Yahoo Weather

You are here

Chris Ainsworth: Game jam!

<p>Chris Ainsworth</p>

Chris Ainsworth

IN APRIL 2012, more than a thousand game developers gathered in groups around the world and began to hammer at their keyboards. During a single weekend, several hundred video games were created, demo’d and submitted online for anyone to play.

Next weekend, beginning on the evening of July 5, we’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. In a parody of the sometimes brilliant, often bombastic game designer Peter Molyneux (Populous, Black & White, Fable and more), Capone would post surreal game concepts, ideas that 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?

Molydeux’s tweets were mostly an amusement to a growing cadre of readers — 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 spread. The game jam was going to happen.

Oh, right. Game jam.

How to run a game jam:

1. Decide on a concept. This can be as specific as “games that use only one button” to something as open-ended as “the theme is exploration.”

2. Find a venue. An office, a co-working space, your house, even a chat room.

3. 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.

4. Invite people. Game developers, programmers, artists, musicians and designers.

5. Jam! Form teams, play with concepts and ideas. Make games. Remember, you’ve got two days, so keep things simple. Find the hooks and stick to ’em.

6. Demo! After the deadline, gather everyone to show 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 featuring live video streams so onlookers could watch and chat with those involved. Peter Molyneux himself appeared at the London jam.

After two days of development, 303 games were completed and demo’d. 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, it’s happening again.

To keep the concept fresh, the theme has changed. Rather than the parody tweets of @PeterMolydeux, themes will be based on actual quotes by 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.

There are 24 cities in 11 countries planning to host a jam, and Las Vegas is one of them. If you’re a game developer, or if you’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, I’ll tell you how it went.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a Las Vegas native and a tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at driph.com.