Submissions open from 2023-02-24 07:00:00 to 2023-03-06 06:59:59
Starts in

Sponsored by AARP Games

When: February 24th - March 5th, 2023
Where: Online

One of the most unique and beautiful aspects of humanity is our ability to share wisdom through generations – passing down knowledge, stories, histories to those younger than ourselves. This gift of wisdom can come from a wide pool of people too: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family and older friends, mentors, teachers, even someone from your neighborhood – those who have struggled and can now share their lessons, those who have persisted against hardships, those who have lived lives full of adventures, both vast and cozy. This jam invites you to look around and find creative inspiration from these  hidden heroes. Their journeys shape our own, and now you have an opportunity to discover their stories and share them with others.

The Hidden Heroes Jam is a celebration of those who have shaped us. It is a game jam for creators to share the never-before-told stories of older and extended family members, teachers, co-workers, mentors, and friends – people whose wisdom have meaningfully impacted our lives. Join us to create interactive expressions-of-gratitude to those who have walked the paths before us and inspired us.

This jam is part of IndieCade Horizons 2023, however anyone may participate.
If you'd like your school or academic program to partner with Horizons, enroll here.
If you'd like to attend the Horizons Conference on February 17th, tickets are available here.
Spread the word with our jam flier!


What’s a Hidden Hero?

A Hidden Hero is an older person in our lives whose life story and wisdom inspired, transformed, and guided us. A non-fictional older person who your game is about or who inspired your game. 

Here are three tips in identifying a great ‘hidden hero’ for this game jam:

  • Impactful - Pick someone whose life stories, experience, and wisdom resonate strongly with you. Maybe you learned from them for your own life, or maybe they are just fascinating stories that you would like to share.
  • Close - Pick someone that you are genuinely close with and whose stories are not public already. Family members are the obvious choice, but you can also pick a non-relative with whom you share a close connection. 
  • Older - Pick someone that is older than you. A hidden hero typically provides advice and inspiration through personal experiences, so they are usually significantly older. If needed, you could pick a posthumous hidden hero.

While you are more than welcome to pick a hidden hero that is no longer with us, it is easier, and oftentimes more rewarding, to pick someone that you can reach out to and show your game to afterwards. 

How to make a Hidden Hero game?

Perhaps the most obvious way to do a hidden hero game is to create a documentary or simulation game about your hidden hero, and while that is certainly a good option,  there are many other ways to do a hidden heroes game as well!

Here are three tips towards making a great Hidden Heroes game:

Analyze your inspiration - The first question to ask yourself is what inspired you to pick your hidden hero? What aspects of their personal story and wisdom do you want to form into a game? You will want to ensure that your narrative is engaging and will make sense to an outsider. What game mechanics will communicate your hidden heroe's wisdom interactively? It is a good idea to start with analyzing your inspiration.

Any mechanic goes - While this game jam lends itself easily to a documentary game with a lot of narrative - think That Dragon, Cancer, This War of Mine or Brukel - your game does not have to be all about its narrative. Narrative-heavy games are very welcome, but you can design any kind of game you want for this! As long as your game relates meaningfully to your hidden hero, you are doing it correctly. For example, is your hidden hero a skater? You could make a skateboarding game to share their experiences., Is your hidden hero an artist? Why not create a game that embraces their creative process. Maybe your hidden hero's life is full of overcoming perceptual challenges – a puzzle game could fit! In a way, if Tony Hawk was not famous, or if Paper Please’s protagonist was real,  Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Paper's Please could both qualify as Hidden Heroes games.

Involve your hero (optional, but highly recommended) -  Participants are encouraged to interview their hidden hero and record the footage, or audio, of them doing so. Previous projects have shown that players respond strongly to games with authentic voice and video, so maybe you can use those elements in your game? Alternatively, participants are welcome to bring the person that inspires them along (in person or remotely) to collaborate on the project.

Here are three questions that could help guide this conversation:

  • If your life were to be a short film or game, what would it be like?
  • If you could pass on some of your wisdom to future generations in a time capsule, what would it be?
  • What would you say is the most important lesson you ever learned, and how did you come to learn it?

Possible Themes

  • Identity - A game that celebrates the uniqueness of the hidden hero
  • Intergenerational Connections - A game both would love to play together
  • Empathy - A game that uses the hidden hero’s story to inspire others
  • Wisdom - A game that shares a specific lesson from the hero’s life experience
  • History - A game about an experience that intersects with historical events
  • Cultural Connections - An experience about exploring other cultures
  • Creativity - A game that builds on the creative talents and hobbies of the hidden hero
  • Co-design - A game with meaningful content contributions by the hidden hero
  • Health and wellbeing - A game that uses the hidden hero’s story towards promoting a healthy lifestyle

Submitting your Hidden Hero game

  • Submission through this page
  • When you submit, include a written artist statement that explains who you are, why you picked your hidden hero, and how you translated their wisdom and/or life story into a game.  This is included in the submission field.


Special prizes for jam participants from Horizons programs / schools / institutions include portfolio reviews and mentoring.

Rules and Info

Participants will be tasked with creating a game that fits the Hidden Heroes theme described above during the weekend of February 24th, 2023 and/or the weekend of March 3 (either or both), in whatever format they choose. Form a team with others or work solo - you decide!

The jam is open to people of all skill levels, newcomers are always welcome, and we will ensure that everyone finds a team to join that fits your skills and interests.  Closer to the event we will open a Discord channel for networking and team-building.

Use of pre-made code/assets is allowed as long as they are credited to the proper source.


We have two jam profiles, one is a short jam that culminates Feb 26th, the second ends March 5th.  This is deliberately flexible so that you may participate as appropriate for your situation. For those who submit games to this jam, there will be a raffle for prizes which include individual portfolio reviews and mentorships. 

One Weekend Version

  • Friday, February 24th: intro to jam and topic, will also be recorded so available for anyone who starts on the 25th
  • Saturday, February 25th: midday midpoint checkin with feedback and tech support office hours
  • Sunday, February 26th: mid-afternoon games/videos/descriptions due for show-and-tell. 

Two Weekend Version

  • Friday, February 24th: intro to jam and topic, will also be recorded so available for anyone who starts on the 25th
  • Saturday, February 25th - Sunday, February 26th: deeper orientation on intergenerational games and play, showing work, ideation phase.
  • Sunday, February 26th -  Saturday, March 4th - sprints with available tech support office hours. 
  • Saturday, March 4th, feedback session. 
  • Sunday, March 5th: mid-afternoon games/videos/descriptions due for show-and-tell. 
  • Sunday, March 5th: End of day - prize raffle.


What the heck is a “game jam”?
A game jam is when a group of people work on games around a particular theme or idea for a concentrated time period. The games produced are usually prototypes—which means a rough draft of a workin game—which can be refined further afterward. The idea is to get your hands dirty and learn by doing!

What is Hidden Heroes?
The goal of the Hidden Heroes Jam is to encourage intergenerational collaboration by having younger creators help translate the stories, experience and wisdom of older adults into games! In the process, we want to empower older adults to become game creators, and to expand their representation in games.

Do I need prior experience in game design to join the game jam?
No prior experience is necessary! Hidden Heroes is designed to encourage intergenerational collaboration. If you have a younger relative or friend who’s into games, ask them to join your team! There are plenty of easy-to-use game-creation tools to choose from. You could even make a game with Minecraft!

Does it have to be a digital game?
You can create any type of game you like, digital or otherwise—a board game, a card game, even a tabletop roleplaying game

Do I need to know how to program?
You can collaborate with a team that includes a programmer, and even if there are no programmers on your team, there are lots of different easy-to-use tools that you can use. Examples include Minecraft, Roblox, RPG-Maker, and Gamemaker.

What are some examples of the types of games that might be produced?
A handful of game developers have created games based on the stories and lives of older family members. The model for Hidden Heroes is Brukel, created by jam co-organizer Bob De Schutter with his grandmother about her experiences in Belgium under German occupation during WWII. Similar and related games include BORDERS, by Macua, based on the designer’s parents’ stories of crossing the border from Mexico to the United States; and Spectre, by USC’s Vaguely Spectacular Team, explores the memory of a 73 year old man. Other games with related themes include Old Man’s Journey

For younger gamemakers: What if I don’t know any “Hidden Heroes”?

That’s why they're hidden! It might take a little detective work to find the right person. Look at the game jam as an opportunity to get to know someone you admire better. It might be a parent, an aunt, or a grandparent. Perhaps you have family members you don’t get to see very much, either across your own country or overseas.  It could also be your favorite teacher, a mentor, even a boss who had a big influence on you, perhaps a neighbor or family friend you’ve always looked up to. Use the Hidden Heroes Game Jam as an opportunity to reach out and connect with an older adult in your life.

For older adults: How do I find a partner to work with?
A good place to start is your own family. Maybe you play games with your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews (both adults and children!). Imagine how cool it would be to ask them to make a game with you! Do you have younger family members or friends you don’t get to see very often? Reach out and use this as an excuse to connect! 


A couple of reasons. The larger entertainment industry—film, TV even popular music—have caught up with the idea that stories for and about older adults are cool, and older adults who are in their prime are making groundbreaking and award-winning work in all these media. The game industry has still not hurdled the ageism barrier, despite the fact that adults over 50 are the largest growing market for its products. The goal of Hidden Heroes is threefold: 1) To empower older adults to tell their stories through games; 2) To encourage people to engage with games across generations; 3) To expand representation of older adults in games, both as subjects and creators.

The Hidden Heroes Game Jam is a collaboration between IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games, and Northeastern University’s “Games for Life” initiative, and AARP Games. The goal of this wider initiative is to study and create games for the over fifty gamer, including expanding our knowledge of the benefits of games, understanding play preferences, and advocating for greater accessibility and inclusiveness in the mainstream industry.

Sponsors and Partners

Sponsored by AARP Games

Northeastern University - College of Arts, Media and Design
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
TAG Lab, Concordia University
IndieCade Horizons
Wevr Virtual Studio