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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.