Games For Better: A game jam on antibiotic resistance

14 Sep 2016

Written by Jack Gill

My name’s Jack Gill, and I run a game development company called So Good Studios. We’re a small team of Plymouth University graduates, and we’re about fourteen months old. We’re interested in building games that help people to learn in an engaging and effective way.

Games For Better is a 48-hour Game Jam event that So Good Studios is organising alongside Sizeable Games and in connection with Venturefest South West. If you’ve not heard the term before, a ‘Game Jam’ is an event where game developers get together to build games, from concept to implementation, in a very short span of time (generally between 24 and 72 hours).

What is a Game Jam?

Game Jams often revolve around a core theme, and Games For Better is no different. The theme we’ve chosen for this event is Antibiotic Resistance Awareness. We’re interested in games that inform players about this global issue, covering topics such as the mechanisms that lead to antibiotic resistance, the effects of antibiotic resistance, and what good habits can help in solving this important problem.

The idea for the Game Jam first came about when I was approached by GAIN, a network of South West businesses that So Good Studios belongs to, about their upcoming event, Venturefest South West.

Venturefest is a business event that focuses on connecting innovators and entrepreneurs with existing businesses and investors. It seemed to me that taking part in the event would be a great way to demonstrate just how powerful and educational games can be, and to encourage the involvement of the South West game development community, providing a platform for talented studios and developers to show off their work.

By hosting a Game Jam, we could present these developers with a challenge, with a theme connected to Venturefest, and then ask them to present their work at the actual event, showcasing a range of game development techniques. I enlisted the help of Sizeable Games’ Oli Carson, a developer whose extensive Game Jam experience has been invaluable throughout the planning of the event.

Image: So Good Studios’ first commercial title, Tap Tournament, designed to be accessible, and played by multiple people from one device, to encourage families and groups of friends, who might not be keen gamers, to take part.

Why antibiotic resistance?

The theme was chosen in connection with one of the areas that Venturefest looks to cover, Digital Health. With the help of a number of Plymouth University academics who were happy to support us, antibiotic resistance seemed like the perfect fit for the event. Most importantly, antibiotic resistance stood apart from other important global health issues as a problem that ordinary people could take action against through just a few simple behaviours, if only those behaviours were being made more widely known through popular, engaging media.

Through our promotion of the event, we came to be connected with Nesta and the Longitude Prize, who have offered their assistance, drawing on their own experience of developing a game for precisely this purpose. Now, with their help, we’re looking to get even more developers involved.

So how does it work?

The Game Jam will begin on the evening of Friday 30 September and last until Sunday evening, 2 October. Developers are invited to take part physically at our Plymouth Jam site, or remotely, submitting over the Internet at the end of the 48 hours. We will be starting the Jam with presentations on the subject by a number of professionals in fields associated to the theme, and we will be streaming these talks live for developers working remotely.

Following on from the event, we will be showcasing all the submitted games at Venturefest South West, as well as inviting the developers of the games deemed the most effective to speak during a session. We’ll also be looking to connect the event with World Antibiotic Resistance Week, which takes place in November.

Who can participate?

Game developers from any discipline and of any level of experience are welcome to take part in the event, and absolutely anyone is free to tune in for the introductory stream. We’ll also be posting updates over the course of the event with the hashtag #GamesForBetter, and we’d be happy to hear from you.