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Former Sony Online Entertainment president Lewis “Kelly” Flock, a game industry leader who backed classic hits such as the original God of War and Twisted Metal: Black, has died.
His passing was not unexpected among friends, as he had been ill, but his death sent reverberations through a game development community that has been hit hard in recent months, especially during the pandemic. As the news spread on social media, it was evident how much impact Flock had on a generation of game developers who have now become leaders themselves.
Flock lived in the San Diego area, and people remember him for his swashbuckling personality and sense of humor. He had been retired for seven years, and just before that, he was on the board of Aristocrat, a gambling company with a social casino game division. He served as an executive vice president at THQ, and he was the president of Sony Online Entertainment from 2000 to 2002. Before that, he ran Sony’s 989 Studios, which made sports video games. He got his start at Sony in 1995, when the game division was called Sony Imagesoft. He also worked at TriMark Interactive and LucasArts. And in the mid-1980s, he worked at Electronic Arts. He worked in a series of marketing jobs there at a time when the company had just a handful of producers and marketers.
“We often functioned as a single group that exchanged ideas openly, and Kelly was an uninhibited (and fun) part of that milieu” at EA, said Don Daglow, an EA and gaming veteran, in an email.
Tina Kowalewski, an executive at Giant Squid and a former game account manager and later product developer at Sony Santa Monica, said in a Facebook post, “First time meeting him, a group of us were shooting pool in a bar and Kelly walked in wearing a jean jacket with a ponytail and said, ‘I’m your new president.’ We hit it off right away, and he proceeded to do so many amazing things for Sony.”
David Jaffe, the creator of God of War and Twisted Metal, remembered Flock in a Facebook post.
“He’s the exec who pulled the trigger creating Sony Santa Monica. He’s the guy who greenlit Twisted Metal 2 all the up through Twisted Metal: Black (along with Jet Moto). He gave so many of us at PlayStation chance after chance to get it right and learn. He was sarcastic, funny as fuck, brilliant about the biz, and a great leader. He started in the warehouse at EA, went to Lucasarts, Sony, Sony Online, and more.”
Jaffe said Flock gave him chances after failures.
“There is no Twisted Metal: Black or God of War without Kelly Flock,” Jaffe wrote.
Tammy McDonald, who runs Axis Game Factory and lost her game developer husband, Matt, in the past year, also sang Flock’s praises.
“Kelly believed in us early on as we partnered with SOE on many contracts to support Everquest, Twisted Metal, Jet Moto, and Star Wars, to name a few,” McDonald wrote. “He was a huge personality and a dear friend for many years. He loved to share stories (many I can never repeat), and he loved his red wine, classic literature, and motorcycle rides.”
Kevin Horn, a former Sony PR employee, remembered how nervous he was when he sat in on an interview with the press. During one lunch interview with the media, Flock ordered a 40-year-old round of scotch and joked that Horn would expense it on his account. I had a chance to talk with Flock a little, but not as much as other executives who came after him. I remember his jolly personality.
John Smedley, the former president of Sony Online Entertainment and co-creator of Everquest, said he learned a lot from Flock. In a message, Smedley said, “I worked for him for a good while at Sony and then again for a little while during the early SOE days. I can say Everquest simply would not exist without the man.”
Shawn Layden, the former head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, also lamented Flock’s passing in a tweet.
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