The key to enjoying a game jam is knowing what you want to achieve
[For their first challenge – Our developers-cum-journalists were tasked with conducting an interview with one of the development teams – You can find all the interviews here.]
“An odd number of people will come towards you and you have to quickly work out what’s the dominant group and change your clothes to match them”
Keith Stuart – representing The Guardian at the Journo-Dev-Swap game jam in London – is floating his idea for a socially normative sartorial satire.
Where Condemned tricks you into murdering tramps and drug addicts by simply offering you the chance to pick up stinky rotting birds, he wants to highlight how quickly you can be drawn into betraying your identity just to escape a virtual beating in an imaginary playground by fictional goths.
It is with the gentlest of butter knives that Theo Chin is smearing the Marmite of reality onto the toast of Keith’s ambition.
The event is designed to show journalists what it means to be a games developer for a living by getting them to make a game. Theo is one of a group of 4th year students from The University of Derby who have been invited along to provide the incredible talent to implement the journalists’ visions.
These students’ (who set up a successful indie games development studio – IndieSkies – for a year as part of their course) first task is to explain how little time 48 hours really is and how – in a team of two people, neither of whom are artists – it is suboptimal to aim for a graphics-intensive Game Jam project.
Exactly how nice Theo’s attitude toward the whole thing is a testament to the friendly atmosphere of the event. There’s no mocking of the inexperienced, just a shared desire to treat the endeavour like a real game jam.
“I’ve covered game jams,” admits Keith. “And [it makes me sad how the great ideas people have just don’t come through in the unfinished games at the end]."
People come to Game Jams for a range reasons but both these guys explain that, while they hope to just enjoy the process, both of them really want to have something at the end that “people can play”.
“I wrote stuff for all the games at Big Red [and I told artists what to do on Micro Machines, but I didn’t get to decide what the games were - so just the process of being involved in the development like this is exciting for me],” explains Keith, who spent time in the industry before becoming a journalist.
There follows a discussion about exactly how beyond the scope of the event Theo thinks a game about character customisation, and the team unites under the banner of wanting-to-be-able-to-finish. And sack grand ambition for achievable.
The value of game jams stems from the reasons people go along to them. Although they basically simulate the worst possible crunch periods of professional development, for people like Keith and Theo, who just want to make digital toys, it’s all about the buzz of taking an idea and having it become real overnight.
Sure, the thighs of scope may need to slim down to fit into the skinny jeans of resource, but if what you want is to band together with amazing people and look good strolling down the high street of successful implementation, then game jams like this are one of the best possible environments.
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