Two-day long BitSummit Game Jam 2019 was held at RIHN on May 11th and 12th in collaboration with Skelton Crew Studio Co., Ltd, a game development company based in Kyoto. “Game Jam” is an event where participants are grouped into different teams on the spot to develop a game within a limited timeframe. About 50 students who are currently studying game creation in and around Kyoto joined this event, and spent 17hrs plus (some stayed up overnight) making a total of eight digital games with the theme of “konzen ittai (to form a complete whole)”. This was the second game jam event held at RIHN, but the first to develop “digital” games (the last one was Serious Board Game Jam 2018).
BitSummit is the biggest indie game festival in Japan, which takes place every year in Kyoto. The 7th BitSummit this year was held at Miyako Messe on June 1st and 2nd. BitSummit sets out to introduce the Japanese indie games to the outside world, and also to create an opportunity to expose young creators to various values through games. This game jam was organized as part of this effort.
◎Hidden genda of BitSummit Game Jam
It was one of rare opportunities that many non-researchers gathered at RIHN and thereby we took advantage of it to conduct a survey: What kind of system or flow shall we design for non-researchers to utilize RIHN’s research outputs? The answer to this question should be able to improve accessibility of FEAST project’s research outputs. That was another agenda of this game jam and for that, one more task was added in the production process: “Make use of RIHN!”. Here is the instruction:
1.Each team was randomly assigned with a photo*.
*Cover photos of RIHN’s Newsletter “Humanity & Nature” that were taken in various research fields by RIHN’s research project members.
2.They were required to incorporate the assigned photo in the game or its instruction manual*.
*They were not allowed to modify the photo, but allowed to request for a different photo once.
3.The photo can be used as a source of inspiration or a spice.
4.If they had a question regarding the photo, Ota (FEAST Project) or Kumazawa (RIHN Institutional Research Unit) were there to answer.*
* They could also use “handsup!”, an online app in which people can upload a question anonymously.
I had both anticipation and worry about how the participants would respond to this request and how we, researchers, could contribute to the process.
◎Schedule of BitSummit Game Jam
= Day One =
Presenting the plans and breaking into teams
The event started with opening remarks by Mr. Takeshi Ishikawa from Skelton Crew Studio and some administrative communication. Prior to the event, about ten students volunteered to make game creation plans and some of them even prepared impressive presentation slides. After the presentations, the rest of the participants decided which plan (team) they wanted to join. Each participant had a different expertise such as programming, visual production, sound design and so on, so it seemed like a tough work to form well-balanced teams.
Announcement of a surprise task
After grouping the participants into teams, I announced the aforementioned task “Make use of RIHN!”, which was without any prior notification. Prof. Kazutoshi Iida of Ritsumeikan University and Prof. Yukihiro Tsujita of Kyoto Seika University, mentors for this event, explained how they could go about it showing some examples.
If you are interested, you can download the newsletters that we used the cover photos for this task from this link for free (in Japanese only).
Starting the production
Now it is time to start production. Each team had a different approach and methodology: one team was using the KJ method or affinity diagram to reinforce the original plan, or arranging role-sharing with a time table while other team was sketching out the ideas on a board or diligently focusing on setting up equipment. Prof. Kumazawa and I also set up a Q&A desk so that anyone could drop by when in need.
How they incorporated the photos into games also ranged from reflecting the photo object on character design to using it as one of the images in the storyline. Professors and lectures from each participating schools were answering questions that popped up from the students.
It was so hot that day that the cicadas mistook it was already their time and started to buzz, but the temperature dropped down at night. Some took shower, exercised or took nap while others continued working on the games till midnight.
= Day Two =
Sun rose again and the second started. Mr. Shinichi Wada of RIHN PR Section uploaded a twitter post about this event.
5月11日、12日の二日間、 #地球研 にてBitSummit Game Jamを株式会社Skeleton Crew Studioと連携して開催中！市内の大学生50名ほどが、チームに分かれて時間内にゲームを作っています。成果は日本最大級のインディーゲームの祭典BitSummitで公開！夜遅くまで作業を続けた人も。https://t.co/82hmbWdVpP pic.twitter.com/8ZqSDvs4bP
— 総合地球環境学研究所（地球研） (@CHIKYUKEN) 2019年5月12日
Presenting the games and try-out
The production process was finally complete in the early evening! And each team presented their final products using the screen at the dining hall. Although they were given the limited timeframe and even a surprise task to incorporate the photo image, all the games that came out of this event were of variety and high quality. After giving all the teams feedbacks, it is time to try out these games while eating pizzas and salads. The details of the games were also exhibited at BitSummit.
◎Looking back BitSummit Game Jam
After trying out the games, we requested the participants to fill in the survey with regard to how we could incorporate the photos into game production. The thing is, unfortunately, only one participant used the Q&A desk that we set up during the production process. However, while they were trying out the finalized games, many asked such questions as “what is the story behind the photo?”.
From the survey results, it turned out that the participants were extracting the story from the photo using their imagination, rather than trying to get to know their actual background story, which was then incorporated into the games. That is, the creators imagined, for example, where these two girls in the photo were walking to and incorporated the idea out of their imagination into the game rather than the facts about where it was taken and how the society was like.
Based on this finding, we might be able to propose different approaches for non-researchers to better utilize the project research outputs. For example, we can divide the production process into two parts- “lectures about the research outputs and planning/designing” and “focusing on creating exciting games”-, or exhibit the research outputs together with the relevant films, novels and games regardless of fiction or non-fiction. We would like to optimize these findings at the next Serious Board Game Jam 2019 to be organized at RIHN on Sep 28th and 29th (The details to be announced, so stay tuned!).
Last but certainly not least, we would like to thank everyone who joined the BitSummit Game Jam!
(Translated by Yuko K.)