Hosting A Successful Game Jam

Two years ago I hosted my first game jam. This was my first time organizing something involving so many creative individuals. Since it was just friends gathered in my then tiny apartment there really wasn’t much pressure. The event itself was more of casual riffing and hanging out. This year, I helped host the IGDA Chicago Game Jam. I was used to participating in game jams, but had never planned anything on such a large scale. This blog post will hopefully outline what I thought helped make it a success.

Had a Strong Team

No one can plan a game jam by themselves. You need a strong team to get stuff done. This event would not have been successful with the strong team of the IGDA Chicago. Some people got the pizza, other awesome team members landed top speakers. I felt lucky to the Steve Kerr, to their Michael Jordan (That’s a Chicago basketball reference). I appreciate the judges, the local industry members, our great keynote speakers, and everyone who donated their time.

Solid Theme

For the game jam, our theme was death.  The theme was perfect since the game jam fell on the weekend before Halloween. At first I thought that the theme may have been too broad. I thought that most teams would create similar concepts because of this fact. (On Saturday morning, most people jokingly said that they were adding Death Metal into their game.) It turns out that this wasn’t a problem as everyone interpreted the theme in wildly different games.


Had the People Play the Games.

As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game!” (Hello? that’s my second sports reference). Weirdly enough, most of the game jams that I attended did not encourage people to play each other’s game. Judges of the jams usually based the winners on the team presentations rather than how the games played. For this game jam, we made it a point to have the judges play the games before the teams presented. I think this helped them have a much better idea on what the teams were able to complete during the weekend. Other teams also got up, and played each other’s games. This was a much needed catharsis after a busy 2 and a half days. I think that the teams really enjoyed the camaraderie from actually playing. Seriously, ALL of the games were awesome. I really hope people continue these projects.


Planning and hosting a game jam was much different than being a participant. The experience was enjoyable for different reasons. It was awesome to look out and see the room be filled and know that I had a hand in it. I was still exhausted by the end of it, but it was nice to hang out instead of having to worry about bug hunting. At the same time, hosting a jam is a great responsibility. I wanted to make sure that everyone had a great time while maintaining the space that our gracious hosts let us use. I really want to host more jams in the future. Now that I have this experience under my belt, I’d love to host another. Until next year, fellow jammers!

Play The Games!


Thank You

Special shout out to the Nerdery for letting us use their great facility. We wouldn’t have had a such a successful event without it. Also, thank you to Eugene Jarvis who did the keynote. Kyle Bailey, Carter Dotson, and Dave Fulton for performing the difficult task of judging so many great games. Thanks to all of our industry mentors who stopped by to lend advice. Thanks to all of our sponsors for the great prizes provided as well.

VentureBeat Highlights Chicago Indies

The rising glory of Chicago’s indie scene continues to spread. In the recent VentureBeatarticle, “Who needs triple-A? These 10 next-gen indie games look amazing,” Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Young Horses) and Ray’s the Dead (Ragtag) shine for their stunning potential in the next generation of indie releases. After some quick calculations, we can safely extrapolate that Chicago thus represents ~20% of all awesomeness, so keep up the great work everyone!

Read the full article.

Toy Studio releases new word puzzler, Swqords

Chicago developer and long-time supporter of IGDA Chicago, Toy Studio, stretches our minds yet again with the release of their new word puzzle game, Sqwords. With gameplay blending the creative word generation of crosswords and the logical placement tiles in Sudoku, players must arrange letters in a square grid, ensuring that each row and column spells out a word.

Toy Studio, which helped host the first Chicago Game Jam, develops games for mobile and social platforms on iPhone, Android, and Nook. Several of their previous puzzle games, including The Curse, have found success in the last few years. Their commitment to high-quality games and their involvement with the Chicago game development community are just two reasons why Toy Studio rocks!

Learn more about the game and see the trailer on the game’s website: 
You can buy the game on the App StoreGoogle Play, and Amazon 
To play more of Toy Studio’s games, visit their website:

Chicago Indies Featured on PS4 at E3

Chicago’s on fire again, but you’ll want to stay inside for this one. We’ve seen the steady glow of success from indie developers in Chicago recently, but at E3 this year, we saw a pair of trailblazing Chicago indies highlighted in a whole new field—next generation consoles.

During their press conference at E3 earlier this month, Sony showcased a number of indie games with upcoming releases on the PlayStation 4. Out of the eight games demoed, Chicago cheered twice for their own: Young Horses and Ragtag both appeared on stage to share their respective games Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Ray’s the Dead. Both games have been Greenlit on Steam, but they will make their console debuts alongside the other previewed games on the PlayStation 4.

Sony will be releasing the PlayStation 4 at the end of the year, and with it, the ability for small developers to self-publish their titles, allowing them to maintain IP and keep a greater cut of their profits than with traditional publishers. The PS4 will also feature an improved development kit for easier development and porting to the console. As part of Sony’s push to include more indie content on the upcoming generation of consoles, these features will benefit more than indie developers. Players and larger studios can expect to see quality and innovation in indie titles, which have been largely limited to PC’s to this point. How this may change the landscape of console gaming and beyond, we can only wait and see.

To see Young Horses, Ragtag, and the other indie developers at Sony’s E3 press conference, check out this clip: Indie Games at the Sony E3 2013 Press Conference.

Hero Mages

by D20 Studios

Hero Mages is a free online game where players command a band of mighty heroes fighting to control the fate of Papillion. Equipped with traditional board game elements -a set of dice and a hand of cards representing magical spells- players must leverage skill, luck, and social politics to emerge victorious in this exciting battle of turn-based strategy that can be played from any Flash enabled web browser.

A Night Forever

A Night Forever is a short game that explores the emotion of desire by approaching games as poetry.


Word Off!

by Toy Studio

Word Off! is a competitive word game where you exchange words, claim territory on the game board and rack up points to crush your friends with your superior vocabulary skills.

Being smart and literate is awesome.

What makes Word Off! different from other word games? Love. Our scientists have found a way to compress that tricky emotion down to pressures equal to the core of a dying star. Then we crammed it, big “L” first, into this game.

While playing Word Off! you may experience revelation, rage, and reticence. Also, those emotions are worth a lot of points if you can get them down on the board.

You Don’t Know Jack

by Jellyvision Games

YOU DON’T KNOW JACK, the original quiz show party game, is back and trivia-y-er than ever! You’re the contestant in a truly interactive game show experience, complete with cash, prizes, backstage characters, pounding music, bizarre sound effects and your lovable but verbally sassy host, Cookie Masterson. Play at home or online – alone or with friends – as you battle through a trivia mind-field on your way to victory, defeat or, more likely, soiled pants.

We decided to re-imagine a new-and-improved YOU DON’T KNOW JACK for the 21st century. All of your favorite elements are still there: the twisted multiple-choice questions, musical question intros, the DisOrDat™, Screw Your Neighbor™ and the Jack Attack™, plus all kinds of new face-melting features and surprises – including online play! And of course, tons of all-new twisted trivia questions covering everything from Dr. Phil to Dr. Pepper, from Miley Cyrus to the Mile High Club. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s funky, and it kills more than 99.9% of known fungi. YOU DON’T KNOW JACK!

Reign of Thunder

by Day 1

Reign of Thunder™ is a free-to-play fast paced multi-player action oriented Mech combat game currently slated for the PC. The game features deep customization options allowing players to create and customize Mechs to match their play style, choosing from thousands of weapon, shield, and gadget combinations. Players can also join factions and form clans to support community engagement and team play.

Go Gimbal Go

by Gimbal Lock Studios

Go Gimbal Go is a challenging 2D platformer starring Gimbal, a hero from the stars out to save children enslaved from the evil robot King Commandroid. Using Gimbal’s turbo speeds and stretching Grabber arm abilities, he races across rainbow lines, dodging enemies and obstacles to reach the end before time runs out. It won’t be easy, though–King Commandroid has sent his nefarious crew to stop Gimbal at all costs.

Featuring high-speed gameplay, physic bending jumps, and countless secret paths, Gimbal races through 24 levels all designed for difficulty and replayability. Discover hidden presents to unveil collectible outfits and post fast times to win medals. The children of Rainbow Island need your rescuing, and Gimbal is ready to go!!


by Chicago Shipyard

Proppas are a mysterious creature living in a peaceful land. But deadly snakes are invading. Save Proppas from the snakes! Tap and rub Proppas to propel them and keep them safe. Don’t let the snakes get the eggs. Watch out for the ground with invisible holes, and the sky with invisible ceiling.

Unstoppable Fist

by Ragtag Studio

Unstoppable Fist, THE action game of 2012 has arrived! Play as Fist, a hero called from beyond the stars who has come to Earth to answer our desperate cry for help. Survive as long as you can against never ending waves of evil monsters.

Deliver powerful blows with your Loafers of Light and Unstoppable Fists to defeat your enemies. Tap at one of six onscreen touch zones to deliver your attacks to HI, MID, and LOW levels. Beware, each enemy type has a different attack that will test even the most skilled player!

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

by Robomodo

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a downloadable title for Xbox LIVE Arcade that takes the best elements of the classic THPS games and gives them a fresh update to create an all new skateboarding experience. Tapping into fans’ muscle memories, the gameplay returns to controllers and focuses on the satisfaction of linking sick tricks for maximum points. Combining sharp visuals with the best controls ever in a Tony Hawk game, the feel is cutting edge yet timeless. The game was rebuilt and polished by Robomodo using Neversoft’s original code and includes the best seven levels from THPS and THPS2 (Warehouse, School 2, Mall, Phoenix, Hangar, Marseilles and Venice). There is a combination of new school and old school pros (Nyjah Huston, Chris Cole, Eric Koston, Andrew Reynolds, Rodney Mullen, Lyn-z Adams Hawkins Pastrana, Riley Hawk and Tony Hawk himself) and the soundtrack is half classic THPS tracks and fresh ones. Multiple online multiplayer modes round out the action!