crayon Physics, Limbo & even Minecraft win major awards.

An interview Tale Of Tales conducted with me back in 2007 captures some of the zeitgeist of what I thought re: IGF/indies at the time: “I think what we need is more personal games. Personal games may not have overarching stories, and may not necessarily have a message, and they may just be mindless and fun! But they are what the game creator intended to make, based on his personal vision.”

Having handed over the Chairman hat (spoiler: there’s no hat) to Brandon Boyer in 2010, and now on to Kelly Wallick in 2016, I’ve stayed abstractly involved in the awards from afar as Chairman Emeritus. (I still helped oversee GDC as a whole up to 2020, including the Indie Games Summit, the two-day sister event to IGF that I co-founded in 2007.)

The ‘Cambrian explosion’ of indies making those ‘personal games’ has meant that IGF is a radically different beast from a decade ago. But I still think it’s an effective mirror of the titles that indie devs find the most moving and delightful – whether smashingly commercial or just an evocative, interesting game.

– Indie Royale co-founder/runner (2011-2013)

Some time in 2011, after I’d seen Humble Bundle launch its first 2 or 3 independent game bundles, I asked myself a question – why wasn’t anyone else trying these indie bundle things?

So I reached out to Scott Reismanis at Desura, who had the back end chops to make it happen, and a couple of months later, we launched the first Indie Royale digital PC game bundle.

At the time, I said: “We wanted to help smaller indies sell more copies of the sometimes underappreciated games that we thought were cool, high quality and worthy. And we realized that you need a targeted pitch to break through the susurrus of digital video game stores – which are all over the Internet right now.”

Of course, a few years later, the game bundle landscape is a LOT more saturated. But I’m proud of some interesting things Indie Royale did around dynamic price changes (people can pay more money to drop the price for everyone!), and particularly the careful curation – from myself, John Polson, Mike Rose and others – of _interesting_ games.

My share of Indie Royale was owned by UBM – since I devised it on their watch – but we ended up divesting it to Tenshi Ventures in 2013, largely due to things like GDC needing to take priority. (It’s since been sold again and closed down, aw.) The net result was over 500,000 bundles and more than 2.5 million games sold on my watch, and  ‘The (Magnificent) 7 Lessons from Indie Royale’ sums up my view of our time operating the site.

In short, Indie Royale was a heck of a lot of fun, and it really helped some notable game creators signal/revenue boost as indies. But bundling is a double-edged sword in today’s saturated market. Still, I think IR was early enough to matter to people, and certainly had a positive impact on many at the time.

– Game Developers Conference helper/overseer/etc (2005-2020)

gdc-show-floor-02Obviously, this was part of my core day job in the same way that helping with Black Hat was, but I’m splitting my Game Developers Conference work out.

I first attended Game Developers Conference back in 1998 or so (when I lived in the UK!), and since 2005 I gradually upped my participation – largely behind the scenes – with the show as it’s grown (from 8,000-ish people in 1998 to 28,000 people in 2018!)

The Indie Games Summit was the area I was particularly hands on with, alongside our capable advisors, but myself, Meggan Scavio, Katie and others have also worked on developing all of the GDC Summits over the past few years ago, & helping GDC get a great quality submission/ratings system – courtesy of Matthew Wegner.

We also constantly worked with our Advisory Board on listening and integrating feedback, helping to administer and run the Game Developers Choice Awards yearly, growing diversity and the Advocacy Track, and sharing recordings of the content on GDC Vault. (I stopped working at GDC during the COVID pandemic, btw.)

– Video Game StoryBundle curator (2013-2018)

bundle_48_cover-47c2da5bd5e950a2fa49a49249568d7cAfter I finished up my participation in Indie Royale in 2013, I was itching for something else to do, but game bundles weren’t really on the menu. But bundling was (and is!) a really interesting area for curation.

So I ended up reaching out to Jason Chen at Storybundle, a DRM-free eBook bundling site, and offering to pick awesome video game-related books for him.

The fruits of that appeared in May 2013, when the Video Game Storybundle launched, “10 DRM-free game culture/history eBooks, going for a song”, including authors like Prince Of Persia creator Jordan Mechner & video game legend Ralph Baer.

And it did _really_ well, with thousands of bundles sold and happy authors all round. Since then I’ve curated several other well received video game eBook bundles – including ones with bundled music albums & all kinds of other neatness.

We’ve collectively made hundreds of thousands of dollars for our authors’ books about the history, culture, & nature of video games. (Our partnership with the excellent Boss Fight Books has been especially fruitful, and there’s multiple GoodReads lists if you missed ’em & want to check out the other bundles’ books – full list here!) I handed the Game Storybundle curation process over to David L Craddock in mid-2018.

– MobyGames community lead/co-runner (2013-2020)

mobygames-logo-bgAs I explained in a blog post in late 2013, another side project I was involved in was co-running video game history database MobyGames. As I noted at the time:

MobyGames – originally founded by Jim Leonard, Brian Hirt, and David Berk in 1999, was acquired by GameFly in 2010. But as of December 18, 2013, San Francisco-based Blue Flame Labs has acquired the site – and reverted it to its previous design (following a couple of months of an attempted website update which didn’t go so well).”

So yep, I’m so happy that we’d managed to stop the site from what I think would have been a swift-ish decline. The key folks involved in the site (besides the admins, approvers and contributors who continue to be key!) is Blue Flame Labs owner Reed – who is a designer/coder who’s created sites like Drawception, VGBoxArt, and a number of other volunteer/contract coders, with help from me as co-director and community lead.

We then zoomed past 100,000 game SKUs. While Wikipedia, GiantBomb and other sites have a lot of amazing data too, the depth of credits, covers, and cross-referenced format data for video games classic and modern can’t be beat. The site is still running great, but I stepped away from helping day to day in 2020.

– Video Game Deep Cuts newsletter (2016-2020)

I definitely see myself as a curator above all else, and back in 2016, I realized that there was a serious lack of places to read the most interesting articles (or videos) about games every week.

Hence, I started up Video Game Deep Cuts. It’s, simply enough. “The best longread & standout articles about video 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. Viewing/reading across both the newsletter and Gamasutra is probably in the low thousands of people per week.

But the email has a 50% open rate most weeks, and I regularly get compliments. (Plus, it helped me organize my own thoughts on what is important in any given week!) Sadly, I had to put the newsletter on hiatus in 2020 to concentrate on some of my other projects. Thanks for reading, though!

– No More Robots investor / advisor (2017-date)

This particular adventure started in early 2017, when my former and Gamasutra colleague Mike Rose – who has gone on to notable indie game publishing roles at Tinybuild & elsewhere – decided to go independent.

As I wrote in the initial blog post about the launch of No More Robots: “The memorable indie publishers out there… have a history and reputation that precedes them, and I’m pretty sure No More Robots can be one of those ‘oh, I need to check out their games’ additions to the above list.” So I signed on as an investor and advisor.

Since I wrote this, I already received my initial investment back (in near-record time), thanks to the success of the first couple of No More Robots titles, downhill mountain biking game Descenders & post-Brexit bouncer simulator Not Tonight – and also now ’90s Internet moderator sim Hypnospace Outlaw & hit kingdom sim/visual novel Yes, Your Grace.

And I’ve learned a whole bunch about working capital, VAT, & the back ends of various game sales websites thanks to helping out behind the scenes. And gratifyingly, both the initial games we helped to launch made back their development budget, while allowing the teams to keep working on them.

Now, I’m sure the titles would have done pretty good on their own. But I also believe No More Robots’ marketing, strategy, pricing/discount, design suggestions, and PR/influencer work genuinely helped. And I’m looking forward to helping – albeit a bit more abstractly – in the future, as the company grows.

GameDiscoverCo founder (2019-date)

In 2020, I was delighted to formally launch my new project – the GameDiscoverCo newsletter and game consultancy, based around a ‘three times a week’ newsletter which is “a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s, written by ‘how people find your game’ expert and GameDiscoverCo founder Simon Carless.”

I’d been running a version of the newsletter informally since 2019, and it ended up being a great time to step away from my other responsibilities and throw myself wholeheartedly into this new project.

We’ve already grown to a boutique agency that has three full-time employees, works with a whole bunch of neat publishers, and sends the newsletter out to over 12,000 game professionals, with a 40%+ open rate. And we’re super excited to see where it goes next!