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Game Jam

Webzine #2 TROUBLE
Article #5

Game Jam Games

Playing games gives us a chance to spend time in “temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart(1)”. Playing is where we can safely practise our responses to imaginary scenarios, lessons we can take back to apply in other situations. If playing allows entry to another world, then making enables us to create the world we wish to spend time in. You are not navigating rules, you are designing them. 

1) Huizinga, J. (1955). Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Boston, MA: The Beacon Press. 

This is the allure of game making, and game jams are a great place to start. A game jam is when people try to create a brand new game within a certain timeframe. Traditionally they are for video or digital games, but during the JT game festival, we held 2 separate day long game jams (Sat Oct 14 and Sun Oct 15) to make analogue games. 

We applied the principles of Joyful Trouble - facing serious issues through play - to create games that were relevant to the participants who signed up. Making a game is always context dependent - the who, what, where of the situation matter - so no game play or jam is the same. Teams and groups in game jams are not uncommon, but it’s rare to see a mega game designed by many. I asked the participants if we could collaboratively make one game together, rather than each one making their own. I thought it would be in-line with the theme of the over JT, and happily the participants were game enough.

I didn’t know what games we would make, so I prepared materials for most eventualities - colourful paper, post-it notes, thick pens, dice, flags, straws, glue, scissors, and stickers. I encourage quick and dirty attempts at making rather than concentrating on making things look nice, but sometimes props help. And free food.  

Here’s what we came up with.


You don’t think the weather would affect playing a game - but when your event is outdoors, it’s a vital element. It was pouring down that day - from early morning, so much so that the food trucks were cancelled, and although we had 8 signups, only 2 women braved the grim wet conditions. They were in their mid-twenties, knew each other and neither of them had made a game before. We started with introductions and sharing favourite games before a more serious discussion about ‘issues of concern’. Although the focus of Joyful Trouble is loss of biodiversity, I didn’t force this topic - instead letting the players bring out subjects that mattered most. 

It turned out to be about working life - about making choices between a job that provides a steady income but can be spiritually crushing or pursuing a creative career that’s mentally rewarding but financially precarious. 

I thought a board game format would suit this subject, drawing parallels with the classic ‘Game of Life’ board game, or to go back even further to race games like The Mansion of Happiness as we are on a path towards a goal. As a small group of 4 (including myself and my assistant) we started making a list of the pros and cons of each professional path. This content was then mapped out onto a grid of 5 x 5 (25 squares). We decided the entry point is in the middle, as we wanted to give the players more agency to choose to go towards a stable job or creative job. As players went about their working life, you gain or lose two types of tokens - money or mental health. These two aspects - material and intangible - rose up from the discussions, when thinking about barriers to achieving the best outcome in life. 

The two game makers wanted to explore what’s lost and gained in pursuing a career in the creative sector, and how one might achieve this. Setting up the game to be able to switch from a regular job and then back to a freelancer position was a key point of the game - which sparked interesting conversations when we play-tested it with others at the end of the day. 

The working title of the final version is 자유인 대 직장인 (Freelancer vs Feelancer)


It is a bright warm glorious day, and people are already out hiking the trails that surround Oil Tank Culture Park. Our teepee and giant games were tempting passer-byers even before we’ve officially set up. We have a larger group to make games today - 6 - 4 young adults, a mother and her 8 year old son. No one had experience in making games, although the child is still young enough for spontaneous play with rules changing mid-game. I took full advantage of the weather to suggest playground games, physical ones that include body movements and require a different set of skills to board or card games. I’m happy there is a child who can offer a different perspective and allow the adults to relive childhood memories of pure play. 

We warmed up by making up quick 5 minute games using the materials around us - and ended up with spinning colourful leaves from the air, flicking stones on a bench, and jumping over a piece of string. This helped us get into a playful mood, and then we were able to have a discussion about our ‘issue’. A round of post-it notes taking and collating raised up the topic of intergenerational cohesion, that is - how to relate to others that are not like you. 

Conversations around the frustrations of differing positions on political, social and moral issues led to actions we could take to understand and empathise with those who are not like us. It turned into a chase/tag playground game that required interdependence between different player types needed to reach safety. We thought of players being from 3 broad age groups - Child, Adult, Senior and then made a list of characteristics of each role. We had a lively discussion about the negatives and positives of each age, and gave each role instructions on how they could move. The game was continuously refined and adjusted through multiple plays, and reworked as some players tried to bend and break the ‘rules’, pushing the tension to create a challenging enough, but winnable game.

Here are the instructions for the final version. 

The players are divided into 3 roles - 1 boat captain, 1 wolf and the rest are villagers - made up of 3 age bands - Child, Adult, and Senior. The villagers are in the forest and need to get their farm. The wolf tries to eat the villagers, the villagers need to cross the river to get to safety, but the captain can only carry 2 at a time. 

The Villagers and Wolf start out scattered in the forest. The humans move during the day, the wolf at night, the captain keeps time. The villager’s movements are restricted by age - the child can move in any direction, but only jump once. The adult can step twice, but only at 90 degree angles, the senior can move 5 steps in any direction, but must walk heel to toe - limiting the ground covered. The wolf can jump in any direction once, and if they touch a single villager - they have eaten. If any of the villages meet and hold hands, the wolf can only separate them, but not eat them. If two villagers of different ages meet, but move is the one of the more vulnerable. So a Child-Adult pair will move like the Child, and the Adult-Senior pair will move as the Senior. A Child can not be left alone in the village alone, so at least 1 Adult or Senior must be in the village first before a Child. Each Villagers makes one move during the day, then sleeps in the forest while the Wolf takes one move at night. The below is a rough sketch of the playground. 

During the play-test, we used coloured flags to remember roles (Child, Adult, Senior) and made use of the large space to make it more challenging for the villagers to meet to cross the river. 

We didn’t get round to coming up with a name, most of the time was spent play testing, and refining movements, adding roles and addendums as the game was pushed, poked and prodded. I really enjoyed this playground game jam, and think there’s more room for evolution, as the person who played the Wolf said - “Do I have to eat the people? Can’t I be friends?”. And really - why not?

And that’s what I found at the game jam - new friends. 

​즐거운 곤란

Joyful Trouble

생명다양성을 위한 게임 페스티벌

즐거운 곤란(Joyful Trouble)은 2023년 한국문화예술위원회 공공예술사업 선정 프로젝트로 우리가 마주한 기후위기의 곤란함 안에서 즐겁게 함께하는 방법을 찾는 공공예술 프로젝트입니다. 도시의 생명다양성을 큰 주제를 다양한 분야의 사람들과 함께 묻고, 움직이고, 상상하며 ‘보드게임’과 ‘놀이’라는 즐거움으로 풀어냅니다. 놀이와 게임은 접근성이 높은 문화적 산물로 기후위기의 곤란함을 해결하며 더 많은 사람들과 함께 할 수 있는 고리가 됩니다.

Joyful Trouble is a Arts Council Korea funded public art project exploring how to stay with the troubles of the climate crisis through collective joy. Examining the biodiversity in the city we live in, we collaborated with people from many fields to ask, move, dream how to thrive together by playing games. Play and games are highly accessible cultural activity that creates a magic circle to interrogate collective solutions to the climate emergency with a broad range of people.

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