by Nicole Pacampara
While November may bring colder and darker days, there’s always one bright spot in the calendar: TAG’s GAMERella Game Jam. Now in its 3rd year, GAMERella has become one of the friendliest game jams especially for first-time jammers — with each year introducing an ever-increasing amount of underrepresented people and first time game makers to our game making community. This year’s theme was “taking space/making space” and during GAMERella weekend, everyone certainly did (including Guybrush, the kitten who stole everyone’s hearts and became the jam’s official mascot).
As in previous editions of GAMERella, the weeks leading up to the jam featured a series of game making workshops to help new and old jammers alike — including workshops on alternative controllers (Ana Tavera Mendoza), Twine (by Pixelles and Kara Stone), sound design (Jessica Rose Marcotte), Stencyl (Rebecca Cohen-Palacios) and pixel art (Carolyn Jong). These workshops undoubtedly helped build up the excitement for the jam as we saw many attendees popping up on the jam weekend itself.
The jam officially kicked off with an inspiring keynote talk by Brie Code and Aleissia Laidacker talking about the importance of having diverse game makers.
“It’s the people who don’t fit in the game industry that CAN make games for those who don’t usually play games…and that’s A LOT of people.” — Brie Code
This year, GAMERella had an impressive turnout with 73% of jammers identifying as non-male including 13% identifying as neither male nor female (either a-gender, genderqueer, or “other”). As well, we had a sister location in Hungary where we had a lot of young jammers also busy taking/making space through games all weekend long.
The event was also live-streamed on Twitch letting anyone (including jammers who went home on Saturday night) peak into the game making escapades of those who stayed overnight — including 2AM “eureka” moments, blanket fort coffee and cookie breaks, TAG’s never-ending supply of chocolates and candies as well as the wonderful sunrise jammers got to see on Sunday morning.
The theme inspired a wide range of games including games about growing plants, territorial cats (playable on MRGS’ Arcade Royale!), a collaborative dancing game and an atmospheric game about walking alone at night among others. All in all, the jam had 16 game entries with 15 games submitted on the jam’s itch.io page. You can play all these games here.
One of my GAMERella teammates, a first-time jammer, confessed to me that she “always felt left out going into game-related events” or “too intimidated to go to game jams because everyone knew each other”. GAMERella though felt more inclusive and friendly — especially with seasoned jammers and game making veterans readily adopting first-time jammers as well as the ever awesome brigade of mentors who helped in a pinch.
At the end of GAMERella, although some teams (including ours) didn’t completely finish their games, I think my teammate summed up what a lot of us felt that weekend: “That was so much fun, I want to do it again!”