Other than a brief addiction to Tetris (when I played so much I actually started dreaming in Tetris pieces) I have not played a video game since the days of old Nintendos, Super Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt. But when a number of T4G developers (who also happen to be avid gamers) offered to fill me in on a creative project they’d been working on, I decided the time was right to, well, get with the times.
Whether or not you play video games, gaming is more a part of your life than you might realize. Head to the movies and you’ll be prompted to download an app to play a game during the film’s pre-show. Grab a coffee from Tim Horton’s to Roll Up the Rim to Win. Hop on the Internet and play around with the newest Google Doodle to access info in a fun way. Gamification – brands incorporating games into the customer experience – is not a new concept, but with smartphones and social media literally at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever that brands create positive experiences for their customers. Games can achieve that.
According to Wikipedia, “Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”. Brands are incorporating games more often, more creatively, hoping to strengthen customer loyalty and generate buzz for all the right reasons.
In order to assist brands with gamification efforts, it’s certainly an advantage to understand game design and principles and to actually give it a go. But where do you start if you’re like me, interested but not a gamer or a developer? A Game Jam, of course.
What’s a Game Jam?
A Game Jam is an organized opportunity to create a game based on a theme, with limited hours.
So, back to that creative project I mentioned earlier. T4G’s Thomas Eaton, Brett O’Donnell, and Andrew Kenny (or, The League of Extraordinary Developers, as I like to call them) put their skills to the test at a recent Game Jam. In this case, the theme was to create a game featuring a female lead character, and the team had just 48 hours to get it done. They worked collaboratively to achieve really cool results – a game called Wacky Anchors.
Just like Game Jam, Wacky Anchors is collaborative, with two players working together toward a common goal. The objective is for a diver to guide a ship toward treasure chests on the ocean floor, so the ship’s anchor can be dropped in just the right spot to collect them.
One player lowers and raises the anchor. The other player controls the diver and can move the screen left and right or up and down. The diver can also help by bumping the anchor toward the treasure.
Not knowing what to expect, I gave it a try. Turns out it’s a whole lot of fun. Wacky Anchors is a prototype and what’s next is still to be determined – maybe you’ll see it on Steam (the largest game distribution platform on the Internet) someday soon.
Based on their learnings, Thomas, Brett, and Andrew have put together some tips to help you make the most of Game Jams:
- Think outside the box. A game doesn’t necessarily have to have a competitive element – it simply has to have a goal that you work toward completing
- Bring ideas, but be prepared to iterate based on the Game Jam theme
- Come up with a simple idea – try to create a game you can explain in one sentence
- As a general rule, aim to have the core gameplay development finished by the end of day one so you can polish it on day two
- Photoshop and 3D-modelling experience is very useful – if you can find team members with these skills, you’re golden
You don’t need to be a developer or have an interest in gamification to attend a Game Jam – they’re open to anyone (developers, programmers, game designers, artists, writers, musicians, etc.) and often have hubs for recruiting teams, such as this subreddit. If you’re in Halifax, you might want to check out monthly Mini-Jams at Volta Labs on Barrington St.
The next Game Jam takes place December 10-11, and I’ve signed up to join the T4G team and give it a go with seasoned pros who’ve already helped our clients adopt gamification. It’ll be a brand new experience for me, and an opportunity for them to do what they love most – make cool stuff!
Are you a developer who wants to make cool stuff, too? Or maybe you’re interested in exploring gamification for your business. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to chat.