I really like Game Jams. Everybody that works in games should do them regularly, and I am pretty sure most people that ever participated in one agree with me on this. In June 2016 it was time for me to switch sides, from being a participant to an organizer of my very first Game Jam about VR games.
A good friend of mine, Oliver Eberlei, offered to support me with two sets of HTC Vives. He had plenty of them available as he was just about to open the Holocafé, a Virtual Reality arcade in Düsseldorf. I decided to give it a try and invite 10 carefully selected people into the Saftladen, our indie games collective in Berlin.
We spent 48 intense hours, and in the end we had two VR prototypes. One was a virtual version of a drumset on acid. The other project was called “My Pants, WTF”, a game about a pissed giant tentacle monster that somehow lost it’s pants right before a romantic date.
We all had a great time experimenting with the technology, and barely were able to let go of the hardware as the 48 hours came to an end. Simon could not resist and got his own Vive shortly after. He really fell in love with VR and continued to do experiments. Eventually he even took the tentacle monster prototype that had been created and used it to apply for a funding at the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, an institution for the film and media industry that funds the development of games in our region.
And today, roughly 8 months after the prototype was created during my first ever organized game jam, Simon received a funding of €75.000 to create a commercial version of the tentacle game. Of course this is the result of the hard work of Simon and Luca, but it’s an amazing feeling to know it also initially started because I had this kind of not really serious idea to make a small game jam with friends.
I have collected many good experiences in the past about building and participating in local communities. But it’s events like this that really help me understand how much of an impact even the smallest idea or local event can have. Our industry and medium is all about being digital, but I cannot stress enough how important it still (and maybe even because of that) is to connect to the people in your area and grow your local community.
After all, you may accidentally help someone around you make a living and create a full fledged commercial game. Good things may not happen immediately, and sometimes are not as measurable as a 75k funding, but eventually a strong, local community will be beneficial to everyone.