Start with six groups of gamers. Give them 36 hours to invent something new to play. Tell them they’ll win a prize.
What do they come up with?
- A video game called Trolley Folly where players try to kill as few people as possible with a runaway streetcar.
- A tabletop game called Big Pharma that gives players a chance to make ethical decisions while organizing a pharmaceutical company.
- Another tabletop game called Saints and Sinners where players torment opponents with temptations like greed, lust or sloth.
That was the outcome of last weekend’s Como Game Jam, held in Columbia College’s New Hall to get dedicated gamers to come up with groundbreaking ideas. The Como Game Dev Association organized the competition.
Working with a theme of morality, teams of all ages started at 7 p.m. Friday and worked until noon Sunday to come up with the best tabletop and video games.
During early brainstorming, teams came up with games called Fog of War, Grocery Store Clerk and Bounty Hunter. All were eventually discarded.
Instead, Saints and Sinners emerged as the best tabletop game, one based on the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues. Players draw either deeds or temptations from a deck of cards, then have a chance to influence their own morality or the moral values of an opponent.
Trolley Folly, which lets players save karma points by ensuring minimal casualties from a trolley run amok, won first place in the video game competition.
Prizes of $100 each were awarded to the best overall games, and $25 runner-up prizes were given for best art and best use of theme within both tabletop and video game categories.
The audience also handed out choice awards: Best tabletop game award went to Big Pharma, and the video game award was given to Collateral, where players must avoid civilian casualties in a military strike game akin to Minesweeper.
Bella Doublemont created the art for Big Pharma, her team’s entry in the competition. She won the best art award for her rendering of the game’s characters, which included a pharmaceutical mogul from Hong Kong and a powerful 70-year-old business executive. This was Doublemont’s third time to win the art award.
Clover Ross, a volunteer staff member with the Como Game Dev Association, said she liked “being able to see all the different ideas just come up and people sprint to make something.”
Because the game industry is difficult to get into, Ross said the weekend competition gave aspiring designers a chance to test their skills.
“Being able to have these events, especially for people who want to get into it, who don’t really have resources, it’s really cool to be able to provide that for them,” she said.
Lindsay Zeiter, who also helped staff the event, said the association holds play-testing nights four times a year so competitors and newcomers can fine-tune their games for further improvement. Monthly events are also held where professionals give advice on how to get a start in the industry.
“In the past we’ve had presentations on how to survive a game jam, how to have a good Kickstarter, how to create advice for making a good demo for play-testing night,” she said. “Real just-in-time-type advice for people who want to maybe go professional ... but just don’t know where to start.”
While Game Jam is intended to be fun and entertaining, contestants are encouraged to develop their projects beyond the competition.
“Ultimately, we want to see people take their projects and do something with them,” Zeiter said. “Get a Kickstarter going and ... turn them into something that can be shared and possibly even profited from.”