Processing REBEL JAM.exe

A little while ago, there was a game design document called GAME_JAM, an interactive process and living document that was hijacked by marketing directors and, ultimately, abandoned by its own collaborators when the proposed program threatened great and unacceptable corruption of personal space and creator integrity. GAME_JAM was ultimately Ctrl + Alt + Deleted and its game design document, as much as kind of commercial and social contract analogue can be, returned to the drawing board.

At the end of the day, GAME_JAM was considered to be a worthy concept but its execution was flawed: a special glimpse into the process of creation inside a game jam with YouTube Let’s Players marred by an industrial bigotry and lack of understanding as to what a game jam actually is, and changed into a failed attempt at a generic reality show. I myself honestly thought that after everything that happened, the original idea would sit on that drawing board and gather dust.

Zoe Quinn decided otherwise. She decided to create REBEL JAM.

At first, this really surprised me. Zoe Quinn was one of the participants, or collaborators inside of, the failed GAME_JAM. Not only did she sign a contract in which she can’t talk about her experiences, but according to those who hadn’t signed the contract she was one of the female developers who felt the most offended by the bigotry that found its way into the tense and unpleasant situation: so much so that despite the contract she was one of those instrumental in having the participants walk away from the project altogether.

But I should have known better. Even in her article detailing what she learned from her experience, Zoe Quinn states:

My most tangible takeaway is probably this: I want to run a game jam. Not now, but after pax east and after I’ve recharged a bit. I’d like to find charismatic Let’s Play people, a couple of video cameras, a huge + cheap rentable house, and a group of indies. I’d love to have the LPers do what they’re so often so brilliant at and bridge the gap between the games and the audience, and do it super low-tech, low-budget, documentary style. Capture the inspiration, the hard work, the 3am delirium and the dumb jokes that come with it. Show people how we all band together and support each other through the deadline. That’s what I want to show the world about game jams. That’s the ambassador I’d rather be.

And so PAX East has passed. And, evidently, Zoe Quinn has recharged as well. In fact, she seems to have been at work on this concept for some time now. She continues the process of working on the GDD of REBEL JAM: a Return of the Indie counterpoint towards The Industry Strikes Back that inadvertently came from A New Jam.

Another bad, if somewhat geeky analogy aside, the concept behind REBEL JAM’s funding is the idea that this game jam will be “sponsored” by crowdfunding as opposed to corporations or industries.   Zoe Quinn and those like her seem to be in the process of making some excellent additions to this living document that we will be allowed to see: and perhaps participate in.

In my GAME_JAM Ctrl + Alt + Delete article, I mentioned that–if nothing else–GAME_JAM was a game and a design that taught its collaborators how to create, and how not to create game jams.

This GDD is back on the drawing board.

REBEL JAM. exe is now processing.

This Little Party is Just Beginning

It’s been two weeks now since I posted anything on here.

Really, my post before this would could have had a few other alternative titles: you know, like “Fed Up,” or “Exhausted,” or something more responsible along the lines of “I Love You All, But I Need To Take a Fucking Break.”

So let me tell you what I’ve been doing since I last wrote here, and what I plan to do.

The very day I wrote that last post, I went to my friend Noah’s birthday dinner and then hung out with him and my friends at a Tim Horton’s: including my friend Andrew whom I haven’t talked with in ages. We just talked about geeky stuff and nothing more strenuous than that. That was about the last time I have seen my friends so far, but it reminded me that I needed to get more time out that I have, well, honestly been getting.

I’m can’t remember a lot of what I did after that. I kept meaning to write something here and I just … didn’t. I even started to get ideas again and have them become more coherent in my brain. I bought the second issue of The Sandman Overture, and then the book Darth Plagueis: the last of which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

And during this time I knew that I had a few ideas for more Sequart and Mythic Bios articles. I want to look at Gwendolyn MacEwen again, at an interesting form of comics, at a Batman fanfic comic and the second volume of the new Sandman. The material is all there. I’ve contemplated writing about women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but figured it had already been done before and didn’t include it here: though some of that did make its way into an article on Sansa Stark on GeekPr0n. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also thought about eventually making that article on Anakin Skywalker and how as a classic science-fiction swashbuckler hero he is at a severe disadvantage merely existing in the extreme black and white Force-powerful Star Wars universe. I have also been meaning to write something for my friend Anthony with regards to his second novel Beloved Demons.

And, of course, after one playthrough so far I also want to look at Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. It’s fitting I guess, when you consider that this past while I’ve been depressed.

Me and my Head

At first it was all exhaustion, but then I started to get perfectionist and disillusioned and side-tracked with procrastinating. Also, I began to feel concerned that I would get restless and feel empty again: having no sense of accomplishment writing at least two hundred words a day.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been maintaining my one post a week on GeekPr0n, as it is my job but also something I like to represent my skills well in doing, but it’d been a lot of white noise in the back of my head. Of course, that white noise is ultimately a lot of ideas that lack a structure or starting point that threatened to drive me crazy.

But now here we are. I’m writing something on here again. And now, we come to the next part of this post.

I took one proactive measure that I’m proud of. A few days ago I went downtown and made good on my Day Pass to Bento Miso: a collaborative workspace and community. Game makers utilize the space considerably, but there are a whole variety of different people that go there to work on their own projects, network, and attend particular events. I must have the strangest luck in the world in that the few times I’ve visited outside of the Bit Bazaar events, I’ve always come when most of Bento Miso’s members are at conventions.

The fact of the matter is that, as I have said before, I do need a space away from home to work, but not just on anything. There are some other projects I’ve been meaning to focus on and I have not had time or the concentration to do so. And I just need something new. So I decided to join Bento Miso as a cohort. 🙂

I remember that night, walking down Queen Street from Strachan, thinking to myself that the street didn’t feel nearly so old anymore or filled with ghosts. In the spring time, looking at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and walking down the street to take a streetcar to the subway, it felt like it was new again. I mean, here I was outside going downtown on some adventures and a new quest.

I think what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a while I felt more like me again: no longer hiding and starting that process of making new opportunities and perhaps even connections. Who knows, right?

And I do have plans. I’ve thought long and hard about why my Patreon account hasn’t been followed or supported. And I realized that my work right now, on Mythic Bios, is good but scattered over a variety of different subject matters: all of them geeky, but not always specific or focused. This was always ever meant to be a supplement to the main writing that I planned to do.

Kris Straub, before he created Broodhollow, spent much time creating works to get to that place where he could make something akin to an ongoing master project or, if you’d like to get more profound about it, a magnum opus.

So here is what’s going to happen.

I am going to be writing on Mythic Bios once a week now. I simply can’t always write two posts a week like I used to. I need time to work on other projects and details in my life. I will, of course, break my own rules from time to time, but expect a post either Monday or Thursday. I will most likely alternate.

I will still be working at GeekPr0n creating my articles for them as well and with more time, hopefully, I can send some more … unique work Sequart’s way again. But, more importantly, I am going to be creating Patreon-Only content. My plan is to create a serialized work, or series of works, and make it so that those who Support me will be able to see whatever it is I will post there. Anyone can contribute whatever they’d like and we will see what happens from there.

And that is just for starters. I need to make my Patreon more presentable aesthetically and outline what my actual goals are. Right now I just have what I can offer. These are two entirely different things and with something more concrete, I might be in something akin to business.

You can find my Patreon account right here:

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I have a few ideas for some serialized work, mainly fiction, that I think some of you might actually enjoy. In the meantime, this is just the beginning. There are other possibilities as well. And I look forward to seeing where they might go.

GAME_JAM Ctrl + Alt + Delete

Imagine you are making a game. So, for the purposes of this crude analogy, think of yourself as a game developer.

Now, you have a game design document or GDD: a document made as an outline for a team in order to put a specific kind of game together. You, or a group of people supporting you, can add different additions, adjustments and clauses for the purpose of customizing your GDD and expanding it into a game that is your own.

All right, now imagine your GDD, the source that you are working from, is a Game Jam. And what is a Game Jam? A Game Jam can be seen as a space where various people–graphic artists, audio makers, programmers, and even writers–come together and with a prompt, or no prompt at all, make a game of some kind in a small amount of time. More often than not, groups of developers and creators pair themselves up before the event and have known each other for a while: creating close-knit relationships with each other ranging from working together all the way to the point of friendship. The idea of a Game Jam is to have a small window of time in which you not only get to experience spontaneous creativity in an inclusive and friendly environment but also potentially reaffirm relationships and even make new friends and contacts with a game-making community.

Now, bear in mind that every Game Jam is different. It either has a different theme, or it’s sponsored by external sources, or it is run from the houses of friends who decide to get together and make games while socializing and sharing ideas. While some Jams can theoretically have anyone of any experience level, including newbies, as participants other Jams require creators to have prior expertise before attending. One such group of the latter, with the assistance of YouTube companies such as Polaris decided to create a special Jam that could illustrate, to a larger viewing audience, exactly how some of this “spontaneous creative process” might work and, hence, demystify and even fascinate people with how ultimately a Game Jam can work.

So keep thinking of this idea of a reality-television Game Jam, called GAME_JAM, as a GDD. Imagine that some marketing directors, having never made or played a video game before, decided to add their own additions and clauses into the GDD and overrule the original creators (which, unfortunately, is a common occurrence within the industry at least). Think of these additions as analogous to the contracts with GAME_JAM participants that, if signed, would force them to–among other things–allow themselves to be “misrepresented for dramatic purposes” ala “reality-television,” not be able to promote their own independent work based on the show during this time, and always having to promote their sponsors such as Mountain Dew to the point of needing to drink it in front of the cameras that were everywhere save for bathrooms and bedrooms.

Think of what the presence of “dramatic misrepresentation” can do as well. Basically in this case, it attempts to take the spirit of cooperative gaming, and turn it into a player verses player situation with neither warning nor consent. I think, even if you aren’t a game developer, it can be safe to say that this structure is jarring and very self-contradictory: to the point where even if the clauses are tweaked, the original flaw in the messy structure that was the original conflict still remains.

But these elements in themselves didn’t necessarily mean that GAME_JAM would end. Many of the participants and group leaders such as Zoe Quinn the creator of Depression Quest, Davey Wreden of The Stanley Parable and others were and are creative enough, when motivated, to work with production: to collaborate in order to make a more unique “game” as it were.

But now think about this already inherently unstable game structure which already compromises the spirit of open space of creativity due to a certain degree of production micromanaging.

And then, something bad happens. And this something bad occurs long after the Game Design Document of GAME_JAM becomes a program in its own right.

It comes in the form of one of the more boisterous and obnoxious market directors. This Trojan virus in consultant’s clothing as it were, decides to place utilize and push for Digital rights management software or DRM that compromises the operating system that the game will be run on. It may have even seemed like productive software at the time and helped GAME_JAM and its sponsors. Even the production companies know that this particular form of DRM, in the form of one Matti Lesham of Protagonist’s attitudes, is potentially harmful but they have always tolerated it: a creative consultation program that is really a commercial program that gets clicked on and fills your computer with incessant ad ware, and intrusive spyware and worse: virulent malware.

It is this malware; composed of deceptive queries such as “Do you think you’re at an advantage because you have a pretty girl on your team?” and “Do you think the teams with women on them are at a disadvantage?” that completely corrupts the original GDD’s ideal of an open, safe, and inclusive space of creation.

And this was what ultimately caused GAME_JAM to crash.

And when it comes down to it, its participants let it crash.

Perhaps anyone else would have let the computer downstairs languish with its offensive pop-ups, its hostile injection of lag between creative processes, incessant ads and its corrupted programming except none of these other people would have been game developers or game makers. More specifically, none of these people would have been professionals.

And GAME_JAM was filled with independent developers and makers–friends and professionals of quality art–that didn’t like to deal with having their space impinged upon, or being told what to do, or dealing with someone attempting to create conflict through antiquated, misogynist hate-speech spam. Perhaps a home owner might ignore the virus on the computer they are forced to use, but a programmer would go after it and delete it mercilessly. What GAME_JAM ultimately became as a result of all the above was an unplayable mess and an extended and non-consensual trouble-shoot. The system that was GAME_JAM, even with the overt flaws removed in the form of Matti Lesham’s dismissal, was still too corrupted and buggy to prevent anything like the contradictions that allowed the infection to begin with: a whopping $400, 000 assessment.

Nevertheless, this mistake of a game taught its players and creators something. It made them go back and look at the original Game design document that was intended from the start. And they looked at it. They really looked at it, and themselves, and what they were capable of. It taught them how not to create a game and how to make a game–or a game jam–that hearkened back to its GDD: one of mutual cooperation, acceptance, friendship, and an intolerance for conformity and bigotry. GAME_JAM might have become unplayable but those involved with it will hopefully not only play other, better games but even allow themselves to make them: with everyone on-board for its conceptual phase.

Back to the drawing board Game Design Document.

For more nuanced information with regards to what happened with GAME_JAM please check out Jared Rosen’s Indie Statik article How the Most Expensive Game Jam in History Crashed and Burned in a Single Day. He was a games journalist that documented what happened at the event. The bottom of his article has links to other participants’ perspectives on the event as well. You can also look at Rami Ismail’s Polygon article A warning about contracts from the sidelines of the most expensive game jam in history and Colin Campbell’s How ‘Game Jam,’ an indie game dev reality show, collapsed on its first day of filming for good measure.