Originally published in Las Vegas Citylife on June 27, 2013
In April of 2012, well over a thousand game developers, both new and accomplished, gathered in groups around the world and began to hammer away at their keyboards.
Over the course of a single 48 hour weekend, several hundred video games were created, demoed, and submitted online for anyone to play.
Next weekend, beginning on the evening of July 5th, weâ€™re doing it again.
This week: the game jam column!
By the time the Internet at large had caught on to what he was doing, Adam Capone had been tweeting under the guise of @PeterMolydeux for well over a year. Via the Twitter account, a parody of the sometimes brilliant and often bombastic game designer Peter Molyneux (creator of Populus, Black & White, Fable, and more), Capone would post surreal and fanciful game concepts, ideas that, like their target of inspiration but cranked up to 11, often straddled the line between potential and absurdity.
@PeterMolydeux: You are a Pigeon who must go around the city trying to persuade business men not to jump off buildings by retrieving items from their home.
@PeterMolydeux: 3D adventure game where you have amnesia and wake up in a gigantic museum where every room is devoted to a year of your life
@PeterMolydeux: What if you could plant seeds that grow into cover systems?
Molydeuxâ€™s tweets were mostly an amusement to a growing cadre of readers â€“ sometimes light jabs at Molyneux and the game industry, sometimes enjoyable thought experiments. And then on March 13, 2012, Anna Kipnis, a programmer at game studio Double Fine, posted the following:
@doubleanna: has there already been an indie game jam where each team picks an idea from @petermolydeux and goes for it? it needs to happen.
Almost immediately, wheels began to turn. Anna was joined by industry vets Chris Remo, Patrick Klepek, and Brandon Sheffield, and the four of them conspired to make the concept a reality. Soon, others from around the world (myself included) jumped onboard to organize local events. Venues were secured, a website was built, and word began to spread. The game jam was going to happen.
Oh, right. Game jam.
How to run a game jam:
- Decide on a concept. This can be as specific as â€˜games that use only one buttonâ€™ to something as open ended as â€˜the theme is exploration.â€™ Donâ€™t fret too much over this, the theme simply frames the jam and serves as an excuse to hold it in the first place.
- Find a venue. An office, a co-working space, your house, or even a chat room.
- Set a date. Most game jams tend to run over the course of a weekend, with a hard deadline. The constraints are part of what makes it fun.
- Invite people. Invite game developers, programmers, artists, musicians, and designers. It doesnâ€™t matter how many games folks have under their belts, all that is required is the desire to make at least one.
- Jam! Form teams, play with concepts and ideas. Make games. Remember, youâ€™ve got two days, so keep things simple. Find the hooks and stick to â€˜em.
- Demo! Immediately following the hard deadline, gather everyone to show of their wares. This is the fun part.
No programmers in the group? No problem, use Game Maker or Twine or one of the many other game development tools designed especially for non-coders. Or hell, make board games, they also count.
Molyjam, as it came to be known, was a success. Dozens of cities took part, many of them featuring live online video streams where onlookers could watch and chat with those involved. Peter Molyneux himself made an appearance at the London jam, giving a brief talk to inspire the participants and to kick off the event as a whole.
After two continuous days of development (punctuated by a quick night of sleep), 303 games were completed and demoed. Most teams were content to savor the victory of a playable game after two days of hard work, while some have since continued to hone and polish their projects. A few are even slated to be published.
Next weekend, itâ€™s happening again.
To keep the concept fresh, the theme of 2013 has changed. Rather than building concepts around the parody tweets of @PeterMolydeux, themes will be based on actual quotes by Peter Molyneux himself, but taken entirely out of context. Being who he is, many of these quotes are just as outlandish and entertaining as anything parodying him, so there will be plenty of quality material to work with when choosing a game theme.
There are currently twenty four cities in eleven countries planning to host a jam, and Las Vegas is one of them. If youâ€™re a game developer, or if youâ€™ve ever had a desire to make your own game, consider this an official invitation. Visit www.molyjam.com, peruse the news, and sign up!
In two weeks, Iâ€™ll tell you how it went.