The DIA Game Club runs a monthly game jam where members get together and have fun making games in a supportive environment.
In this series we're giving non-Game Club folks a chance to see what it's like participating in a game jam and sharing what we learned along the way. We hope you learn something new after reading!
Three’s a party
Hi, hi, hi! Welcome back to another jam retrospective with the DIA Game Club! This month we have an interesting addition to the monthly retros… A new member. Read on to find out more!
Following the second jam, we wanted to keep the following outcomes for our third jam:
- Effective. Would it help us be more creative and intentional?
- Sustainable. Could we consistently do this?
- Enjoyable. Is it fun to do?
- Replicable. Can this format hold up with different themes, tools, etc.?
This time around, we added a new outcome since we had a new person come on board:
- Accessible. Will newcomers feel comfortable with this format?
For this month’s jam we revisited Twine, a tool for making hyperlink-based interactive fiction games.
Alex and Justin decided to learn Twine again since the year’s new apprentice cohort officially started with DIA, meaning possibly more fresh faces! They wanted to introduce a tool that wouldn’t overwhelm newcomers and help them learn game making in a fun way.
March’s randomly generated theme word was “presentation”. The first thing most folks would think of are PowerPoint slides replacing one another in a classroom or business meeting.
How would we come up with interesting games when such a powerful association already exists?
Participants and their entries
This month we are excited to introduce the club’s latest jam participant, Elizabeth Mitchell! Joining her were the Game Club’s usual suspects, Alex Forseth and Justin Kim.
Hi! I'm Elizabeth. I am a DIA apprentice. I enjoy writing and games. I work as a UX Developer. In early 2022, Twine was recommended to me by my creative writing professor as a way to explore interactive fiction, but I only used it briefly to work on a piece of writing. I was excited to explore Twine this month as an interesting avenue for writing interactive fiction and poetry.
In my game, the player has to quickly make a presentation. The game lets the player make choices that might impact the result of the presentation. The choices are personality-based.
What went well: I was able to come up with an idea quickly and create that idea. I was also able to adjust the visual theme.
What didn’t go well: I had a goal this month to get an image added into a game. During the game jam, I was able to sketch a laptop and add the image locally into the game, but others would not be able to see it.
If I had more time: I would host the game somewhere where I could also add images. I would also fix a typo. If I wanted to build the game out more, I would edit the storyline and expand it. I would also create more illustrations for the game.
Learnings: I learned how to style Twine games with CSS and how to add images. I plan to explore writing more interactive poetry with Twine in the future.
Hey! I’m Alex, and I am an aspiring Games User Researcher. I am interested in the player experience and finding out how to make games for the people who play them. I started learning Twine in 2023. I enjoyed Twine much more than I thought I would when I first tried it. I was very excited to give it another go after the last jam.
My game had players present for a class, and tried to add stress and anxiety by having little things go wrong (i.e. you are called on first, your account password isn’t working, etc.)
What went well: I felt like I was able to create the experience I had envisioned in my head.
What didn’t go well: The game uses some DnD-style dice rolling to determine if the player succeeds or fails at their action. Troubleshooting that to make sure it was working and had the probability I wanted took some extra time and headache.
What I’d do if I had time: I would flesh it out more and make it longer. I would also try to think up more stressful situations to put the player through.
Learnings: I learned how to use the random number generator in Twine and create loops to put the player through the same situation again and again until they succeed.
Heyo, I’m Justin, founder and head of the Game Club. I’m a UX & Product Designer who loves making games on the side. I first used Twine back in the summer of 2019 and saw how powerful yet accessible it was in letting players experience interactive stories. I was very excited to return to it after getting a taste of it again in our previous jam.
For this jam my entry is Kitchen Panic, a game where you learn to cook again by figuring out cryptic recipes on the fly.
What went well: I was able to work in a brand new Twine story format pretty decently.
What didn’t go well: I became stuck while coming up with a concept and ended up spending too much time working on unnecessary features for the MVP. An example of these unnecessary features is an NPC’s reply to the player before the core game loop starts.
If I had more time: I’d have loved to fully implement the puzzle-scheme and relevant mechanics and include more puzzles and ingredients.
Learnings: Thanks to this jam I learned more about how to implement storylets in the SugarCube format; it’s certainly different than the Harlowe and Chapbook formats I’m used to. I look forward to making more games in it in the future.
We found this third jam to be:
- Accessible. Our newcomer Elizabeth was able to comfortably learn this month’s tool and make a game with us for her first jam.
That said, a caveat here is that Elizabeth already has prior development experience, which may have helped her understand Twine’s scripting language and under-the-hood HTML and CSS faster than a complete beginner.
We’ll keep an eye on this outcome in future jams with other newbies who join in.
And that’s that! Another game jam successfully completed.