Joel Billings, an American video game designer, founded Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) in 1979.
A wargame enthusiast from an early age, Billings realized that contemporary strategy game companies were not dedicating resources to develop computer versions of their analog games. While in college, Billings designed and programmed a simple wargame called Tank. After discussing his ideas with other game programmers, Billings began SSI with a modest investment. (Apple executive Trip Hawkins convinced Billings to program on the Apple II due to its graphics capability.) The California-based company successfully published its first wargame, Computer Bismarck, in 1980.
SSI produced dozens of simulation games during the 1980s, branching into fantasy, science-fiction, and sports. In 1987, SSI acquired the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) license from TSR; that same year, Electronic Arts bought 20 percent of SSI. Billings’ company produced many AD&D titles in its popular “gold box” game series starting with 1988’s Pool of Radiance.
Mindscape acquired SSI in 1994, following the loss of its lucrative AD&D license. Billings stayed on as President and CEO of SSI through December 1995. He later reevaluated his position and decided to step down as an executive to focus on game production and design. Mattel owned SSI before selling the company once again to Ubisoft in 2001. The SSI brand has been retired.
Since 2000, Billings has been designing at wargame producer 2 By 3 Games.