While most of us were doing the usual humdrum leading up to GDC, 60 developers embarked an odyssey. Adriel Wallick kicked off this years GDC with a 52 hour train ride from Chicago to San Francisco. A party of developers, press, and artists jammed across the country. Adriel hosted the first ever Train Jam.
Game jams are not a new topic for us. We’ve spoken to plenty of developers about the virtues of jamming. We’ve even entertained the arguments against them. We’ve been so enthralled with game jams that we are prepping to host our own. If there was anything that could capture the spirit of this generations indie development scene, it would be game jams.
There are so many events supporting the game jam community. There’s the Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare, Nordic Game Jam, and Molyjam. There is even a Zero Hour Game Jam, where developers make a game in the two hours during the daylight savings switch. Yet none of them have taken place on a train going across the beautiful vistas that litter the American Midwest and Rockies. Enter the Train Jam.
Adriel Wallick is the mastermind/crazy person behind this audacious endeavor. Last year Adriel rode the train to GDC and actually enjoyed the long yet scenic route. This time around she figured she would try and get twenty friends/peers/developers to ride along with her and do a game jam on the way. This resulted in a massive response. Way more than she had anticipated; sixty-ish people almost overtook an entire train car.
The event was a smashing success with attendees from all around the world attending. Teams formed and created an interesting batch of games with the theme: Disconnected. Typically jammers have easy access to the internet, but when on a train moving across the county internet access is rare. Capitalizing on this challenge Adriel made it the motif. As of right now fourteen games listed on the Train Jam’s website. This includes one Oculus Rift game designed and tested on a moving train.
Who is this lady and why is she so crazy about jamming? Adriel like many new indie developers was not originally a game designer. It was something that she came back around to after having worked in the tech field. She used to program weather satellites, but some years back she wanted to leave that and become a game designer. So one fateful spring Adriel went to that “nerd” convention in Boston. A few awkward conversations and sometime later she found herself a job at a bonafide game studio. It’s that easy kids.
She is no longer working for a studio, but instead is making games for her. Though its been a struggle to say the least. When you have infinite options and no oversight it can become quite paralyzing to many. So with the advice from none other than Rami “Hi I’m Steve Gaynor” Ismail she started a new challenge: hell or high water, make one game a week.
This is quite the challenge. At the end of each week she not only posts up her work, she also does a post mortem on every project. This as a lesson in design and productivity that aspiring creators should replicate. This is much like how we started. When you commit yourself to a tight deadline it reels in scope while forcing creativity.
Adriel wrote a great article that chronicles the how and why behind this journey over on Gamasutra. I recommend anyone who is looking to help get out of a rut or a designer’s block to give it a read. As for what’s next for Adriel, well that’s simple. It’s week nineteen so she has to get that game out and maybe at some point start planning that annual Train Jam.
Thanks to Robin Baumgarten for the images.