Game Jam Letters is a series of letters written by Kotaku AU about our time at Game Jam 2012, a competition where participants must create a fully-functioning game in 48-hours. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. In this letter, Mark feels old.
This is no country for old men. The young developers come in swarms, in t-shirts featuring slogans, jokes I’m not cool enough to understand. They speak in tongues that my fragile brain rejects. They devour pizza at speeds I cannot comprehend.
This is no country for old men.
“We should start a new thing,” says Ben Britten, Technical Director at Tinman Games, and judge for Melbourne’s Game Jam.
“We can call it ‘Old Man Jam’.”
I nod my head sagely in agreement. That’s what old men do.
“We can have it play out in four hour blocks,” pipes up another old man (we’re in a group of old men… and one woman). “It could be like a holiday resort.”
I like this guy’s train of thought.
“Maybe we could just finish at 5pm every night, and then go out for a nice meal,” I offer.
Murmurs of approval.
“And some nice wine,” says another.
Tracey, this is no country for old men.
Sadly, Old Man Jam is just a pipe dream — for now — but Game Jam in Melbourne is a stark reality. Teams upon teams creating games in 48 hours. It isn’t anywhere near as sweaty as I expected, which is a boon — possibly a direct result of Giselle marching the jammers to the shower as promised. Also air conditioning. God bless air conditioning
The atmosphere is strange. On Friday night it felt as though I was standing in the centre of an intense cyclone. I’m not in Kansas anymore. Folk buzz around in rapid circular movements, ideas get caught in the crossfire; massive flurries of brainstorming, chatter. Felt tip pens scratching, for what purpose I know not!
This is my second Game Jam experience, and it’s nothing if not an incredible exercise in condensed creativity. In her first letter, Katie mentioned the football game — a group of jammers in a circle, tossing a football at one another. Whoever holds the football must blurt out an idea, then toss the ball on.
I imagine myself in the game, clutching the ball, terrified, my brain frantically scrambling for something to say. Most likely I’d collapse in a fetal ball, in a pool of my own drool and urine, but with these guys the ideas flow easily.
It’s a liquid environment, Game Jam. A lightning rod for insanity. You just have to embrace it.
“At anyone time there may be 4000 Matt Damons onscreen at once,” says Ethan of Meat Nomad, a team currently in the process of ‘jammin’’.
I don’t really know what this game is about — there is a massive image of Matt Damon on the screen. Then, hundreds a smaller Matt Damons, buzzing around like flies, bearing the face of a Hollywood superstar.
“Everything that has been rendered in this game is a picture of Matt Damon,” says Ethan. “Everything.”
“You know what would be cool,” I say, sheepishly. “If you made one of those 4000 a Ben Affleck, just for the hell of it.
Team Nomad laugh. That made me feel good about myself.
Rewind to Friday night, two young guys run past, a flurry of fros and facial hair.
“WE’VE GOT THE BEST IDEA EVER,” they scream in near-perfect unison.
Wow. Who are those guys.
I follow them in.
“Are you the ‘best idea ever’ guys?” I ask.
“Yep,” comes the reply. Along with cackles of laughter.
“What’s the idea?” I ask.
“It’s classified!” They say in unison. And laughter. I feel slightly awkward and leave.
Feeling awkward is a bit of a running theme here. Talking to developers feels a little like trying to chat up girls at a club. I so want to sidle over to the multiple groups of men and women fervently bashing on keyboards and tablets — but it’s like trying to squeeze into a circle of girls dancing around a really interesting handbag. Their faces are cold, harsh, focused.
They are ‘in the zone’.
I moonwalk towards them, awkwardly. Sometimes I speak, but most of the time I just stare at the screen creepily, like a strange stalker pressing my nose against a window as people sleep. I feel welcome, don’t get me wrong, and each and every time I verbalise my interest the response is overwhelmingly positive, but I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m kinda in the way.
But I don’t mind. I have a thick skin. Earlier this afternoon I plucked up the courage to talk to the ‘best idea ever’ guys. They seem so lethargic, but they pluck up immediately.
“How’s the best idea ever coming along?” I ask.
“IT’S STILL THE BEST IDEA EVER,” says one.
“Is it still classified?” I say, bracing myself for cruel, cruel laughter.
“Ah… I guess not,” comes the reply. “But it’s too hard to explain!”
The art looks really incredible, and I see the outline of a circular 2-D Mario Galaxy style level, but it’s impossible to know exactly what this game is about or what the hell is going on.
“It’s one of those games that when you play it, you’ll get it,” says one.
“Can I play it?”
This is no country for old men, Tracey. Even those who are technically old have the whole ‘young at heart’ thing going on. Good for them.
I’m in a corner. I’m peeking over my laptop screen, like a curious ferret. Things have settled down. The brainstorming is over. It’s time to execute. This is no country for old men; it’s a place where men dressed as Dinosaurs shovel ice cream in their gobs and prototype. It’s a place where your blood is replaced with caffeine and everything smells like pizza.
It’s a time for heroes.
Mark ‘Simon Pegg/Tintin/Captain Haddock’ Serrels
Head here to read all our previous letters from Game Jam!