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An ode to Game Jams.

What are game jams? Of course we all know that it is a game creation hackathon. But what we all forget about them is that they exist for three reasons:

A bit of history.

When I was a teenager back in late seventies I fell in love with video games playing pong with my brother Alain. I knew back then that I wanted to make games in my life.

There wasn’t any internet to help us dive into this new world. We taught ourselves Basic and the Assembly language through technical books.

Then there were those Demo Scenes that were incredible. We would exchange floppy discs, between friends at school, with those graphic programs and we were amazed by such creativity. And there was also the hacker scene that did horrify us as we knew how difficult it was to build a game. And those hackers were there to break our code and make thousands of copies that would make our dreams of making a living with it melt like snow under the sun. But it was also a way to play the many games out there we couldn’t afford to buy. And a way also to disassembly their code to get to understand some optimized sprite or scrolling routines. 

I have to admit, Demo makers, Hackers and Game Creators were at such a high level of technicity that we stared at each others with respect. And I daresay that more than often one did hold two or three hats at once!

Gamejams didn’t exist at that time. If you weren’t working in an office space with the brand new video game studios then there is a chance you’d be working in your room, at insane hours at night and definitely wearing a new hat again, the geek one.

Bulletin Board Systems prefigured the internet and were a way for some fortunate to grab snippets of code around the world, instead of typing it out of books and magazines.

Internet came and still no GameJams. Internet came and we still are geeks.

The demo scenes died, so did the game hacking scene because for cloning DVDs you didn’t need to know coding. Hacking looked away from the gaming scene and organized itself more like criminal activities when government agencies, banks and all the commercial activity went online. As the game hacking scene died we were not concerned by coding security protections.

But as the internet came, games went online, massively for some, eSport put pressure on the security side and the need of security coding took birth again.


 

And then GameJams happened!

What are game jams? Of course we all know that it is a game creation hackathon. But what we all forget about them is that they exist for three reasons:

First it is a way to gather geeks from the same area during 48 hours. Socialization. It is so important for some of us to get out of our caves after some decades and meet the others with the same passion.

Second it is the perfect place to mix experienced game developers with noobs.

Thirdly it is a way to condense weeks of coding into 48 hours, train our brain to squeeze out always more. 

And I daresay that fourth, as creating a game is so difficult, as countless of games have been cancelled for many reasons but probably the majority for the difficulty, that it is almost impossible to create a game. Then let’s make it in 48 hours! Train our brain to finish things!

 

From game creator to GameJam organiser. 

So in 2013, in a far far away island, lost in the indian ocean, as I was trying to share my experience to young creators I decided to create the first game jam in our region of the world.

Oh it was a small one. Only 12 participants but I was so scared to fail miserably. Imagine that those 12 participants didn’t show up on this saturday? Imagine not one of those teams would be able to produce something? I was prepared for this and found some good reasons to do it, the same reasons as jamming:

First participating in a game jam is about meeting people with the same passion for creating games? Same thing for organizing it. Participating in a game jam is learning by doing? Same thing for organizing it. Fear of failing? Not doing it is a sure failure, same about organizing it. 

So here it was, and all my jammers showed up. The jam was about Piracy in the indian ocean. We all had a blast and it was the first edition of a long history of game jams on our island! Since, every year we have our Volcano GameJam in november (7th edition next month) and I also organized the globalGameJam at our school ILOI every year since. The community of game creators grew since. Some are working around the world, In France, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and some others are developing the game creation scene here on our island under our label of Bouftang. We all grew up together and GameJams are in our genes. This year we had 120 jammers during GGJ20 and I proudly joined the Regional Organisers team for the globalgamejam.org and I do have several friends as my Site Organisers to continue.

 

Nowadays we can see that game studios are including gamejams into their working hours because they all know the benefits. Riot games with their Riot thunderdome, FreeLives not far from us in South Africa are doing their R&D through their game jam island.

 

I’d love to know all the game jams regularly officially included in their way of life so if you guys find some testimonies out there of such habits in game studios, please share it with us her.

And for now, let’s Jam together!


 

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