Pump up the Jam

i caught ToJam organizer Jim McGinley skulking around our site, no doubt looking for a TOJam3 reminder. i wasn’t about to post one, since the registration deadline has passed, and we’ve been up to our necks launching two games for our client. But i didn’t want to miss out on the thousands of dollars in fabulous cash and prizes that dear Mr. McGinley is so generously doling out to TOJam paricipants from his own pockets, so i thought i had better make mention.

Break out the Cheetos

TOJam3, which starts tomorrow at 10AM, is an event where gluttons for punishment crowd into one room and set out to make a game in the course of one weekend. Over the past few weeks, i’ve invited many of my colleagues to register, and the response i most often received was “why on EARTH would i want to do THAT?”

Totally fair. If you spend your whole day making games, and then you’re invited to spend your whole weekend making games, i can see how it might be a turn-off. It’s a lot like when Jerry Seinfeld was dating that massage therapist and he kept trying to get her to give him a massage. If you spend all day doing it, it’s the last thing on your mind at the end of the day.


Whaaaat’s the deeeal with zero-sum game structures?

Things are different for folks like Jim, who bill themselves as hobbyist game designers. Jim works with computers all day, but he doesn’t make games. The TOJam mantra of “make a game already” is better suited to folks like Jim, who may have numerous game ideas swimming around in their brains, but always lack the time to put them into effect.

It’s a bit different on my side of the fence, where the grass is apparently greener, but my retinas have this bright green haze permanently burned into them and i can’t bear to look at the grass any longer. Like Jim and his ilk, i have tons of game ideas swimming around in my brain, and like Jim i lack the time to put them into effect because i make my bread and butter putting other folks’ game ideas into effect. The end result is that, given a whole weekend to finally work on my own game ideas, all i want to do is sit on a beach somewhere and drown myself in a pina colada.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year was different. Back when i worked for the Man, i spent my entire day writing use case documents and feature design documents and game design documents and technical design documents for a project where the people who actually got to build stuff didn’t, and so all my tedious and mind-numbing documents sat in a digital folder somewhere to collect digital dust. i appealed to my supervisors time and again “but i’m a game developer! Let me develop some games!!”, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.

So when TOJam2 rolled around last year, i went at it like a gamethirsty animal ready to rip a chunk of flesh off the first fleshy thing he laid eyes on. i was starved for game development, and i was very happy to complete a game that weekend. Making a game developer write documentation all day is like letting Cookie Monster smell cookies, but never actually touch or eat them. You know it’s going to end badly.

Cookie Monster

“C” is for “call 911 – he just bit that guy’s leg off”

(interesting side note: by a hilarious fluke of mispronunciation, my toddler refers to the above-named Muppet as “Cookie Bastard”)

This weekend, i find myself desperately trying to carve out the time with a two year old daughter, a pregnant wife, and youth pastor duties at my local church on Friday night and Sunday morning. Add to that today’s client deadline, and it’s a miracle that i’ll be able to go to the event.

i’m Game. Barely.

All this to say that between blinks, i’ve agonized over what i’m actually going to build this weekend. Far from going in with a full game design document, i have only a vague plan to “borrow” some chain physics code from an actionscript site and bend it to my nefarious purposes. Whether or not i turn out a viable product this year as i did last year really remains to be seen.

Check out this space on Monday.

2 thoughts on “Pump up the Jam

  1. Jim McGinley

    Skulking around is what I do best. This blog, and its unrelenting hilarious honesty, keep me coming back for more. I think I speak for all organizers when I say we’re always very grateful when game making professionals (like yourself) attend our event. I can fully appreciate that if you’re making games already, TOJam has less appeal. From what I’ve seen, most professionals attend TOJam to try different ideas (as you mentioned) and to simply support us. So… THANKS!

    Teach your daughter, wife (pregnant or otherwise), and local church members how to make games so they can attend TOJam #4. Problem SOLVED.

  2. Ryan

    It’s funny you say that. Due to the sarcity of Flash developers and the cost of hiring all the Intermediate and Advanced-level people i know, i actually am beginning to teach my wife Flash. i’m also going to teach my mother, who is presently obtaining her graphic design certificate at Durham College.

    The way i see it, why can’t this kind of thing be a family business?

    The kids in the youth group need to focus on their studies. You get pretty loaded up with pointless busy work in high school. i HAVE actually visited a local street youth drop-in center with the thought to train and mobilize an army of former street youth Flash developers, because the amount of money that local agencies are paying for minimal Flash skills – mostly ad banners – is crazy.

    Originally, i thought i’d start training college students, but i got to thinking that street youth would be a far more appreciative and (sometimes literally) hungry crowd.

    So far, i’ve had one taker from the Evergreen street youth drop-in centre downtown, but i can’t train him yet because he doesn’t have a computer or a fixed address. If you know any charitable souls who would like to assist me in this project, please fire their info my way!


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