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Spotlight on… Kirsty and Steven from Rainbow Game Jam

Now in its 4th year, Rainbow Game Jam is taking place from August 23rd to September 8th 2019. The Jam encourages participants to create games exploring and celebrating identity, gender and sexuality.

To learn more about the Rainbow Game Jam, I met the organisers Steven Taarland and Kirsty Fraser to find out more about the Jam, its history and how people can take part.

Hi both, let’s start off with you introducing yourselves to our readers

Steven: Hi I’m Steven, Games Producer and developer. I currently work at Abstraction in The Netherlands, having worked on some cool projects such as 428: Shibuya Scrambled, Ark: Survival Evolved, and PixARK. I’ve also had the opportunity to be part of the IGDA Next Gen Leaders Program, the GDC Amplifying New Voices Program, spoke at various events across the UK and Europe, and somehow co-organised a game jam in between! 

Kirsty: Hi I’m Kirsty Fraser, I work full time at VooFoo Studios in Birmingham as a general programmer. I have been working there for almost three years since graduating from Abertay University. I help run a local game dev meetup called Birmingham Indies as well as helping Steven run Rainbow Game Jam as well. In my spare time I’m normally found glued to the F1 in some form – either playing games or watching the races. 

We’re also excited to announce that Hannah Rose is joining our team for this year’s Rainbow Jam. Hannah’s a Swiss-born, Warwick-educated, Oxford-based developer and game designer who’s made over 150 games of various sizes, and a multi-talented veteran of many jams. She currently works at Weather Factory, writing code and building UI for Book of Hours.

Hannah Rose
Rainbow Game Jam is coming into its fourth year, how did it all start? 

It started off when Steven came back from a trip to GDC and wanted to build a community for queer Scottish developers and it started off as a social group where we would meet in the pubs and swap between Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In the summer of 2016, we ran the first game jam, initially for the community, but as more people became interested and various companies wanted to get involved it quickly grew to have an international focus.

itch.io, a website where people can post their own games and host game jams through, was an ideal platform for us to run this and again opened the Jam up to a larger community. 

What’s the overall aim of the Rainbow Game Jam? 

The aim of Rainbow Game Jam has evolved each year, but at it’s core Rainbow Game Jam is a celebration of queer game developers, their art, their stories, their experiences and the games that they’re making.

A lot of the entries that we’ve seen over the past three years has developers injecting their own stories on to them – something you don’t see too much of in mainstream games currently – and we want to provide them with the platform to be proud of those stories that they’re sharing with the world. There are not enough queer developers in the industry, or enough games that even remotely touch on queer themes.

Ultimately, we want to allow queer developers to be proud of who they are and feel safe within our community, all while making amazing games in two weeks. 

What’s the structure of the two weeks, how does it all work? 

Rainbow Game Jam, just like other game jams, is split into several stages: starting announcement with the theme, the Game Jam itself, community judging, and seeing the results. 

We start off with announcing the theme and diversifiers at the start. Game Jam themes setup participants with a general direction for the game they wish to create. This could be mechanical, artistic or narrative in nature, but it sets a foundation in which people can start their idea. For us, we always push towards LGBTQ+ centric themes. In previous years the themes explored have been “A Safe Space”, “Spectrum” and “Identity”, and we have some interesting ideas for this year.

We also offer participants additional “technical” constraints through Diversifiers. These give those making games purely optional limitations or themes to incorporate into their games. In the past we have had diversifiers centred around accessibility and having one button as the input, creating your game sounds from just your voice and sticking to only a pride flag as your colour scheme. They sound silly, but constraints can often spark creative and experimental games, and really challenge those who have perhaps taken part several game jams before. 

Over the course of the two week Jam we encourage people to be active on sharing their progress on Twitter using the hashtag. You can check out #RainbowJam18 for last year’s work! Our Discord is also always buzzing with artwork, gifs of bugs and helpful advice to those who need it. Kirsty really enjoys checking out the screenshots channel in the morning as we have a global community, our American participants are usually posting stuff while we in the UK are asleep so it’s nice to have that constant support for the game jammers. 

At the end of the two weeks, participants will submit their games on itch.io and once the Game Jam has finished, we encourage them to play and rate other people’s games. Some people have demo’ed their games created in the game jam at local conventions, and larger events such as GaymerX, which is amazing for us to see!

Colourful David
How easy is it for people to take part? 

Very easy! All you need is a laptop or PC and a game making software of your choice! You don’t even need to make a digital game, we have had a few submissions that are card games and are open to board games, physical games or alt-controller games or experiences. The Rainbow Game Jam community is incredibly supportive, and we host a group chat for those who want to team up with people via Discord and itch.io

For those who have never done a game jam, or touched game development in their life for that matter, we have specific channels on Discord to ask for help when you get stuck on things. We want everyone to have fun and learn something along the way. 

One of the fundamental pillars of Rainbow Game Jam is to be accessible and open, which is why we always host the Jam over a two week period. This gives anyone a chance to jump in at any time. You can make a game in the first 24 hours, the final 24 hours, or any time in between, everything is accepted. Even if you don’t manage to get your game fully finished in the two weeks, at least you have made a start on it! 

Who Am I?
What happens to all the awesome games that are produced? 

All of the games are hosted on itch.io by those that created them, so anyone can go play them! Majority can be downloaded and played on your PC and we also have a few print and play games there as well!

What has been your proudest moment to date with the Rainbow Game Jam? 

We’re always grateful that participants will come back year after year to join us in Rainbow Game Jam. Every year we see returning participants, which is always incredible seeing their entusiasm, and new faces joining and discovering this incredibly loving and supportive community for queer developers.

Another highlight was being recognised for our efforts by winning an Advocacy Award at European Women In Games Jobs Conference in London last year. We have a lovely (and heavy) trophy for it that Steven has in his flat now!

What are your aims for the future of the Rainbow Game Jam? 

Keep growing the community and outreach of the game jam to get more and more participants for the game jam itself. We’re keen to be more involved throughout the whole year outside of the allocated time for game jams – what that looks like we’re unsure of just yet but we’ll be sure to let you know when we do. 

Where can people find out more information? 

You can say hello over on Twitter @RainbowGameJam, we have our website rainbowjam.games, sign up for this years game jam over at itch.io/jam/rainbowjam19 and join the community over on our Discord server at discordapp.com/invite/KWBgETE.

Previous years can be found on that page as well by using the hashtag links. 

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