A few weeks ago I participated in the annual Toronto Game Jam, TOJam: an event in which game developers from across the globe gather to make games over a single weekend. They are not intended to be commercial products (though some do become that). Attendees range from professionals to hobbyists to students with varying backgrounds in programming, audio, art and design.

This was my first jam and I had a bit of performance anxiety.

I wasn’t supposed to be there. My team withdrew earlier in the week because of a scheduling conflict and I decided, just as the event was starting, that I would go solo. Why? Part of it was because nearly all of Double Stallion were sleeping on my floor that weekend. Peer pressure.

So why would I hesitate? Short answer: fear of looking dumb. However, by the end of the event I felt dumb for feeling that way.

The atmosphere of TOJam was overwhelmingly positive. It was a collaborative environment and the volunteers were incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. Not only that, but people are so focused on what they’re doing that you can just relax and do your own thing if you want, without anyone taking notice.

I did end up creating a game. Two, actually!

By the first evening, I had nearly completed the first game. It was an abstraction of competition and return-on-investment in economic markets that popped into my head during my morning shower – sometime between lather and rinse. The second day was spent attempting to make the game fun… which didn’t work out as I had hoped. So, after a friend pointed out that I forgot to include the requisite TOJam Goat on a Pole, I spent the third and final day making a game about a goat knocking animals down a mountain in order to “save” them.

The subject may seem unusual but it was inspired by this year’s TOJam theme: that classical piece of propaganda, the pointing “We want you!” Uncle Sam. However, the twist was that the slogan had been changed to “After you”.

Due to the technology I chose, I couldn’t post my games to the site. It’s just as well though; they weren’t very good. And that wasn’t the point.

The point was to have fun, experiment and make something for the sake of making it.

I will definitely be attending next year, and would encourage anyone who is interested in game development to do the same. The more the merrier.

Goat Down! aka Goat out of the Way! aka Goat off my Mountain!

Goat Down! a.ka. Goat out of the Way! a.k.a. Goat off my Mountain!