earlier this month, i had the wonderful opportunity to do global game jam at an in-person site in okutama, tokyo. it was the first time i've ever done an in-person jam so i was very nervous, but after the experience, i can say i am very glad i did it, so i want to share how it went.
global game jam takes place over three days, and for the site i was at, it was done hybrid, with the first night (theme reveal, team-making) done online over discord, while days two & three were in okutama, a fairly mountainous & nature-y area of tokyo. one team was also fully remote, participating from shinjuku! the reason for the location though (which is a bit far from central tokyo) is that the organiser lives there, plus there's a local organisation called code for okutama providing support for events like this.
i've participated in game jams before, but only online & on top of that mostly by myself, so doing a jam in-person with people i don't know was very daunting. fortunately the organiser, hamada of gift ten industry, did an amazing job putting everything together, & all the teams who participated had something to present at the end of the jam.
i worked on three different games over the course of the jam, all of which were very different in mood.
Grow the roots of your flower to the bottom layer of water to win. A board game you play using tiles.
ROOTILE was the main game i worked on with my main team! a bit unusual for game jams, the game is actually a board game that you play physically. this came about because one of our team members makes board games exclusively - yamamoto of logy games has been making abstract board games since 1994 (!) so he came up with a base game design which we then worked off of together. i did the art for the tiles.
we even had a physical playable prototype (see the global game jam page for a picture!) on a wooden frame with actual ceramic tiles which was very, very cool.
while i've made a card game before, making a board game while you place tiles was very new to me & it was a great opportunity to learn more about different kinds of game design. one thing i also noticed was just how easy it is to do mock-ups for physical games. i mainly do digital, but it's so much harder to just be like 'i don't like this rule, can we try playing this way?' with digital because you have to actually code it to work that way - but with a physical game, you can change things on the fly since all the rules are in your head.
~ Have you ever seen a radish flower? ~
The new standard of Food Education x Running game!
for Die-con Run i only did a very little bit of art (clouds in the sky) & the logo design. it's the first time i've worked on a more 'traditional' video game, for lack of a better adjective! it's a runner where you play as a daikon trying to avoid obstacles which turn you into delicious daikon dishes. i particularly love how the daikon looks - drawn by makoto f - as it runs across the landscape! as a note, the daikon recipe photos for each death scene were provided post-jam by the other team members.
it was pretty interesting having the chance to just do a little part in another team's game & i'm very thankful that i could join in! it felt like doing guest art for somebody else's project.
for my last game, i had some extra time during the jam & i just wanted to do something so i made a very tiny little escape room games with music from sdhizumi as usual (who was at the jam site with me!). the idea actually came about because while we were in a cabin in the mountain (one of the places we were jamming in - station 3, hence the name), somebody mentioned how it felt like one of those escape room games where you have to click on various things & interact with items to try to get out of a locked room. i loved the idea of it so i took a few photos for reference - this was on the first day - & when i had spare time on the second day, i used the jam site as the setting for my game.
it was also a way for me to kind of journal my game jam experience so far. i asked my ROOTILE team members as well as hamada to share a comment with me about the game jam & i included it in the guestbook inside the cabin in the game.
i've been thinking more about creating for smaller audiences, just personal games for specific people, & this game is like that. it's why i've only uploaded the browser version to neocities rather than sharing it on itch.io as i do with most of my games - OKUTAMA STATION 3 is a specific game made in okutama to be shared as a memory as well as thanks to the people who participated in the game jam with me. if people outside that want to play it they can too, but they're not the people i actually made the game for.
in-person jamming is fun!!!
i actually participated in another jam just a bit before this with an online team - ludum dare - and while i enjoyed that too, it was a completely different experience actually working on something in the same room with a team.
for ludum dare, i made stuff with people who were all in different time zones, so whenever somebody took a break they just weren't 'there' any more, if that makes sense, & a lot of times i was just working on stuff on my own.
for this on-site global game jam, everything came together really smoothly as we chatted about how we wanted the game to come together. for ROOTILE, we mocked it up with some paper squares & just came up with the rules on the go, changing stuff whenever it was necessary, & the energy was so different. when we took breaks i could go check out what other teams were doing & chat with other people too, & we also had meals together.
i really enjoyed my ludum dare online experience too, but i feel global game jam in-person was a better way for me to actually make connections with new people. even if we weren't working on the same game, just be being in the same space, we had the opportunity to connect, which i feel is a lot harder to do online. even if you're in the same discord server as a bunch of people, it's harder to just organically 'walk up' to somebody else & just see what they're doing.
this experience has got me thinking i definitely want to do more events like this in the future. maybe not on a global game jam scale, but just like a casual hike into the mountains where we have a few people working on some games together. we'll see how it goes!