Retrospective: DIA Game Jam #5

This game jam gets a little dark…

Retrospective: DIA Game Jam #5
Photo by Yaopey Yong on Unsplash

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!

Hi rhymes with five

That’s the pun!

Two stick figures high-fiving.
Hi-fives all around!

Welcome to another DIA Game Jam retrospective! May’s jam went into unexplored territory by using a tool with a harder learning curve than our previous tools. Read on to find out more!

Desired outcomes

Following the fourth jam, we wanted to keep the following outcomes for our fifth 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.?
  • Accessible. Will newcomers feel comfortable with this format?
  • Challenging. How soon can newer members start using more complex tools?

Since this month’s tool was more complex than last month’s we decided to focus on the same outcome as before to see if it’d hold up for more advanced tools:

  • Challenging. How soon can newer members start using more complex tools?
A humanoid puppet scratching his head.
We asked this question before but it still challenges us.

The tool

Our tool for this month is GB Studio, “A quick and easy to use drag and drop retro game creator for your favourite handheld video game system.”

A screenshot of an tool interface for making games.
Source: GB Studio website.

Seeing as how we seemed to do fine with PuzzleScript in April, we decided to take a step further with GB Studio, which supports higher-fidelity graphics. The biggest appeal for this tool is how it’s flexible enough to make a wider variety of games than dedicated tools but not so complex that one would get swamped like with Unity or Godot.

That said, white the drag-and-drop interface is welcoming to newcomers, its mental model heavily relies on programming concepts—Something not all of our members are familiar with. Could non-programmer members have an easy time using a tool of this caliber?


May's randomly generated theme word is “suffering”. Suffering, while simple and straightforward, is a powerful word packed with implications.

Woman holding her head in her hands and shaking her head.

That said, it’s easy to just depict needless pain and despair. But can we think about more thoughtful, nuanced, and perhaps even alternative ways of demonstrating suffering in games?


Over the course of the month’s practice sessions we noticed that some of us were having difficulty with wrapping our heads around GB Studio, so we created some constraints to help us out during the making session.

A woman thinking as mathematical symbols appear over her face.
Sometimes these tools give us a run for our money!

Jam #5’s entries:

  • Had to include only 1 scene.
  • Had to remix a scene from the Sample Project file GB Studio provides.

Participants and their entries

Presenting to you today are some familiar Game Club faces: Vanya Hsu, Alex Forseth, and Justin Kim.


Hello everyone, this is Chun-Ling “Vanya”, I am a DIA intern doing UX research and also a grad student in cognitive psychology.

GB Studio is such retro and nostalgic for me. I was very excited when I learned that we are going to try that in this Jam.

I practiced with the tutorial and example in the program. And exploring through different conditions and actor settings.

What didn’t go well: Figure out the command and script design.

If I had more time: If I had more time, I would try to understand everything we can do to the script and function and also try to make some graphic design on my own for the purpose of the game.

Learnings: As a beginner, it's super important to take advantage of all the educational resources out there to help you learn. And follow through the whole series of tutorials to get a quick start.

Feedback: To be honest, I find this tool more complex compared to our previous one in the Jam. Perhaps it's due to the genre and features of the game. I'm interested to learn more about the context and background behind creating this type of game.


Hello! My name is Alex, and I am an aspiring Games User Researcher also interested in Data Analytics. I like learning about the player experience and how to use that to make better games!

The GB Color and GB Advance were highly influential in making me fall in love with video games. Titles like Golden Sun, the Pokemon franchise, and many others still remain some of my favorite gaming experiences. A tool to make games in a similar style really appeals to me.

Right before this game jam, I listened to a podcast talk about the Black Plague. I drew on what I heard about to make this game that needed to include a “suffering” theme. My goal was to make a small town suffering from the plague that the player would walk around and experience.

A greyscale image of a pixelated person standing in a field.
A screenshot from Alex’s game.

What went well: I think I managed to create what I thought of in my head. I also felt like I started to become more comfortable with how to manipulate and add assets.

What didn’t go well: I was trying to figure out how to make an NPC randomly walk around instead of just standing there. It turned out to be more complicated than I thought and I ran out of time to figure it out. Learning the various triggers and other events is pretty intense.

Feedback: It seems like my game had the intended effect. Overall, it was positive feedback!


Hello, Justin here! I’m the founder and head of the Game Club, UX & Product Designer, and Game Maker. I enjoy exploring fun ideas that pop into my head and sharing them with the world.

As someone who grew up playing the GameBoy Color, I was very excited to try out GB Studio; it’s like a childhood dream come true.

My entry for Jam#5 is Prolongment. It’s a game about Space Dog, who wants to avoid suffering a confrontation with Space Cat, his landlord.

A pixelated dog flying in space saying that the rent is due today.
A screenshot from Justin’s game, Prolongment.

What went well: I got my concept down fast this time, which was nice. It’s hard to resist implementing a good idea I thought of beforehand sometimes, but more often than not the ideas I come up with on the fly tend to be more interesting to implement.

What didn’t go well: Execution didn't go very well, I struggled with finding the exact commands to set variables and stuff inside the UI.

If I had more time: I'd add in more content like more choices and encounters with Space Cat. Adding in a hit point system would require some thought; it could add more flavor, but I feel like it’d detract from the overall experience.

Learnings: GB Studio is harder than I thought; I definitely need more practice with it. Thankfully it’s not too complicated that I’d get overwhelmed. I think familiarizing myself more with the interface will help.


We found this fifth jam to be:

  • Challenging. Despite the tool feeling a little harder for our members, they expressed interest in using GB Studio more.
A humanoid sponge wiping his forehead and sighing.

We’re thankful that the Club continues to be a place where beginners and comfortable learn game making.

That's all, folks!

Thanks for reading about our game jam! To keep up with future jams we do, don't forget to subscribe to DIA's newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn.


Whether to set up an apprentice program or talk about a new project or consulting, contact DIA Design Guild to get started.

Email Us