Top photo by Paul Hillier. Team portraits by Brendan Lynch.
TOJam 12: What Twelves Below has come on gone. The Toronto Game Jam was once again held at the George Brown game development campus, and brought together amazing developers to make some top shelf games (and also a few strange ones). TOJam is one of the biggest collections of jammers in the world, drawing over 400 people over the course of the weekend.
We followed a few jammers during the event, ranging from first timers to seasoned veterans to dabblers that only make games once a year. There were also a few developers that view the weekend as a break break from multi year development cycles. Here are some of our favourite stories from TOJam 12: What Twelves Below:
Meagan Byrne (far left) is a recent graduate of of Sheridan’s game development program and was participating in her first TOJam. She made a game that combines Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment with drinking.
“You are are the young man Raskolnikov,” said Byrne. “The protagonist is like, whether or not he should murder this pawn broker, obviously you shouldn’t. In the story he goes into a pub and there’s this crazy old man. He’s like, get me drunk and I’ll tell you this story about how I ruined my life and everyone’s life around me.”
The goal of the game is to get the man drunk enough to deliver walls of text from the novel. If you fail, you go home and rethink your life decisions and consider not murdering people (spoilers for the 1956 book Crime and Punishment.)
Byrne is involved in some of Toronto’s various arts collectives and gaming initiatives, including Indigenous Routes and Dames Making Games. She has also worked on many games of her own.
We met the next team at its lowest point of the weekend. When she went to take the team photo (all team photos by the talented Brendan Lynch), Christine Laskowski’s glasses fell off her face and snapped in two. Her partner Michael Patoine joked that it could be worse, but the glasses were only the latest in a long string of technological disasters.
“My screen didn’t work when I showed up and still didn’t work for four more hours. It kept crashing on me,” said Laskowski. “I tried to ignore it. When I tried to save there were 0 KBs in any file I tried to save.”
Laskowski and Patoine have participated in several games jams, and were returning to TOJam after taking the year of in 2016. Laskowski explained that she only attended TOJam 11 as a volunteer because Patoine could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances.
“I was the unforeseen circumstances and couldn’t make it for reasons of cancer. I’m here now so clearly things went well,” said Patoine. “Less than a month before TOJam I got the diagnosis. It was April 12. Went into the clinic, April 13 I got diagnosed, April 14 I got the surgery.”
With that in mind, any TOJam 12 setbacks were easy to overcome. Laskowski eventually got her glasses fixed by TOJam co-founder Jim McGinley, while Laskowski and Patione finished their game about adding elements to a stage play to ruin it or make it succeed. Show Off is now available for Android, and it’s a neat little experiment that lets you mess around with a theatre.
Adam Hines (right, maker of games, podcasts and animations) and Andrew Carvalho (left, Sheridan teacher and Toronto-based developer) are another pair of TOJam vets. Their team, Laundry Bear, looked to make a game with a simple but fun concept.
In it, you control a pulpy science fiction character that stands in the middle of a room and fires guns at “giant evil telekinetic brains that think they are better than you.” The twist is that the guns are also used for movement, so you need to shoot to get out of harm’s way. The different guns provide different patterns of movement and attack. Hines and Carvalho want to explore the concept for a possible future release, so we look forward to seeing what they do with it moving forward.
So what advice do this year’s participants have for future Jammers?
- “Don’t feel too pressured. Come in with an idea and work on it. If you finish something, great. If you can’t, that’s OK too. Start with an idea and be open to narrowing the scope of what you want to accomplish.” - Derek Quenneville
- “Failure is a big part of making games. Don’t camp over, go home for the night. It’s not worth it.” - Yifat Shaik
- “Before I started joining game jams, I found the whole concept kind of intimidating and scary. It was the stupidest thing ever because it isn’t nearly as scary as you think.” - Adham Kai Ahmed
- “Your game idea is a hypothesis. You have to build and test it. Maybe it will be fun, but you have to test it.” - Andrew Carvalho
Game jams like TOJam bring together people of similar mindsets and let them run wild with their ideas. It condenses the multi-year timeline of game development into a single weekend, often leading to something messy and broken but ultimately finished. It also has a strong community aspect. People that don’t often see each other come together to talk, laugh, and tell jokes, and it’s always an honour to be able to attend.
You can head on over to the official TOJam itch.io page to try out this year’s batch of games. Some highlights include: