Simon Carless has a monopoly on dream jobs. As Global Brand Director at UBM Techweb’s Game Network, the British expat heads up the games business’ most respected trade magazine (Game Developer) and website (Gamasutra), along with being chairman emeritus of the Independent Games Festival. On top of all that, Carless oversees five branches of the Game Developers Conference–the main one in San Francisco and its Austin, Canada, China and Germany satellites. GDC’s going through some changes, with the Austin event being re-named GDC Online to reflect a new focus. As the conference approaches its 25th anniversary, I spoke with Carless about his history in the games business and the ways that new trends are re-shaping development.
So, how about we talk about your personal history in the games business? I know you’ve been with GDC and the parent companies for a little while now, but what about you and games in general? When did that start?
Well, a long time ago I used to be in the demoscene. Do you know what the demoscene is?
Yes. I do know that.
I was around in the Amiga demoscene in the ’80s and ’90s, actually as a musician. But, then I ended up getting into video game design when I graduated from the university. So I worked for studios as designer and a lead designer in the UK and then in the states. And I moved out to the states in ’99.
Since then I’ve worked on some other stuff. I really enjoyed working on the development side of the industry, but I actually ended up making my way through a series of serendipities into the media side of things.
I’ve been writing for Gamasutra since 1998. I really believe that it’s great when people make awesome games, but half the issue nowadays is more that, you actually need ways for people to find out about interesting products or interesting games. It’s really in the curation of information about video games and the business of making video games that, perhaps, there seem to be a lot of opportunities. That’s really what we tend to do at GDC and Gamasutra and Game Developer Magazine, and so on.
One of the things that’s coming up in 2011 is the 25th anniversary of the GDC event. Can you talk about what you’ve seen personally as significant changes in GDC? Like certain things that may have been a focus before that are non-existent now ?
Yeah, I mean obviously, GDC started 25 years ago, it was CGDC until like the late ’90s. It was Computer Game Developers Conference. So, that was certainly one thing that’s changed. Consoles came along and changed things for a lot of people. Obviously consoles were around like 25 years ago. But there came a point where the show became much more console-oriented. I think it still is. We often have keynotes from hardware companies in this space.
But we also recognize the rise of all-purpose computing, whether it be on the iPad, or simply web browser gaming, or even social network gaming. I personally still believe that there is still room for machines that simply game, but often nowadays you’re seeing either other game machines getting into other parts of media and app distribution or the other way around, computers or devices that have a bunch of apps on them, also, which also have games.
So I think that’s kind of a major hardware change for us over time. As far as other stuff, I think we’ve always been committed to highlighting people who make really meaningful and memorable projects, and that’s why we’ve had as keynotes from folks like Sid Meyer, Hideo Kojima, and people like that. And I think that’s something we’re going to continue with. We actually think it’s really important that we highlight not only what’s going on in the business of games, but what is going on in the art of games. Games as an art form is incredibly important. And there are not many opportunities for its creators to get up on stage and say meaningful things. So that’s something that we think we do well for a long time now.