My new friend and Train Jam teammate Gurin looking to the horizon in one of the many stops we did during the trip.

Train Jam and GDC 2018

Hi! My name is Bryan Alvarado and I’m a game developer from Guatemala. I want to share a little bit about my experiences of the past two weeks because I’m aware that I was fortunate and privileged of having the chance to be a part of it.

First of all, I want to give a huge thank you to all the Train Jam organizers and sponsors, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life and it was all thanks to your generosity and hard work that I was able to be a part of it, and will be forever thankful with all of you for giving me that chance.

When I first left the country on March 13th, not knowing what to expect, I was about to spend three days on a train with people that not only I haven’t met before, but also people who I have admired through all these years since I started making games. I was anxious and nervous, and it probably was in part because I haven’t been able to sustain myself making games yet, and the train was filled with people that make games for a living.

But I couldn’t be more wrong.

I arrived in Chicago early on the 14th, and we had breakfast with some of the train jammers that were also staying at the same hostel as me. We exchanged a lot of experiences and it was amazing to hear, for the first time, what is the state of other countries in regards to communities and industry in general in their own countries. This was the first of many similar interactions I had through the whole two weeks.

We spent the day getting to know Chicago a little bit and it was great, as it was our first time in the city.

Walking around the lake with Pavle and Ferran

After a good walk we went to meet the other train jammers at the place where BitBash was going to happen.

The night was amazing, I’ve never been at a game focused event like that before. There were games everywhere at the venue and people were enjoying them so much. I also was really happy to have the chance to meet a few people in person whom I’ve only interacted online before and it was nice, some of them tried my games and with some others just talk about our lives and just about anything. So the whole travel was off to a really good start.

This is how the BitBash venue looked like, and yes, those are PS Moves hanging right in the middle.

Next day was time to go into the train! I was really excited and really nervous at the same time. So we arrived at the station and it was time to share a little bit more with some other jammers and form teams.

Union Station in Chicago.

From here on forward, the Train Jam began, and I can say it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I would love to describe every little detail in here but it would end up being half a book so I’m going to try to sum it up a little bit while also sharing some of the pictures I took while being on the train.

The Scenery

I live in a relatively small country, we have a lot of beautiful natural places over here, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the variety of landscapes that I was going to witness while being on the train. I spent a good amount of time just watching through the window, being mesmerized by all the trees, mountains and everything else in between.

The People

This is a hard one to sum up. Getting to know so many people on the train, all of them talented, kind-hearted, humble people; was great. I’ve never been in such an inclusive environment with people so open to talk to anyone.

Finally got to know a lot of people that I’ve admired for many years, and also have the luck of meeting a lot of people that I didn’t know anything about. And every single one of them was great.

If someone asked me what my takeaway from Train Jam is, I would say the people, not because of what games they’ve made or where they worked, but because all the experiences they all have to share, as people, and as fellow game developers. Because it helped me realize that no matter how long have they been in the industry, or how much success they have had, we all share that passion, playfulness, insecurities, fears, thankfulness and so many other things that I’ve witnessed through the years in our local gamedev community.

So to all of you that I was able to share even if just a couple of minutes in the train, it meant a lot to me, and to most of you that I didn’t get the chance to talk to, I’m looking forward to having another chance and keep getting to know all of you!

A special shout-out to the candy crew! It was great to share most of the last night at the train with you. Thanks Fáyer for sharing the picture and the Mexican treats.

So yeah, it was one of the best times of my life inside that train, a beautiful experience and I would recommend it to anyone. The atmosphere was so welcoming, and the diversity of the train was incredible. After being on the train, I’m now more sure than ever that I want to keep being involved in this industry as no other medium has made me feel this way before.

Also if you want to check the games made during Train Jam 2018, you can go here and play them all!

An aerial shot of all the people at Train Jam 2018 ( Credit: Train Jam twitter)

GDC 2018

So this was my first time going to GDC ( Game Developers Conference ) and it was a mix between exactly what I was expecting and people told me about, and a lot of unexpected stuff.

This is a map where you marked where you were coming from right at the entrance of the GDC, the first day we got to put a couple of dots in Guatemala.


Let’s face it, going to GDC is really expensive. I was fortunate enough to get help from Train Jam with my GDC pass through their diversity initiative and even then, just covering my stay and meals from one week in San Francisco it was kind of expensive. So if you want to go, be sure to have clear objectives in what you want to get out of it.

I think I was able to cover most of my objectives, which included:

  • Getting to know more people making games all over the world. This was a little bit easier being on Train Jam the week before, but I had the luck to keep meeting new people through all the week in SF. Not only I was able to make some new friends but also got really inspired to hear their stories and share with them a little bit of time.
  • Having meetings with publishers and potential partners. I wanted to take this opportunity to let the world know that there are games being made in Guatemala, so I took with me some of the work that is happening here and scheduled a few meetings with publishers to see if there was interest in any of the work, not only of our own studio, but from other studios and people making games in Guatemala, as most of them are not able to afford the trip to go and show their games themselves.
  • Connecting with other developers from the region. This was a resounding success. Not only I had the opportunity of getting to meet a lot of other developers from Latin America, thanks to events like the ones from Unity and Microsoft, I got the chance to meet some developers which were also from Central America, and that was a huge win, because I have the feeling that if we want to keep growing the industry in our region, we will have to work together to move forward.
  • Getting inspired. I’ve been feeling a lack of creativity this last couple of months, and getting the motivation to keep creating has been kind of hard, but after trying so many different games, talking to so many game developers and going to some great talks, I feel recharged now. Things like the alt.ctrl expo and party, the IGF Pavilion and the Indie Megabooth helped me reconnect with that creativity that I felt I was loosing.
From left to right and up to down: Lost Levels, Train Jam booth, Puppet Pandemonium at the alt.crtl expo, the IGF Pavilion.

As my conclusion to all of this, I want to say something to you.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid to make games and try some weird game ideas. Don’t be afraid to reach out fellow game developers in Twitter or in real life. Don’t be afraid to ask things, I assure you that no one knows everything and most of us don’t know what we’re doing half of the time. Don’t be afraid to apply to programs or initiatives that could help you to get where you want to get. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you admire them; they will always appreciate kind words towards their work.

And now I leave you with this nice clip I recorded of Super Soul Bros playing at the expo floor during GDC.