Public Domain Jam: What Public Domain Work Would You Want To See Turned Into a Video Game?

Public Domain Jam encourages developers to turn old public domain work into new public domain games.

Public Domain Jam encourages developers to turn old public domain work into new public domain games.

The future is a remix of the past.

Many creations build upon the old & familiar to make them new & unique. Games especially. That’s why we need to have a stronger public domain, a stronger creative commons, for the artists of tomorrow to learn from the artists of yesterday.

– Nicky Case, Public Domain Jam

For a one week time period (May 17th – 24th), game developers have been invited to participate in the Public Domain Game Jam and create games based on any form of public domain work. Pick a character, choose a tale, tell a story. Anything in the public domain is fair game. Anyone can tell whatever story they want to in whatever style they want to. Expect to see a lot of stories and genres smashing into each other head-first in this cultural crucible.

War of the Worlds as a stealth game? Hells yes.

The Odyssey as a role-playing game? Scylla is charging an attack.

Huck Finn as an arcade fighting game? Dibs on Tom Sawyer.

Hell, the jam website even suggests a Les Miserables bullet-hell shoot-em-up game. I think we would all love to play that.

Tired of the same-old zombie games?

About a month ago, Australian game developer Gritfish got fed up with all the zombie and Cthulhu games in the indie scene and announced the Public Domain Jam. There are so many great characters and stories in the public domain, but only a handful are regularly used by game developers. Hopefully, this jam will get devs to think outside the box.

On the Public Domain Jam website, Gritfish explains his frustration: “a lot of people who make games aren’t aware of just how many good stories they’re carrying around with them.”

Now, making games with public domain works is all fine and dandy, but what if the games made were also public domain? If a developer submits a game using a Creative Commons Zero (CC Zero) waiver, they can also submit their source code and assets to be used and remixed. Nicky Case, sponsor of the jam (and creator of the video at the top of this article), has donated an impressive $1000 prize to be awarded for the highest-rated CC Zero game.

The jam is open to anyone and everyone who can make a game and submissions will be rated based on the following categories:

  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Fun
  • Polish
  • Staying true to the source material
  • Most innovative use of the source material
  • Use of the bonus theme: Paper

The games will be submitted via the jam page and anyone is free to submit. There are a few rules, however, so make sure to check them out before making a game. The jam ends and judging begins on May 24th. Judging will end on June 7th. Find out more on the website.

If you could make a game out of any public domain work, what would you pick? Let us know in the comments.

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