At the start of the semester, I did something I had never done before. I wrote my first computer game, and submitted it to my first virtual game jam. A game jam is a gathering of game developers working on games collaboratively or competitively — they are often held as all-night sessions in person, but they can also run for a longer period of time online, often a few weeks. I was because I have several friends who are game designers or otherwise active in the gaming industry, and for weeks, I had been hearing about a social media explosion called “gamergate.” Essentially, there has been a growing trend in video game culture for audiences to demand better representation of their own diversity and humanity in the games they play. A vocal and violent portion of the demographic that has stereotypically been thought of as the video game audience (white teenage boys and adult men who act like teenagers) object to these efforts. According to them, women, queer people, trans people, people of color, people who are interested in experimental game ideas, and more are “ruining” video games. A friend of mine decided to respond by running a jam called “Ruin Jam” dedicated to “celebrating the nonexistent demise of video games” — responding to the hatred with irreverence and creativity.

A whopping eighty-two games were created and submitted for Ruin Jam! I am very happy for my friend Caelyn, who ran it — it was the first jam she has run and promoted herself — and for those of us who participated, who included neophytes like me and experienced game designers. My game is just a preview of a full-length game I hope to write some day, but I’m pleased with it. I drew from a topic I explored in a paper for Material Culture class last semester, using personal objects to mitigate or sit with the fear of being forgotten. The excerpt of my game deals with a young family commissioning a set of lockets. You can play it here.

So, what’s this doing in my Wider World column, where I write about ways we as museum students can look at museums from diverse viewpoints?

There are several reasons I’m writing about this experience here:

– Games in museums are hot right now! I probably don’t have to tell you that, between the online Gaming in Education conference last week and today’s Lunch with NEMA about mobile games.

– I want to tell you about the game writing tool I used, because you may want to use it yourself! Twine is an open-source tool for writing text-based games, and you don’t need any coding knowledge to get started. You’re not going to create a blockbuster museum app on Twine, but you might create a simple choose-your-own-adventure story for your museum’s website or blog.

– The experience of the game jam was excellent. Some museums are already tapping into creative subcultures, whether it’s by hosting art nights or maker fairs. As inclusive as these events are intended to be, they are often only going to get to small niches of people… after participating in a loosely organized creative event like this one, I’m inclined to believe that’s an argument to have more creative subculture events (online, in museums, wherever!), not fewer. We need diversity and flexibility in order to reach people. I will probably develop my thoughts on creative subculture events at museums in another post, but hopefully, this post has gotten you thinking a little about the topic as well.