10 February 2016

Jam Jar for GamesAid - A Review

Since starting work at GamesAid I've challenged myself to celebrate the job with doing a bit of fundraising.

For those of you to whom this is news, I started this January working at GamesAid, a UK video games charity who help disadvantaged and disabled children and young people. What originally started as an intern position got upped to the fancy name of Operations Executive - a title I'm still warming up to. Currently I am their only employee, surrounded by a circle of very talented trustees who volunteer their time to the cause. They all represent the best of the UK video games industry and they are also all inspiringly lovely.

To celebrate I decided to organise my own fundraising event for GamesAid. The Global Game Jam was around the corner and inspired by Matt's "Lollies for Lolly" event, I pitched "Jam Jar at the Global Game Jam" to Ian and Matt, Chair and Vice-Chair of GamesAid. With their blessing and support, I began to contact the organisers of Global Game Jam sites across London and then further across the UK.

The pitch was simple: We will place jars of candy at Global Game Jam sites and offer the sweets to jammers. In exchange for the candy, they can place a donation towards GamesAid.

The execution was difficult. First, I had to get GGJ sites on board. Up to a day before the GGJ began, I was emailing back and forth with sites who jumped in at the last moment, arranging meetings and transporting more jars with candy. In the end all GGJ sites within Greater London participated:

  • SAE Institute London
  • City University London
  • London Metropolitan University
  • Popped
  • Goldsmiths University
  • Brunel University
And we even had some engagement from further afield, from individuals that decided to run their own Jam Jar:
  • Staffordshire University
  • Warwick University
  • Brighton
That is 9 sites out of 42 sites across the UK, one in every five sites participated. Not bad for a first time event.

 I ordered six jars, a set of fliers I designed for the event, and Matt kindly ordered 10kg of candy for me. With all the materials set and ready to distribute and six sites to distribute them to, I began the biggest pinball game of my life. I was the pinball and London the pinball machine.

There was a lot of walking. In fact 71.87 km of it (more or less the equivalent of walking from Houses of Parliament to Heathrow Airport then further out until you are standing, slightly confused, just outside of Oxford). I sat with jars of candy in buses, tubes and overground trains, sandwiched between confused tourists and stirred by commuters. I met many wonderful faces, all who were eager to collaborate with GamesAid, and offered candy to many more.

During the Saturday of the Global Game Jam, I even decided to bake some cupcakes for the lively jammers at City University London. They came out delicious! In exchange they donated generously towards GamesAid and even showed me their games. Some of my favourite were: Alien Growth and The Secret Handshake Society.

On the last day, Des and I visited the SAE Institute where I walked around the building offering more candy. The jammers were rushing to finish off their games yet still welcomed a moment to munch on a sweet and give to GamesAid. Des gave a cheerful thank you to all the jammers at the end of the night, then we all got to play the wonderful games. Some of my favourite: Solstice and Cracked Up.

There are so many thank yous to give out! All the wonderful trustees of GamesAid for giving me a hand (and offering me the opportunity to work for them!), the site organisers in London for going that extra mile for GamesAid, those individuals outside of London for setting up their own Jam Jars, and of course the Global Game Jammers who donated towards GamesAid. All in all, we managed to raise over £200! Thank you!

To become a member of GamesAid and keep up with our events: check out the website or follow us on twitter.
Finally, here are some wonderful images people sent GamesAid from across the UK.

23 January 2016

Game a Month: Jan 2016

I am making a game a month. Born out of the idea that making games shouldn't be a commercial endeavour, Christer Kaitila sparks us to make games as a hobby and, in so doing, experiment fully with the medium. The initiative is called Game a Month Challenge and below is the key note:

So what have I made this January? Mainly a lot of unfinished text exploration games as I try to experiment with different forms of storytelling structures. My first completed one is also the shortest but probably the most freeing. Made during a few hours at Loading, I used the telescopic text tool to play with folding and unfolding narratives. It only takes 3-5 minutes to play. Here it is!

This is very much an experiment, filled with all the enthusiasm and coarsness that experimentation entails. The story evolved as I was writing it as did the voice of the character you are questioning. Looking back, this made a lot of sense thematically as the mechanics revolve around the increasing understanding of a story through exploration. As I began to shape the game, the character openeded up and the player finds out more about the mystery.

Finishing the story was the hardest. As each word branched off into smaller narrative layers, I found it difficult to make them all combine physically on screen. Instead of drawing a conclusion, I left small puzzle pieces at the end of each narrative layer. Thus when the player is done unfolding all the branches, they can read the full, unfolded paragraph and draw the conclusion on what they think happened to poor Tim.

For those wondering, Tim is a real person. You've probably seen him various times on this blog. Inspiration from a real life experience included in this game... always... in all games.

16 January 2016

What do we do next?

Learn how to make a creative project a reality. That was my one wish when I applied to Blast Theory's volunteership. As someone who has spent the last 4 years in academia I've become a professional at writing 6000 word essays that lie forever hidden in the folds of pixelated PC finders, or prototypes that twirl and fade behind secret doors. "The best thing you can do is show your games to people," our professors lectured us. I could almost hear the question whispering through our heads: 'But how do you do that?'

I sat with my peers at the graduation ceremony, our certifications for a successfully completed MA folded on our laps. Legs crossed, gowns tightened, between the closed cardboard file, the word "distinction" burried itself in the page. - But how do you do that? - I flapped my certificate in front of friends and family until the word "distinction" glided on the words "congratulations" and "well done". - But how do you transform a project into reality?

Starstruck into a corner of a Blast Theory couch, I murmured this question to Matt, Ju, Nick, Kirsty and Dan in turn. Their knowledge soared into the air in waves of spectacular performance and honesty. I hurriedly scribbled their words on paper. Below is a peak:
  • Identify the 3 people that can change your future. Send them an email inviting them to play your game.
  • Submit your games to all the festivals. Get seen. Showing a game speaks to people much more than talking about it.
  • Go to talks and in the question and answer session raise your hand and start with "Hi! I'm Rosa from Ludic House and I have a question about...".
  • Get big names to give a testimonial about your game. Use it everywhere! In all the funding applications, everything!
  • Write personal emails to people you are inspired by and show them your work or ask for 30 minutes of their time.
  • Sign up for talks. Even if its not your game, you can talk passionately about other games.
  • Even if there is no money, do it. Start with what you can do and things will snowball.
On December 18th I hugged the Blasters goodbye and walked along the seafront from Portslade to Brighton for the last time. More than the sugar of the goodbye-gifts or the hangover hum from the night before, it was my notebook, penned with the knowledge of giants, that lifted me to an exhilarating high. Blast Theory is a family of artists who were never afraid of showing themselves. Even their work, in a world of high-rise anonymity, is a call for strangers to open up and connect. In the two months volunteering at Blast Theory, what my professors taught us finally solidified. I know what to do. Thank you!