This is a tabletop game jam about collaboration. Specifically, it's about being in this beautiful community-- working with somebody, and working in response to somebody. If that sounds even remotely interesting to you, keep going.
Before I get into details, I'd like you to read a quote from an extraordinary bassist called Victor Wooten. He talks about the way he learned music.
"As I'm older I'm looking back right now, now that I'm called a teacher. When I look back on that, and how I was taught, I realized that I wasn't really taught. Which is why I say that music is a language; because if you think about your first language... you realize you weren't taught it. People just spoke to you. But the coolest thing-- here's where it gets interesting-- because you were allowed to speak back. If I take the music example, in most cases, our beginners are not allowed to play with the "better" people. You're stuck in the beginning class! You have to remain there a few years, until you are elevated to the intermediate, and then advanced; and after you graduate the advanced class, you still have to go out and pay a lot of dues. But with language, to use a musical term, even as a baby you're jamming with professionals. All the time. To the point that you don't even know you're a beginner. No one says "I can't talk to you until-- ugh, you got to go over there. When you're older, then I can speak to you...
Think about it: when you're 2-3 years old, and you say a word wrong over and over, no one corrects you. If you say it wrong enough times, instead of correcting you, your parents learn your way."
--Victor Wooten, "Music as a Language" at TEDxGabriolaIsland
Which parts of this sound familiar to game designers? Which parts of this do you wish sounded familiar?
You learn music by jamming. The best musicians I know have had the privilege of somebody close to them, somebody very good at music, who improvised with them. Personally, I remember a single jam session with my dad better than four years of piano practice, and so do my fingers.
I claim we learn how to design games in the same way. Jamming, improvisation, community.
And yet, even though our community is fantastic, game design circles sometimes reek of the institutions Wooten describes, where the beginners have to "pay their dues" to their elders. There's no formal system that does this, but the gates are still kept, intentional or not-- "Oh, this is just another simulationist game!" "Yeah, you should play Apocalypse World and come back to this design!" "Is this even a game?"
How absurd to believe that the roles of teacher and student are well-divided! How arrogant to believe that someone could have nothing to teach you!
So that's what this game jam will be about. A space to just play with your friends. Here's what that means:
1. Jamming is collaboration. To participate in this jam, you will have to create your game with somebody. Ideally they're somebody different from you, and somebody either much more experienced or much less experienced.
If you're like me, the idea of approaching somebody is probably real uncomfortable.
If at all possible, try to get somebody with a different gender, sexuality, race, income, and/or level of experience from you. It just tends to make better games.
2. Jamming is response. Remember what Wooten said, about your parents responding to your baby babble in your language? We'll be doing that, too. This means that your game has to respond to another game, whatever that means. Maybe it's a hack or a love letter or whatever.
If you're looking for games to respond to:
3. Jamming is free. At the very least, make copies of your game available for free to anybody who writes you, no questions asked. I encourage you to consider making your game PWYW, so that it's as easy as possible for other people to respond. This is probably the most optional rule-- don't let it be a dealbreaker.
4. Jamming is for everybody. Obviously, don't make content that promotes hate. Do make content that enables your readers to engage safely-- i.e. use content warnings and consent tools as necessary.
I can't wait to see what happens.
Nothing but love,
she, they, sie/sie/ir