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Talking with Simon Carless, Part 1

Talking with Simon Carless, Part 1 (photo)

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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.