Game Jams are Creative Playgrounds
I’ve witnessed many indie game developers express their love of anime in recent months. Specifically, how anime influences their daily lives and therefore influences their creations. They tweet about what they’re watching, use anime avatars, and even wear Sailor Moon accessories. Recent hit Undertale is a great example.
But my favorite thing happened in Spring 2014 when Brandon Boyer arranged a game jam based on the anime classic Cowboy Bebop.
Game jams challenge developers to push their creative boundaries in an intense short-term, team-oriented sprint. Jams can range anywhere from three days to three months and are hosted around the globe by anyone from hobbyists and industry leaders. Teams push to have a simple working prototype by the end of a jam, though some games become commercial products such as Max Gentlemen, Super Hot and AnimeChicago favorite Johann Sebastian Joust.
So when the Space Cowboy Game Jam was announced, I couldn’t say no. I have a solid design background but had only participated in one jam previously. That’s the nice thing about game jams… they’re personal experiences that provoke creators to experiment despite their knowhow. My teammate and I made a full-motion videogame called Corgi Simulator 2071 and over 25,000 people have played this silly thing since launch. I’m super proud of it, and have documented it if you’re curious.
Another Chicago team created Jazu, a musical conversation. There’s a lot to love about the games developed in those two weeks especially if you’re a Bebop fan like me. Keep in mind these games are created primarily by amateurs, and there are a lot of them: AnimeJam, Anime-Jam, Female Link Jam, and Hatsune Miku Jam.
Conversely, many anime fans have dabbled in the world of game development through Ren’Py, a popular beginner’s engine for visual novels, dating sims, and interactive fiction. People with minor coding knowledge can tinker with the platform and make a playable short story in just a day. Experimental platforms like this offer many consumers a chance to become creators and expand their knowledge, which is how indie developers often get their start.
Several game jams happen simultaneously thanks to networks such as Itch.io and GameJolt. But the next large-scale event on my radar is Global Game Jam 2016. Who knows what anime-inspired games will emerge from the minds of indie developers this year!