Train Jam Post Mortem
This past weekend I had the great honor of participating in the inaugural Train Jam. An event started by Adriel Wallick, this year it consisted of 58 or so game developers, two film crews, and two journalists, all traveling 52 hours by train from Chicago to Emeryville, California and en route making some incredible games. Developers from Canada, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and US all came together for one of the most innovative game jams I've ever heard of.
How I, and my fellow Kentucky developer Matt Hudgins, came to be a part of such an illustrious group is unknown. A strange confluence of events found me discovering a last minute tweet from Adriel to the effect of "3 tickets left." Matt and I weren't going to GDC. As hyper-indies, small time from a state that while possessing fantastic developers goes largely unnoticed on the tech scene, we were excited at the possibility of a new environment to create games in, and the chance to work with developers we otherwise would not.
So we signed up. Drove the six hours from Lexington, KY to Chicago so that we could start the 52 hour train ride. There were some fantastic and talented developers who had also signed up, including Vlambeer's Rami Ismail, Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn, as well as developers who worked on such titles at Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.
We picked up our theme at a deli in the Chicago terminal. "Disconnected," a good theme since most of us would be disconnected from cell service, wifi, and our jobs for most of the trip. I had the great pleasure of working with a small team of diverse developers: Alicia Avril, Eric Chon, and Andrew Gleeson to help make a game using the VR tool Oculus Rift. I also worked with another team, including the people listed before as well as Eric Robinson, a existential fishing game called "Waiting for Ganandot." With little time for distraction, this jam was by far one of the most chill and friendly experiences I've ever had.
Living and working in such close quarters creates a completely different kind of jam experience. You know how they smell (since most of us did not have access to showers for the entire 52 hours, yes) but you also get a chance to talk about other things, to get excited about small California towns like Truckee, and to play with large train whistles. The entire experience was defined by the friendly and collaborative environment created by Adriel and by the rest of the developers. Even though I had one of the lowest skill levels in the group, I felt like I could contribute.
When the train finally arrived in Emeryville, I began to wish for a year to pass by just a little faster. If possible, I'd love to experience the Train Jam again, and to work with my fellow developers as we head across the country.