Results of the First Game Jam
The first Meaningful Gameplay Game Jam has ended, so here’s an overview of what happened, starting with what people will be most curious about: the games (in the order they were shown).
Meaningful Gameplay Game Jam #1 Games
A “virtual pet”-style simulation game that explores how Ryan isn’t the romantic husband he thought he was.
Learning to Fly
A puzzle/god game prototype that explores the concept of “middle knowledge” defended by Molinism in the debate regarding free will vs. predestination.
Ryan Hoffman & Dusty Peterson
A hunting prototype that explores what hunger feels like.
An exploration prototype that explores how impermanence affects gameplay.
Post-Mortem after the jump…
While there were some failures, overall the game jam was a success. The jam definitely succeeded in what are probably the two most important criteria for success: the participants enjoyed themselves and were able to learn & grow as developers.
I’ve been a part of roughly 10 jams now, and I found it really interesting how this one was probably the most intimate I’ve been to due to the personal nature of several of the games and their accompanying presentations. Those who participated on-site were also squeezed together into tables right next to each other, instead of scattered throughout the space.
In terms of connecting with remote participants, that seemed to go well, too. We broadcasted a webcam feed of the entire jam through UStream, along with using it for the Opening Ceremony and the Show & Tell. For talking personally with remote jammers, we used Google Hangout. I hooked my laptop up to an HDTV displaying the UStream chat and Hangout windows. Hangout was very stable and performed well. There were a couple quirks that were a little annoying. First, there isn’t a nice public link to share; the link that you have to manually copy from the browser’s address bar seemed to keep expiring on people. Plus trying to keep that link alive means always having the Hangout up. Second, there’s a “sleep” function that disconnects you if you don’t keep confirming you’re there (that makes the first problem worse), and it seemed to just disconnect-from-sleep on its own sometimes. In the end, Hangout isn’t the friendliest thing for a 2-day event, but it did work like a champ.
The biggest failure was probably the attempted format for the jam, namely that developers create several prototypes that explore a game element from multiple perspectives. Gianfranco of GBGames was the only developer who was actually able to accomplish this with his Learning to Fly prototype #1 and prototype #2. And it was really exciting to see that the idea for the format really worked when he presented the prototypes. Ryan & Keith’s Giga Wife is actually a small, but complete game. Considering how interesting the result is, it’s hard to imagine telling them “you shouldn’t have done that, you should have narrowed your scope and done multiple prototypes.” My Free Will vs. Predestination was too ambitious for my lack of programming skills and obligatory hosting duties, resulting in an unfinished prototype. Ryan & Dusty’s Hunger was a good scope for this format, but again only 1 prototype. And Will & Nick’s Relic didn’t quite get to a prototype due to Will’s computer troubles.
People also slept in pretty late on Sunday, so that combined with generally not quite being ready to present axed the on-site analysis planned before the Show & Tell.
During the opening talk, I should have either been more intentional explaining the limited scope, or we should have picked 2 specific ideas and had the teams each make 1 prototype of an idea. I’m sure leading by example would have helped, too. Doh…
We went a little long, but overall it was good. I was able to set up UStream to screencast my presentation, which was a quick summary of Jon Blow’s Conflicts in Game Design talk and Alec Holowka’s Holistic Game Design talk (or rather, the part of his talk after he openly makes fun of other indie game developers). But again, most of it should have been more specifically about the scope and idea behind the format.
After my presentation was Paul explaining a few of the meanings we see in many of today’s games. It was pretty interesting to see them written plainly up on the board. It was a pretty good transition into thinking about our own meanings.
Show & Tell
This was awesome. It was fascinating to hear the developers talk about their intentions behind the games. Sadly, due to my inexperience with UStream production, I missed recording most of Ryan’s Giga Wife statement. But thankfully he has a good chunk of it written out below the game. Otherwise the entire game jam show & tell is up on UStream.