In 2009, my wife and I moved to Guelph from Toronto. I had been running my own one-person, independent games company for a little over a year and I was loving it. Toronto has a huge indie games community that I had been involved with. I had started a monthly meet-up for mobile developers in the city, and I was starting to get involved with the local International Game Developers Association group. And then I moved to Guelph, and I didn’t know anyone.
I started to look for other local game developers and found one or two. Then in 2011 I started working part-time at ThreeFortyNine, which suddenly exposed me to Guelph’s tech community. Here I found a thriving community of small business owners and entrepreneurs. I was shocked at the size of the tech and startup community in Guelph. It was exciting! Seeing what people in Guelph were doing got me motivated to start trying to encourage a game development community here. With that in mind, I launched the first Guelph Game Jam in July, 2011.
A game jam is a short event where a bunch of game developers (programmers, designers, artists, musicians, etc) get together and make games. There is usually a theme. There is a deadline. The only goals are to make a game, and have fun. Most people make video games, but some people make board games. Some game jams take place over a week, or a weekend. Ours last 8 hours. It’s an extremely short amount of time in which to make a game from start to finish, but it’s fun.
For the first Guelph jam we had about a dozen people show up. Most had never created a game before, but everyone was keen to learn. Like I said, 8 hours isn’t a lot of time to make a game, but I was surprised at the games that got made. Yes, they were simple games, but they were playable, and fun! I was encouraged by what I had seen and determined to keep running them.
Since that first jam we’ve held 4 more game jams. Our most recent jam, Guelph Jam 5, happened just this past Saturday at ThreeFortyNine, where we’ve held all our jams. We still get about a dozen people coming out. What I find most exciting is seeing repeat attendees. People keep coming back to make games, and their games are getting better and more interesting every time. People are learning how to make better games, and the people who attend are meeting other local people who are interested in making games.
Meeting people interested in games in Guelph was one of the reasons I started the jams. One of our regular attendees (and who now helps me organize the jams), F. Tyler Shaw, is a local composer and sound designer. After Guelph Jam 4, he and I ended up working together on one of my own games, Finger Tied, for which he composed the music and sound effects. Without the jams, we might not have met and my game wouldn’t have had the awesome music and sound that Tyler created for it.
The game jams have been a great way for me to get to know other people in and around Guelph who are interested in creating games. Jams are a way to express yourself through creating a game for others to play. And there’s nothing better than watching someone create something from nothing and sharing it with their friends.
If you’d like to attend a game jam, please do! We’d always like to have more people come out and make a game. Visit guelphgamejam.com for details on our game jams, and follow us on twitter @GuelphGameJam to get notified when the next jam happens.