I recently volunteered as a judge for the JourneyDevSwap game jam at UKIE HQ in central London. The idea of the jam is to build a little empathy by having developers and journalists swap roles for the length of the game jam.
From the onset I really liked the basic idea of this game jam, as I think this is a great opportunity to learn how the “other side” works and thinks, critic vs creator. Of course, even though we are all friends and can easily share a pint, there is, and should be, a natural tension between the two parties—journalists on one side and developers on the other. However, it is still helpful for both sides to learn more about how the other side operates, as it can clear up misunderstandings, preconceptions, and so forth.
Additionally, this year, the theme touched me unexpectedly in a personal way, as Will Freeman and UKIE had teamed up with Alzheimer’s Research UK. I lost my mum to dementia, so this was really a theme I can relate to.
I am not normally a big believer in games with a serious theme, no matter if it is for political, educational or other purposes, as it is rarely done very well. In my opinion, most game developers fail at combining informative or educational content, with captivating game play. Of course, there exceptions, such as Paper’s Please by Lucas Pope. Paper’s Please is one still one of my favourite games. Lost for Words, which was the winning game at the JournoDevSwap, got my vote for the same reason. Alysia and Saul had scoped their work really well, and it was quite an evocative game to play.
Journalists as Game Developers
Each journalist got teamed up with a game design student. On most teams, the student would be the one who had some familiarity with the tools and processes, and could pass that knowledge on to the journalist. Also, often the student knew enough programming to get by, even if their speciality was game design or art.
Luckily most of the other judges agreed with my first pick, and Lost for Words won the game jam. Wake Up was a close runner up. I also personally think Memories need a special mention. On the surface, the game a beautiful but basic memory game. However, what worked so well, was the voice over commenting on the pictures. The pictures the player turned over were supposed to be familiar to the voice, but clearly weren’t. That was quite touching.
Devs as Journalists
The other and smallest part of the game jam, but no less interesting, was game developers who had to act as journalists. To that end, they had to take on the role as journalists reporting from the event. Their work was published on GamesIndustry.biz.