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How Eating Dozens of Fortune Cookies At Game Jams Can Actually Be Productive

We all have strange rituals we tend to practice at jams, but eating fortune cookies might just be one of the most productive ones I've ever been a part of. Here's some reasons why you should try it for yourself!

Let me tell you a story.

It isn't about how video games saved my life. It's not about how to neutralize overbearing feedback loops in your designs. It isn't about how I want to put the player first when I design games.

This is about how I haplessly stumbled upon my favourite food-related ritual to perform during game jams and why it will soon be yours too.

It's a tale about how stuffing my face with junk food actually makes me a more efficient developer.

Last year I participated in my first public game jam, "The Great Ham Jam", with my dear friend Jake. We had some time before we had to arrive on the opening day, so we stopped at a Bulk Barn while we waited in order to pick up munchies for the weekend. It was there where I discovered they sell fortune cookies for just $4.19 CDN per pound.

Now, you don't need to be a genius to realize that fortune cookies don't exactly weigh a whole lot, so we bought 1/4th a pound of them which was enough for two of us for a whole weekend because we thought it was funny for some reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/4th a pound of them.

 

From here, we hatched a plan for a fun little minigame: At the chime of every hour which passed while we were working on our game, we'd both eat a cookie from the bag and read our fortune to each other.

Neither of us are superstious or anything mind you, it was all just for kicks. Somehow it actually proved to be very beneficial for a number of different reasons.

Speaking nothing of my distaste for game jams as a concept (and as a condiment), fortune cookie eating has quickly grown to my favourite pastime during them. We now buy more than 1/2 a pound per jam and stick to a regimented eating schedule because it actually helps us improve on our work.

But first let me lay out the cons for you.

 

Cons

1) None.

Alright, so that's not exactly true. For one thing, fortune cookie wrappers make a bigger mess than you'd expect:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A portion of the "bigger mess than you'd expect".

 

There's also a time sink involved in eating and unwrapping one cookie every hour for a whole weekend. Rest assured my friend, this upcoming list of pros outweigh any of these cons.

Also if you're allergic to gluten, executing on the whole 'eating a fortune cookie' part of this plan isn't super feasable without burning even more time (unless you give the cookie to other jammers - but more on that later!)

Now, lets move right on into those pros, shall we?

 

Pros

1) They Boost Morale

It goes without saying that eating one fortune cookie an hour has some pretty positive effects for your morale as a team. It gives you something to look forward in short bursts - losing a ton of code because of git issues is a lot less intimidating when you have a fortune to tell you "Friends are more valuable than money". Nice.

Laughing at how little the cookie understands about your current situation also happens relatively frequently and is a welcome pick-me-up when jam stresses are getting you down.

 

This specimen came from a cookie I opened near the beginning of the jam. I didn't leave the room for 48 hours. It was a little inaccurate.

 

2) They Improve Time Management

Now we all know game jams are usually a production cycle of a game compressed into an ungodly short amount of time, so the question is: what do most studios have to avoid losing a sense of time?

Milestones!

Hourly devouring of a fortune cookie is essentially just that - a milestone. It's easy to lose sense of time when you're focusing hard on your work, but sometimes snapping yourself out of it once in a while is a necessity. You don't have to proclaim "we will have the bunny pooping mechanic done by the next cookie", but they're incredibly useful stepping stones to avoid having the final submission time sneak up on you.

All it takes is one person in your group and proclaim "Yes! It's cookie time!" or "Ugh we have to have another cookie" (depending on their taste and current level of sleep of course) and you're forced back into the world where time actually has meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh - they're also really good at encouraging self care which is wonderful~<3

 

3) They Help You Meet People

Sharing your fortunes with other team members is a great way to get a conversation going and bond over this tacky little minigame you've forced upon everyone else. There's nothing like revealing your "For a good cause, wrongdoing can be virtuous" fortune to your teammates and bonding over the idea that there is a fortune which is attempting to encourage you to commit crimes in the name of justice.

Moreover, you may even get the occasional wanderer who comments on your immense display of fate-biscuit-based power and asks for one. If you can share, share! Chances are you'll have too many anyways and it'll help you make a new friend who may be able to help you in your time of need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one was opened just as my partner was waking up from a nap. It was fairly fitting.

 

4) They Help Branding

This sounds crazy, I know, but it's actually part of the fun.

In line with the novelty, I also Tweet out every fortune I get in order to update my (poor, poor) followers on how things are going because I'm a soulless human being who needs validation in everything I do it's fun to see what your friends are up to!

If you're jamming at a public event as well it's fun to tag them in all your inane fortunes and it gives them a little boost in publicity which event organizers always love.

You'd also be surprised how few people bring bagfuls of fortune cookies to game jams. I know, right?

This carries the added benefit of people recognizing you, usually from looking in your direction and whispering a concerned "What the h*ck, they've eaten like fifty of those are they going to be okay?" to their team members.

I've even talked with some people months later who identified me as "one of those guys who had a ton of fortune cookies". I had never met these people before but they knew me from whatI  assume to be the horrid mental image of a bloated man surrounded in fortune cookie wrappings.

A feather in my cap, if ever there was one.

The cookies also gives you a little something to snack on (serving its primary purpose as a cookie, really) which can be helpful to prevent you from dying of starvation, which is arguably pretty important too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aftermath of our most recent jam, #ClosedDoorJam

 


 

All-in-all, rountinely eating fortune cookies is unironically one of my favourite part of game jams now and helps to make jams a viable option for me to participate in. For someone like me who views self-care and structure to be a vital element of game development, I really do think eating them consistently helps me to stay sane and focus on what's important during those short and stressful time periods.

If you get the chance to try our little minigame I highly recommend it, the worst that could happen is you'll hate it immediately and give free fortune cookies to everyone around you and only lose a couple bucks in the process.

Oh no! You'd come across as a super cool person for giving away free cookies, that would suck! Right?

 

No matter what happens, always remember that it's not necessarily a practice everyone will enjoy, but so long as you work hard:

 

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