Posted by jekagames on Jan 18, 2023

Jess here!

This January marks my TENTH YEAR making games. For this week's Soft Chaos post, I thought I'd do a little bit of reflecting on that anniversary and on a special project that is making my marking ten years of making games especially meaningful.

So, when I started to make games in 2013, I was actually already doing a bit of the autoethnography work that would later mark my doctoral research. Working as a student journalist for a university games lab (TAG), I had decided to do a series of posts about my experience following along with the Pixelles Montreal Incubator, which was being run for the first time. It was a six-week-long program for people who had never made a game before and the goal was to make a small, complete game. 

At the same time that I was doing the first week of the incubator, the lab director suggested that I cover Global Game Jam. I intended to go there as a fly on the wall, but when all was said and done, I had joined a team and made my first game before finishing the first game that I had started as part of the incubator.

From there, I was lucky enough to live in a city where there was always (at the time), a next opportunity to make games. I took one of my most formative game design classes with Pippin Barr, took part in the Critical Hit games incubator, and then kept doing more game jams. 

Somehow, three years later, I had already had a successful (by my standards) alt-controller game that I had made with Allison Cole and Zara Smith that toured at E3, IndieCade and various other events, and had started an interdisciplinary doctorate with a focus on game making that allowed me to make whatever games I wanted. Five years after that, I founded a worker cooperative with Allison and Squinky while completing that doctorate.

I've spent a lot of the past decade trying to share meaningful experiences with people, as a designer, writer, maker, facilitator, incubator co-director, game event organizer, teacher, playtester, game master and player. I've also spent a lot of time trying to capture what those experiences were like for me and others so that I could communicate them to others. 

Since I started making games, I've completed (with various definitions of "complete" 😀) over forty-five projects of different scales and contributed to a fair few others, some of them over the course of a weekend, and some of them in development for years, going through many iterations. 

I'm using numbers to try and quantify what it all adds up to here because there are hundreds of stories that I could be telling you about what it's like to watch someone play something that you've made, or how many times a game's title has come out of quiet, tired giggling at Global Game Jam, or what it's like to have one of your own games make you cry. 

Frankly, I'm just incredibly moved and humbled that I get to keep making games that mean something to me, with the hope that they mean something to other people, too. I love making awkward, intimate, vulnerable projects. 


So, how does this fit in with one of Soft Chaos's current projects and why is this project in particular so special to me?

Well, Pixelles Montreal turns ten years old this month, too, and we're helping to create an interactive data visualization game to help people navigate ten years of stories and information that show what kind of ripple effect an organization like theirs can have, both locally and internationally! 

So, there really is a sense of coming full circle. The first game that I started was for the Pixelles Incubator Follow-Along project, and now I get to help them make an awesome project that represents what they and the community have accomplished together. It feels like the perfect project to be working on during my game-making anniversary.

I won't say much more until things are a little further along, but I will share some mood boards and touchstones.

A word-cloud featuring words clustered around four main categories: ocean, organic, night sky, and microscopic.

A moodboard of various visual references including ripples in water, constellations, and microscopic creatures

An image showing game inspirations such as fl0w, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, Conway's Game of Life, Everything (the game), and more.

A slide featuring the Wiki Game and Nicky Case's Explorable Explanations

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