Game Jams exist because of the age-old urge in a creators head to create.
Like right fucking now.
No creating drafts, no pitching ideas to studios or publishers, no fielding a team over weeks or months to find the right mix.
You, friends, 9 days, and an idea.
And alot of times its shit, which is sort of the point really. Quickly flesh out an idea and see if there's any potential.
So its okay if its shit. The beauty comes from the realization that this 24 hour concept could be built into something greater.
It gives a purpose to test some of the most bizarre and nonsensical concepts and design schemes under the pretense of open-forum evaluation, where the goal doesn't need to include a sellable product.
Like Ayn Rand without all the splicers or 6 hour movies.
GB Jam 5, hosted by https://itch.io/, a game marketplace and creative community, is a great example of pushing for jams to easily join up wth teams and participate in, involve yourself and the ability to browse the submissions with a equally simple system of support for users to vote on favorites and winners. The submission process ended just last week and went into the voting process this Monday.
I'm particularly enjoying the flavor of the GB Jam since it stricly adheres to classic Gameboy aesthetics, even the four color limit of the old palettes.
There were over 450 entries this time so while I'm a big fan of novels, there be alot of words to write attempting to cover every concept and pipe dream. And I'm lazy. So I picked a few entries that stood out for their uniqueness and colorful approach, what I felt proficiently showcased the idea or spirit of the jam. More so ones that I felt had potential to be full games in some form if the creators felt the desire to expand upon them.
First up is Bob and Dob, a simple name for a simple game. Created by Richard Lems; a Dutch indie dev https://rilem.itch.io/, it follows Bob and his best friend Dob, who I think is a otter. Or rather I want to believe the cute thing is an otter. You follow both of them in their quest to fish, striving to be the greatest fisherman of that particular lake. Its a laid back game where it follows the familiar trope of earning money through catching fish to buy bigger and better gear and the style and music make for a relaxing time. I dug on its gentle nature, the almost bizarre option to buy color differing color palettes and the laid back gameplay.
It does feel unfinished, which is common for a jam game, with parts of the game devoid of music and some unexplained exploration mechanics to progress. Despite the rough nature of the game, the overall atmosphere is strong and I could easily see this being built into an excellent on-the-go game to de-stress with.
Now lets be honest though; we watch jams with an intrigued eye because in the end of the day, we want something different than all the doom mockups that will invariably get made. And notsome advant-garde "I feel unconformable playing it" different. We want the game to start up and immediately get surprised by whats scrolling in front of us. Whatever it is, we didn't expect it and we love the game for that.
Your In Space and Everyone Wants You Dead, created by Adam Gyru; www.adamgryu.com, is a product of this year's jam that embodies this idea perfectly, the only thing close to what this game achieves was a PC run-and-gun of a similar vein a few months back. But imagined inside this semi-flexible gameboy architecture just creates this beautifully simplistic visual trip. Whatever limitations are in place by the jam rules creators are still able to contort and twist old technology into new ideas, cramming more into a familiar shell. And that is the core of alot of entries, largely due to the restrictions to the gameboy aesthetic; simplistic design. Gameboy games never had more than the bare minimum to work with; the original Pokemon had to make the sure choice between sound or multiple save files due to hardware limitations. And so each game being made has to ask themselves how closely they are going to follow that same mindset.
The sheer fluidity of Your in Space mixed with the floating, fish-eyed landscape embody the notion of bare basics while creating this trance experience of flowing smooth sprite work and natural forward movement. It triggers this soothing cathartic response dodging enemies in a dark and moody Mario Galaxy worldscape built to easily incite this desire to beat each new high score you set. I'd love to see an expanded world perhaps or maybe just a small selection of levels to run around it, but I'd love to see this game on a number of portable platforms.
The last game I wanted to touch on doesn't surprise me like Your in Space or market the cutesy appeal of minimalist sprites like Bob and Dob but it comes the closet to a real game, most fully realizing the concept it set out to create. Reap What You Sow, created by TJ Cordes; http://www.impostorcat.com, takes the form of a farming simulator, themed around Halloween, (complete with Candy Corn being your first crop) going into graveyards nearby to harvest bones and other haunted vegetables to in your fields. Your then tasked with killing the monsters and ghoulish plants that grow from what you plant, dropping even more materials to increase your next harvest.
The game's name came off to me originally as just a cutesy knockoff pun until I almost filled the screen with monsters I myself had grown in my farming endeavors. The music is solidly on point, as are the graphics with fully-functioning mechanics and gameplay that could easily be expanded upon into its own fully-fledged game for steam or mobile download.
While I did encounter a crash and a stuck item glitch behind a wall, I was blown away with how finished the game felt. While it is the norm to excuse bugs, glitches or missing elements in these jam games, it is in the end expected to have delivered the complete spirit of what the game entails and here, reap What Your Sow has done that and more.
There are 400+ titles submitted for this year's GB Jam so I only wanted to show a few examples of the creativity t be seen. I would highly recommend checking out the library of submission and if any of the games click with you, voting is open until the end of this week and a number of the games are available for purchase right now if you want to support the teams.
You can check out the submissions here; https://itch.io/jam/gbjam-5/entries and Itch.io is constantly hosting game jams throughout the year so I would also recommend staying up to date with their main site for updates; https://itch.io/
Earl Maldoun is a tech photographer and journalist who believes in the good inside all people as well as compulsively lying about the good inside all people. He can be reach @Madness_Earl