Hiya, Internet! I’m Holden, the organizer of Molyjam Los Angeles. I posted a bit ago on the blog to talk about an awesome event we had with GameDevDrinkUp, but I’ve neglected to share much about my perspective on the event. So let me take care of that.
Towards the middle of March, I found out via a buddy on Facebook that there was going to be a game jam based on @PeterMolydeux tweets in San Francisco at the end of the month. I had traveled up there for the Global Game Jam in January and started planning a trip to go back. But just for the hell of it, I decided to see if any of my friends in LA were interested in doing it here. I put up a Facebook event and left for a family wedding in Florida the next day.
I woke up the next morning with a message from Anna Kipnis asking if she could make my event the “official” LA one. Sure, why not? I figured I might get a dozen or so people interested and it’ll be a fun time. A few hours later we were at 20 confirmed attendees and I started to worry a bit. I kept checking the Facebook page throughout the day and saw how quickly the newly-dubbed “Molyjam” was speading. It soon became clear the jam had outgrown my living room, so in between rehearsal dinners and photography sessions, I started calling up hotels, universities, and conference centers around LA to see if I could find a space available to rent. The jam was only two weeks away.
At some point I realized that renting a space for about 70 people to work in Los Angeles is expensive, so I started talking to Mark Tsai, my boss and president over at Magic Pixel Games, about hopping onboard as a sponsor. I flew home a few days later and he greeted me with a budget for the venue, snacks, t-shirts, and more. Suddenly we had resources to put on an awesome jam.
We found a great place to have the jam in NextSpace, and booked it a whole seven days before the event. We got t-shirts ordered based on a design provided by the awesome community of organizers, and got a couple huge banners too. Then we ordered an absurdly large dump of snacks and drinks from Costco. Before I knew it, the day of the jam was upon us. I thought about getting some equipment to do a livestream at the last minute and Magic Pixel let me borrow our videoconferencing equipment for the weekend.
Once everything was finally set up, I began to wonder whether or not anyone would actually show up. I quit worrying once we hit 40 people by 8PM. Most of our attendees were industry professionals, ranging from big-name developers like Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica to smaller, indie studios like Giant Sparrow and Blendo Games. Teams quickly formed and met up again a couple hours later to share their ideas with all the attendees, where some teams reshuffled yet again. Everyone worked into the early morning – our space was open the entire 48 hours – and some jammers even stayed overnight.
I started fading around 2 AM and was only kept awake by the awesome livestream audience who stayed with us throughout the jam. Nikasaur of League of Legends fame ended up helping me a ton with managing the livestream – we answered questions about getting into the games industry, took polls on what alcoholic beverages I should consume next, and generally just had a lot of fun. At some point the audience became obsessed with a cardboard box that was in the camera’s view, and decided it was their new all-powerful deity and produced fan art. Around 4 AM, we did a live playthrough of Sealed Fate, the first game submitted on the jam website, which you can watch here.
Andrea Benavides, a student in USC’s Interactive Media program, stepped up to help run the jam over Saturday night so I could get some real sleep. We did some walkthroughs of the jam area to give the livestream audience a sneak peek at the games in progress, and in some cases teams were even able to outsource work to the viewers. One memorable contribution was when a viewer sent in a dozen sound clips of himself screaming for Andrea’s survival horror bowling game.
Sunday night arrived quickly, and the final presentations were a blast. We had a camera crew show up from NowLoading TV, who interviewed a bunch of teams for their UStream show. G4TV.com was there to watch the games and mix with the LA indie scene. A bunch of local developers and hobbyists showed up to see the results of everyone’s work, and our venue hit standing room only before we knew it. In addition to playing the actual games, you can watch a recording of the livestream here.
We ended up with 17 games ranging from iPad to Arduino to a custom-built deck of cards. Many of the participants are still in touch and we see each other monthly at the LA GameDevDrinkUp. Magic Pixel had so much fun at the jam that I get to help organize stuff like this as part of my full time job now too. There’s not a whole lot I would have done differently, apart from having more time to plan – I ended up ordering way too many snacks and drinks as evidenced by the stacks of soda still by my desk two months later – but overall it was yet another example of why I love this industry. We’re spontaneous, we’re dedicated, and in the end, we just want to make sure that everyone knows not to mess with our Box – Praise be Unto It.