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Seven days to create a game in a genre you hate: the story behind “Fuck This Jam”

Seven days to create a game in a genre you hate: the story behind “Fuck This Jam”

Making a video game is never easy, but making a game in a genre you love is certainly easier. Notch once told me that his pace slowed down dramatically when he was working on an aspect of a game that wasn’t fun. That’s why the upcoming Fuck This Jam game jam is so unusual. Many game jams have a theme, and this one is easy to grasp: You need to create a game in a genre you hate.

Outside your comfort zone

The idea was born when Rami Ismail of Vlambeer fame was sitting in a pub with a variety of indie developers, and Fernando Ramallo, the man behind the upcoming game Panoramical, half-joked about making a game he hated. They batted around the idea for a bit, before deciding it was the perfect theme for a game jam.

“As the idea started to take shape, the other people at the table become more and more involved and Deep Sea developer and musician Robin Arnott, The Stanley’s Parable developer Davey Wreden, Mirror Moon developer Pietro Righi Riva and FTL developer Justin Ma helped out with finalizing the theme, the name and the form,” Ismail told the Penny Arcade Report.  “Brandon Boyer, who was at another table, heard of the idea and hooked us up with Brett Chalupa. Brett made this thing called the Big Mess Organizer, or BMO, for short. It’s a game jam framework that allows you to easily handle all the signup and game submissions.”

It could be a very large understatement to say that’s a room that is prepared to get things done. The jam will take place from November 9 to November 17, and the weeklong duration wasn’t an accident. 

“With a short jam, you risk people not being able to attend or worse, not being able to properly explore their idea,” Ismail said. “With a long jam, you risk people feeling obliged to participate on all days and thus not signing up - and you severely increase the chance of developers wildly overestimating how much time they have.”

The seven days provided something in the middle of those two extremes.  “The reasoning behind that is that in the span of a week, everyone that participates will be able to get their ‘two days’ worth’ in. The first weekend allows people to sit down and ‘jam’ like they always would, the other days leave some time for polishing and refining things. Our goal is to find new, interesting things in already existing genres, not making two-day parodies of the genres.”

The point is to take developers out of their comfort zones, and to learn about the process of game creation by working on genres that you may have avoided in the past. It’s possible some games may be released, but Ismail said the overall goal was simply to sharpen the creativity of those participating.

What people hate

The most hated genres so far? Shooters, sports games, and social titles.

“Concerning shooters, the also Vlambeer co-organized game jam 7DFPS earlier this year had some amazing shooters created - most noticeably Wolfire’s Receiver - so I’m quite sure there are a lot of interesting things that could happen,” Ismail said. “In the social game space, it’s going to be interesting to see if someone can come up with a model or design that doesn’t damage the core gameplay in favor of monetizing or forced socializing.”

He also has been thinking about why so many developers dislike sports games. “The dislike for sports games was somewhat of a surprise to me, but thinking about it I feel the sports genre might be unpopular because making a game in that genre will usually mean recreating an existing ruleset. The whole genre has been somewhat stagnant, and that’s something most indie designers are not traditionally fond of. Which is a shame, because games like Ramiro Corbetta’s HOKRA (which won IndieCade’s audience award last week) or Vlambeers’ Jan Willem Nijmans’ side-project TENNNES show that the sports genre is full of new things that can still be explored.”

This is an interesting idea, and it has some precedent; Zach Gage made SpellTower before he understood or even liked word games. If nothing else, everyone involved may come out of the experience with a few new ideas and an expanded appreciation for their selected, hated genre. Over 1,000 developers have already signed up to participate.