Have You Ever Been Experienced?

Game Jamming at Row Sham Bow, Inc.
by Ian Cummings, Creative Director

It’s been just over a year since we opened the doors here at Row Sham Bow, and to commemorate this milestone we’ve decided to start writing blogs to give you, the reader, some interesting insights into our culture of what it’s like to work here. Don’t you feel special?

With this in mind, I thought it would be cool to share with the dozens of you reading this the experience of the Row Sham Bow game jam that we put together a few weeks back. If you aren’t familiar with a game jam, the premise is rather simple…you make whatever game you want as long as it ties to a set theme and is built from scratch up to playable before the deadline. As many of us had been a part of failed quick game or prototype creation sessions in the past, we wanted to avoid many of the previous pitfalls that we had run into. So, we had some rules about the “Row Sham Jam”:

Game Jam Rules
- Row Sham Jam is about getting to your roots and doing what you love best and why you’ve joined this industry…which is being creative and making a game.
- Row Sham Jam isn’t about forcing yourself to come up with the next AAA mega-hit game. It’s about being creative and doing whatever you want.
- Row Sham Jam is like us, awesome. We are awesome. It should be awesome.
- Row Sham Jam will be judged by all of us. The winner will get a 6 pack of good beer. 2nd place will get a 6 pack of ok beer. 3rd place gets a Grape Four Loko.
- The last rule of Row Sham Jam: you don’t talk about Row Sham Jam.

Since quite a few people had participated in traditional game jams like Ludum Dare (http://www.ludumdare.com/), we wanted to try and model ours in a similar fashion in terms of time and theming. Our time range was 2 work days (and also happened to include 2 weekend days if you wanted to spend extra polish time). Our theme was “Mobile” and “Together”. Meaning it had to be thought of with mobile controls (i.e. tilt / touch / etc), and needed to include some concept of “Together”, which you could really run with in any meaning you liked.

At the end of the 4 days, the 18 employees that participated generated 19 playable games and 4 concept pitches. Each person got up and had 5 minutes to present their game, with everyone having time to play them after the meeting, and then we all voted. It was a close battle, but our winners were crowned, and our prizes were awarded! Phil Simmons, our marketing guy who has never officially made a game before, actually learned GameMaker in a day and won the whole thing! Crazy. It felt really awesome that our culture can let anyone with a great idea and a willingness to learn have an avenue to make something cool…as we all know that sort of culture can be often hard to come by in traditional game studios. Richard Wifall, our resident Technology Fellow, came in 2nd place. And Ben Burbank, an engineer, ended up in 3rd place.


To the victor go the spoils

So, what did we make?
If you made it this far I feel like we should at least show you some of the games that we made, right? Most companies are all paranoid about their intellectual property, but we’re cool and hipster and like the honey badger so we share stuff that other (read: lame) game companies do not!

Monster Arena
The 3rd place game that came from our resident indie gamemaker extraordinaire Ben Burbank’s brain was “Monster Arena”. His game was built around a super awesome and relatable concept of making monsters fight each other. In an arena. All the art, programming, and even custom music (written and recorded) was done and implemented (on multiple platforms) by Ben before time expired on the Row Sham Jam.

Lou and Huck’s Escape From Moonshine Hollar
Since I’m writing the blog I guess I have to show one of my entries. I am from Tennessee and I love making fun of rednecks, so I had this idea to have two real backwoods rednecks trying to get away from the fuzz (that’s the police for the layperson) with a sweet Moonshine Still in the back of their pickup truck, and once the Still took too much damage, they’d be so heartbroken they’d give up and turn themselves in. I’ve always loved the name Moonshine Hollar (from a song my cousin wrote), and Lou and Huck seemed like a natural fit for names of two backwoods yokels. I ‘borrowed’ all the art and music from the internet for the super quick and dirty prototype. This game was ranked 11th place after the voting. Dang. It still made me laugh.

 

In summary, working here is awesome. We made a ton of games over a short amount of time and we’re still making new ones as we speak. I hope you, loyal reader of this blog, enjoyed this heartfelt journey behind the scenes of our game jam at Row Sham Bow, and heck maybe you learned something you can tell your friends or grandma about.

And oh yeah don’t steal our super awesome game ideas. They’re ours, and I can prove it with this blog.

- Ian