By Phil Harris
This weekend in Elgin, Scotland, the first ever Moray Game Jam was held; the most Northern jam in the UK. Over forty people coming together to try and create a game within 48 hours and nine teams formed, under the tutelage and guidance of the Moray College, Elgin games studio Hunted Cow and Screen HI, as well as Andrew Mulholland, Hunted Cow, Dave Cook, Deputy Editor for VG247, Brian Baglow, Scottish Games Network and my good self.
Game jams bring groups of people come together to create a game in 48 hours about a specific subject or based on a specific meme. The Moray Game Jam meme was, "It changed the world", but previous game jams have had themes of "Extinction" or the more esoteric sound of a beating heart.
Attended by industry veterans and fresh new programmers, designers and artists the ideas and creativity are refreshing. Some people gather the same teams together to try and achieve new heights but others simply attend to join in the fray, meet new people and sometimes even headhunt new talent but are we seeing game jams become something more.
As well as giving people an opportunity to try out new disciplines, subjects, designs, code or artistic styles, the Moray Game Jam is providing something else. The prize from Hunted Cow is to take the winners game and make it into a viable product for market. An opportunity which could certainly help some people trying to get into the industry in the future, because having a working product beneath your belt, or at least on your CV, is a massive advantage when seeking employment.
This is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Lub vs Dub, a game app for iPhone, was created in the Global Game Jam in 2013 and has gone on to receive a vast number of downloads. Its simple player versus player style along a cardiograph line being an instant hit in the jam itself and being proven a success across the globe. Of course the product which was finished at the jam didn't have the polish the final game has but the team worked to ensure that polish was there, believing the feedback from their peers who found the game damn addictive.
This isn't the only success story from a jam to date, but the offer to help polish the game produced and push it to launch is certainly unique and a viable way for a group of dedicated developers to launch their product under and established publishing company. In fact Hunted Cow have done a lot to help struggling, young development teams in Scotland to get their games out to market and it is positive to have that level of input locally.
It would be nice to see this level of involvement from local companies at future game jams. Whilst prizes of phones or other paraphernalia from sponsors are nice there is nothing better than the possibility of having something you formed with your own hands being launched to the public. Although many companies do not have the structure to offer such support there are others, who self publish, who do. So possibly its about time they got back to the roots of creation, jammed with the best of them and offered a similar prize.
Before we close we had a chance to grab some comments about the experience from a few game jammers (and their teams):
Martin MacLeod (Dino Games) said, "Its a exciting to have an event like this in Elgin, I'm really impressed with the turnout because the hubs of the industry in Scotland are Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh".
Sam Cumming (Ramen Soft), added, " You have 48 hours to make an entire new game concept from a really vague or directed topic. Its intense, stressful and lots of fun".
Vince Finlayson (Pure Gaming) doing his first jam told us, "Its a big learning curve but its a nice experience to have. Its a valuable creative process and its great to show companies that you've engaged in development".
And finally, Richard Logan-Baker (Awesome Sauce Games) working in the industry at DreamWalker Games Ltd, explained, "Its a showcase of talent in your area and also, if you're a company, perhaps some talent scouting. Its been challenging enough to keep me on edge and an entertaining experience, as a coder every day is a learning experience and this is a hell of a steeper curve".
Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris) is a games developer who is currently working with One Thumb Mobile on their MMORPG Celtic Heroes and with Pyre Studios on a number of their tabletop game projects. He also writes for Pixels for Breakfast.