Friday, June 22, 2007

Game Friday: Where are the Museum Jams?

Last month, the second annual TOJam (Toronto Indie Game Development Jam) was held. Over three days, 60 programmers/artists/composers/pranksters worked all hours to create finished computer-based games from scratch. The results range from funny to surprising to genuinely bizarre (Space Goat?). The organizers explain their event as follows:
It's NOT a competition, or a conference, or a learning seminar. It's about taking what you already know, combining it with your keen focus and ability to program for HOURS, and ending up with a finished project. No more half-architected, partially-coded snippets of games that you've rewritten 4 times. This is the real deal, people... bring it all to the table, and walk away with something done!

There's a healthy community of gamers, courses, and events focused specifically on this concept: to put out a finished game in a very limited amount of time. These people realize that sometimes putting creativity on a rapid cycle means you don't have time to get stale, don't have time to get bogged down in what ifs, don't even have time for your wild and wonderful idea to get filtered into something dull and "sellable."

Maybe it has something to do with a propensity to pull all-nighters. Maybe it belies a paucity of family commitments. Or maybe it's just because game developers actually think of their work as fun. Whatever it is, museum program and exhibit designers, take note: I want a museum jam.

There are some museums doing projects like this; Ontario Science Centre's RIG (rapid idea generation) sessions, in which they develop and put on the floor exhibits/programs in about 4 hours, are a great example. But no matter how many times your supervisor says, "No idea is a dumb idea," there are some people for whom your own institution may not be the safest--or most appropriate--place for the biggest gorillas in your imagination. Plus, many museums are not set up resource-wise for this kind of invention; Ontario Science Centre has the luxury of some space and a large exhibits shop to support their innovation operations.

So why not hold a Jam, get a bunch of people from different institutions together, create some wild exhibits and programs, and then make the finished product available to small museums and centers that are often looking for small, cheap, flexible offerings? Or find a space to hold a public show of the products, a sort of museum carnival? It could happen as precursor to a conference, or locally, as in the Toronto model, to bring together creatives and promote innovation at area museums. There are so many of us who spend years to put out a finished product--why not spend a week on a different cycle?

Maybe I'm too excited about this. Please, give me some good reasons I shouldn't start looking for sponsors...

3 comments, add yours!:

POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) said...

Hi Nina,

BIG, The British Interactive Group, runs regular Fabricators' Weeks, where a small group of fabricators from around the world come together on a Monday with access to tools and a workshop full of supplies to bash out as many prototypes as they can before an "open to the public" showing on Friday. Usually the host institution gets to set the week's "theme" and keep the prototypes.

It's sort of like an adult Science Fair (with pubs and pints in the mix.) Both times I've been over have been great fun!

Chris Burda, from the Science Museum of Minnesota has run "Exhibit Graffitti" workshops at ASTC along the same lines. The one during a recent ASTC conference in Minnesota ( in f**king freezing November!) involved making interactive outdoor interpretive exhibits. Tested with those hearty Minnesotans outside, of course.

More making, less meetings!

Anonymous said...

Where I would really like to see this concept applied would be for some small history museum. The small to mid-size venues are begging for innovation: artists know how to do this for art museums, and science museums have enough of the garage syndrome to buy into the idea...

Maybe the history museums need a StoryJam....

Mia Ridge said...

It's funny you should say that, we just had a museum jam in the UK.

See or Mike Ellis' blog at for more.