As a part of our scholarship program, the Finnish Game Jam sent Adelina Lintuluoto to the Slavic Game Jam (PL) to represent the Finnish jamming scene. Here is Adelina’s report about her jam experience.
Slavic Game Jam 2019
Slavic Game Jam (SGJ) is an event focused around game development. It takes place each year in Warsaw, Poland. At its core lies the 48-hour long jam. SGJ is all about providing a competition-free, friendly environment for jammers with lectures, workshops, a pre-party and a hand full of other activities. This year was the fifth edition with over 200 participants. They aim to be a truly international event, this year with participants from places like all the Nordic countries, France, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, Czechia and many more.
I arrived in Warsaw early on Thursday and swung by the hostel recommended to me by the event organizers. My naivety and optimistic view on life usually puts me in trouble, just as it did when I arrived at the reception, and tried booking a bed only to have the staff laugh in my face saying I definitely should have booked ahead (disclaimer; don’t imagine a Disney villain laugh, more of an amused chuckle. The staff at this hostel was incredibly nice and helpful. In general, the hostel was in top shape!). They said they could offer me one night, which I gladly accepted. Sleeping at the jam site was always an option anyways!
The ‘Slavic talks’ would only start at 2 P.M., so I had a few hours to explore the city. This is about the time I realized Warsaw is an amazing place for vegan cuisine! I happened to pass by a few vegan restaurants thinking ‘oh I must’ve stumbled in on a vegan street’. However next corner — same thing. I enjoyed the street food as much as I could, but the catering at the jam was amazing so I also made sure never to skip a meal there.
The venue for the talks, as well as, the rest of the jam was the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer Management, located at the Warsaw University of Technology. The Centre is a newly built six-story building that provided us with plenty and spacious rooms with big windows and nice air condition. The talks were versatile and interesting! Ranging from ‘A Narrative Designer coming out of her well to shame mankind!’ by the one and only Julia Rässa, to ‘Game jam pitfalls and how to fall into them gracefully’ by a new favourite speaker of mine, Sos Sosowski (footnote; this is when I realized Julia would also attend the jam! Which made me so happy. Isn’t it amazing traveling for jams and reconnecting with friends you’ve made along your jamming path?)
Thursday ended with a pre-party at a cool location, cool music, cool people. So cool that when the night ended, me and my two newly made friends, Lucas and Gin, didn’t feel like heading back to the hostel just yet. We decided to head for the closest open shop. However when we reached it we had sobered enough to realize that getting two extra hours of sleep before a game jam is definitely more valuable than two extra hours of beers and late night storytelling.
The Slavic Game Jam is the chillest jam! The organizers encouraged the participants to have fun and goof around as much as possible. And I had the best team for that! My team for the jam consisted of Julia Rässä and Arash Naderi. The theme of this year was ‘Growth’ and we came up with an amazing idea: fondling low hanging fruit, hold the applause, to check for cancer! It was an idea we had a hilarious time coming up with, and it kept us laughing throughout the making of it (as well as fairly clear as to give us as much time as possible to goof around at the site and have fun with the rest of the jammers). Arash found a spot for us in the board game-jamming room. I kept glancing over my shoulder at this one board game being made. It looked amazing and finally I cracked, leaving my teammates for a few hours to selfishly play the game with creator Mantis Kozlowski, and somehow apparently help them create it. That’s the beauty of board games; the game mechanics can be set up in a matter of minutes, and then you iterate them by playing until you find the best version of the game. Playing is essentially making it!
The organizers came up with this thing called Hydepark, which happened for the whole duration of the jam. Anybody could book the seminar room to.. do whatever felt right. Do you want to have a project showcase, give a lecture or just play switch on the big screen? No better place than Hydepark. I can’t possibly count all the different activities, since there were new ones almost every half an hour, but to name a few; relax workshop, loving and owning your bugs a story sharing opportunity, karaoke, blender workshop, second and annual Mario tennis tournament.
So far I’ve only mentioned it once, which is not nearly enough. The catering at the jam was legendary. Full stop. We had meals three times a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition to that we had a full-time available stock of fruits and bottled water. Even more, thanks to Google for Startups, who had a coffee stand open most of the day, we maintained the correct levels of caffeine and happiness. The organizers tediously encouraged us to eat lots of fruits and greens, drink water, sleep enough, move around, leave the computer now and then. The latter was nicely achieved on Saturday when we had an outdoor barbeque! Barbeque at a jam? Yep, that’s right, all you other jams now have to live up to that.
So much happened at the jam, so many amazing encounters with people. You remember me not getting a bed at the hostel? Well, Vador, a SGJ veteran with an apartment in Warsaw, stepped in and without hesitation offered me to stay with him and Julia. I can’t name drop every person I met but also worth mentioning are Radim, who always stuck by my side no matter how hopeless I was (#iblamelinux #justkiddingiloveyoulinus), Pablo for dropping by to make sure Julia’s and my humor stayed as cringe worthy as possible and that the puns of fondling fruit kept rolling in, and Elias for being a great conversationalist and my first opponent in a long row of people who I heroically beat in my favourite game jam game ever made.
The jam ended on Sunday with showcasing the games. To stay true to the chill ambience that had been present during the whole jam nobody had to prepare presentations for the big screen. Instead we just walked from room to room and checked out the other games. As it seems, keeping a non-competitive environment and encouraging everybody to eat well, drink water and sleep, resulted in a bunch of amazing games. You can find all the games here, among my favourites to try out is a snowboarding pear, a sawfish that saws and a two-player vine vengeance game.
The jam ended with a heartwarming talk from Kacper Domanski and the rest of the organizers. I had to actively resist my urge to stand up and go full Keanu Reeves, “Kasper you are breathtaking! Organizers you are breathtaking! Everybody attending the jam is breathtaking!”
I had plans to leave for Krakow after the show reel with a friendly soul who was driving there from the jam. However the day was not completely over with an after-party still on the schedule. How could I leave all my friends there? Instead, I decided to take the chance and find a way to get to Krakow the next day. The after-party was the perfect ending to the event, just all of us chilling at a bar reminiscing about the past couple of days. Kacper being the amazing host that he is invited as many as could fit to the after-after-party at his apartment. I heard whispers of Soplica and Switch, however sadly at this point the jam tiredness had viciously caught up to me.
I was really eager to go to Slavic Game Jams. After all the amazing things I’d heard from friends I thought ‘surely flying to Poland must be worth this.’ I was not disappointed. This event exceeded all my expectations. The relaxing atmosphere, abundance of awesome people and generous organizers made it all to what it is. It was my first time in Poland and I fell head over heels for it. It was with a bitter taste I left Warsaw however happy knowing that there is only one year left until the next one 🙂