Easy as Baptising Cats

For those of you who’ve never heard of a Global Game Jam, it’s an annual event where game developers all over the world hunker down into their favourite programming burrow and attempt to make a brand new working game in a weekend. 48 hours, start to finish. I just finished my fourth.

I love the creation of ideas. I love the tweaking and prodding of an idea until it becomes more than it was at the outset. I love arguing over the validity, feasibility, and potential of two conflicting facets of the same idea. And then, I love the challenge and satisfaction of the idea coming to fruition by a ridiculously short deadline, fuelled by a room full of talented enthusiasts who just like making something cool for the hell of it.

Every year the Game Jam organisers provide a theme [this year’s was “Ritual”]. Teams were free to interpret that any way they liked. At the Belfast game jam site (@FarsetLabs) there were about 30 of us. By the end of the weekend, about 12 games were created, and we were able to see some of the ways “Ritual” could be interpreted:

Twelve Rites of Passage: Explorative first person survival game in which the protagonist must pass twelve challenges to secure a place in the afterlife.

Vigil: A ghost that must light all the candles to proceed.

Daily Ritual: Perform everyday tasks according to instructions provided

Sacrifice ­ The Break of Dawn: A Pagan ritual based game.

Randy Birds: Local Multiplayer… You are a pigeon, performing mating dances in an attempt to woo the lady pigeon.

For the full list of games created in Belfast: http://globalgamejam.org/2016/jam-sites/farset­labs/games

Were they polished? By all means, no. Well, some more than others, but nothing near publishable (hell, some weren’t even playable, my own included)… but that wasn’t the point. The point was to make something. Something cool, something wacky, something silly, just something. Everybody made something, and everybody felt great about it.

This 48­hour burst of creativity is why I love the Indie gaming scene. The experience of the Global Game Jam was like a tiny microcosm of the gaming industry fringes. It’s a room full of passionate, enthusiastic, talented individuals who work collaboratively to solve problems on a shoestring budget and impossible deadlines. So often I’d overhear encouraging phrases like, “You know what you guys should do…?” or “Have you guys considered…?” crossing from team to team, as well as occasional shouts out of “Does anyone here know anything about…?” which were happily fulfilled.

This is what the indie gaming scene is all about. None of these games needed to be approved by a board of directors, or subjected to a focus group, or run by a team of monetisation experts to increase end­user retention rates. For indies, it’s all about having a great idea, making it, and making it fun. If you get rich in the process, then that’s just a side bonus.

Since the mobile resurgence of casual gaming has taken the video game market by storm, I’ve been touting the message that ‘the next big thing’ is never going to come from a boardroom or a best­practice business model. It’s going to come from a room like this one, because the creators are the audience, and they have the ability, or at least the means, to make what they love. And chances are that if they love it, so will the rest of the gaming world. For a cluster of individuals, they’re more alike than one might think.

When questioning an idea, a business asks, “Yes, but is it profitable?” whereas an indie asks, “Yes, but is it fun?” While it’s true that something can be both, for indies the fun comes first, and I believe that no matter how many ‘profitable’ boxes your game ticks, nobody’s interested if it isn’t fun. So. if you’re focusing on the fun first, you’re doing it right.

And speaking of which: I give you our entry. Cat Baptism. Needs no further introduction.


Team: @RaggedyBenj, @Kitty_Crawford, and @BenjamHolmes

Ross Morrison