Gr8ArtGames in Mexico city
A few days ago I had the opportunity to organize and mentor a gamejam in Mexico city about politics in games. As a game developer it was great to travel to the other side of the world and meet other people that makes games in Mexico, a place I had never been before. In Berlin we have a really great local scene, and I was curious to see how the game community in Mexico city was going to be like.
The Goethe-Institute, a cultural institute that is active all across the world is making a collaboration with Maschinen-Mensch, the small independent game company I run with Riad. Part of this collaboration is that we’ll be traveling to 8 different countries all across the world until the end of 2018. At each of these locations we’ll do a 2-day gamejam about politics and games.
Our local partner was the Centro de Cultura Digital (CCD), an absolutely fantastic place located in the western part of town, directly at the tip of a massive park that homes multiple museums, including the anthropological museum, which is of special relevance to me because of the work on our own game.
There I met the two organizers of the gamejam from the CCD, Héctor Guerrero and Jacinto Quesnel. They did a great job at running the gamejam from their side, both from an organisational and social standpoint. They knew the majority of the attending developers and were an essential part, together with my work, to keep the teams on track and help them with their projects. They were both absolutely fabulous hosts and friends to me. I found that Jacinto had many stories to tell about the Mexican game scene, which he is an integral part of. Amongst many things he co-founded DEVHR, an annual gaming convention in Mexico city. I really do hope that he will come and visit us in Berlin for A MAZE 2017.
Before the jam, Héctor, Jacinto and I had attempted to find a good balance in the skill level of all the applicants, of which round about 100 were invited. Obviously we did our best to improve the diversity of the jam as much as possible already during the planning. This included accepting basically every female applicant as well as making sure that participants of different age ranges were picked. I still felt it was important to call out the Safe Space Policy. It was received with applause and cheering by the participants, which made me very happy.
We ended up with a great group of approx. 70 people. I could tell as soon as I started saying my first words of welcome that we would have a fantastic time.
I was extremely surprised to see how quickly the groups gathered. At 10 pm Friday night everyone seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do. People were busy talking and starting their projects. I have seen many, including me, struggling to find a good idea or approach to what you want to say during this initial phase of a jam. But not this group, they were focused and enjoying their time.
Something that certainly helped everyone to do such great work was the amazing food that was provided by Chef Diana López del Río. Unlike the typical junk food you eat during gamejams, she presented us with a variety of fresh salads, local dishes and in general extremely healthy food. I was blown away by the quality and amount of love that was put into the catering, and around half of the photos I took during the event were about the food.
The jam went on through the night of Friday to Saturday, and only a few people left to sleep at home, most of them stayed the whole time at the Centro de Cultura Digital. Some even brought tents which they set up in the venue, making these people some of the best prepared gamejammers I have ever encountered.
All in all we had 14 projects being created, with groups averaging between 3 to 6 people. I am extremely thankful and happy about how the participants we’re open towards my presence and role as a observer and mentor. My main role was to assist all participants in the design of their games and provide ongoing feedback, which was willingly accepted by everyone.
On Sunday the 20th the projects we’re coming to an end, and as usual with gamejams, the last hours of creation were very intense and emotionally laden. Everyone was rightfully very proud about their work. Besides some minor technical difficulties all teams were able to deliver a playable version of their game, which was an extraordinary good rate of success compared to other gamejams I have experienced.
As a part of my organisational role I started collecting material from all the teams to document their projects on itch.io pages. These pages will be embedded in a collection on the Goethe-Institute website to showcase all games created during the Gr8ArtGames gamejams across the world. You can see and play all games created in Mexico at the Centro de Cultura Digital here:
A game jam from 2016-11-17 to 2016-11-19 hosted by Maschinen-Mensch. This jam shows games that were created during the…itch.io
A playlist of gameplay videos or trailers of all games can be found on our YouTube channel:
At about 6 pm the final presentations started and it was good to see that everyone was very happy and proud about their work. As usual, good times come to and end too quickly, and so was my time with the people in Mexico city. It had been a great experience and I am really curious to see which of the projects will be selected by the German jury as a winning entry.
The winners will receive digital mentoring to further help them develop their game, and some members of the team will be invited to Germany in 2018. There they will present their game alongside the other winning games from locations all across the world in a final exhibition that shows the interpretation of “politics in games” of all the participating countries.
After the jam was finished one of the group invited me to have some drinks and we spent many hours of Sunday night talking about games, politics and their lives in Mexico city. I also learned a thing or two about Mexican wrestling. I’m sure this won’t be my last trip to Mexico as I happened to like the city and its community quite a lot.
It sure was an exhausting trip, but well worth the efforts, and I am very much looking forward to our gamejams in Seoul, Boston, Nowosibirsk and 4 more locations that are currently still being decided on.